Chapter 3: The Teaching of Truth
“Let all teachers be mute and all creation keep silence before You.”
In our movement away from the false self and towards the true self, Kempis encourages us to let go of our attachment to knowledge, books and teachings. He asserts, “Certainly, when Judgment Day comes we shall not be asked what books we have read, but what deeds we have done; we shall not be asked how well we have debated, but how devoutly we have lived.”
Personally, I have more books than I have clothes. In fact, my clothing closet is mostly full of books. I am a bibliophile who loves the spiritual classics, including The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis. Yet reading these books does not guarantee me a place in heaven. On the contrary, reading these books in order to say, “Yeah, I read it” actually leads me farther away from my true self, from the One.
Knowledge puffs up and then passes away like the false self. Wisdom, on the other hand, “makes us one with God in eternal love.” This wisdom requires a disciplined detachment from worldly knowledge and glory. “This should be our chief employment: strive to overcome ourselves and gain such a mastery that we daily grow stronger and better.”
Books, knowledge and honor are certainly not harmful in and of themselves. It is our inordinate attachment to these things that lead us to say, “I am God” in the worst possible way. And it is noxious to our spiritual growth when we start finding our identity in the amount of books we have read and the knowledge we think we have.
Wisdom helps us to see all things under the umbrella of Christ. If books and knowledge are failing to lead us into deeper communion and union with Christ, then they are dung and ought to be abandoned.
“He is truly wise who esteems all earthly things as dung so that he may gain Christ. Finally, he who does God’s will and abandons his own is truly the most learned.”