For the most part, knowledge is a good thing. Knowing that a fire is hot keeps us from being burned. However, knowledge also carries responsibility. Knowing oneís responsibility, obligations, or restrictions, but choosing to ignore them, can reap negative, even tragic, consequences. In the New Testament, Jesus tells this parable to illustrate just this point:
For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: "The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.Ē (II Peter 2:20-22 ESV)
This principle is intuitively correct: one who knows the standard is more responsible for that knowledge than one who does not know the standard. For example, when one is learning a game, he is allowed some leniency as he learns the rules of the game. However, after he has learned the rules and has gotten some experience under his belt, he is held to higher expectations to play the game according to the rules. Following this metaphor, if an experienced player continues to ignore the rules of the game, they have the choice of playing right or being ejected from the game.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus told a parable that illustrated this same principle:
And the Lord said, "Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that servant says to himself, 'My master is delayed in coming,' and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. (Luke 12:42-46 ESV)
This passage shows the actions of a servant who, although knowing full well what his master expects of him, chooses to disobey his masterís orders while the master is away. This is a picture of willful disobedience. When the master returns, however, the disobedient servantís actions will be swiftly and powerfully dealt with.
Many times, people hear the Gospel, understand what is expected of them, but reject Godís offer of forgiveness and salvation. Both the passage in Second Peter and the passage in Luke declare that this personís fate will be worse than that of a person who never heard the Gospel in the first place. In the Lukan passage, when the master returned, he dealt one way with the servant who was aware of his masterís expectations and a different way with the servant who did not know what his master required of him:
And that servant who knew his masterís will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. (Luke 12:47 ESV)
But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. (Luke 12:48 ESV)
Anyone who has sat under the preaching of the Gospel or had someone witness to them concerning the truth of the Bible, the sinfulness of man, and the love of Jesus has knowledge that carries responsibility. That person is now responsible for his decision to accept or reject the truth of Jesus Christ. They will receive more condemnation than the person who has never heard.
God has given us the ability to reason, but He expects that reason to lead us to believe in Him. When we use our God-given abilities to reject Him, we incur a higher level of judgment because we had all the opportunities for salvation, but chose to reject the Truth of the Creatorís plan.