Willfully Ignorant



Not many people would declare ignorance a desirable thing. Yet, many people choose to be ignorant. Why? The simple answer is that they donít want to know the truth. But why wouldnít they want to know the truth? There are a few answers to that. One is that the truth may be hurtful to them.


A bad son or a cheating spouse for example. How about a diagnosis of cancer or other serious disease? We just donít want to hear of such things and so we may bury our heads in the sand as it is sometimes said. But, does not knowing help the situation? Does the bad son become good or the cheating spouse become faithful or the cancer become cured simply because we refuse to acknowledge our fears. And yet many of us remain ignorant not because we canít know but because we donít want to know, because we are afraid to know. We are willfully ignorant!


Another reason for choosing to be willfully ignorant is less menacing but can be just as devastating in the long run. We might have to change our behavior if we knew the truth. Wow! How we can alibi when confronted with what we donít want to know. Have you ever seen a very young person cover their ears and begin to make noises so they canít hear what they are being told? Perhaps they even chant repeatedly, ďI canít hear you.Ē But we arenít children. Weíre more mature than that. Or are we? Have you ever wanted to share a Bible truth with someone and found they resist acknowledging that truth? Say what ever you want, they will resist accepting the truth. Here are a few of the excuses you might run in to.

*†† Iím not interested.

*†† I donít think itís important.

*†† Itís not a salvation issue! Or is it?

I particularly find the last excuse interesting. Itís as if the vast majority of the Bible can be dismissed because, ďItís not a salvation issue.Ē I guess we can ignore this scripture.

*†† (2 Tim 3:16 NIV)All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,


Letís look a little more at ignorance in the Bible.

*†† (Acts 17:30 NIV) In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.

*†† (Eph 4:18 NIV)They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.

*†† (1 Th 4:13 NIV)Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.

*†† (1 Tim 1:13 NIV)Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.

Ignorance can be a matter of innocence if a person doesnít know something due to no fault of their own. But what if they are willfully ignorant? Willful ignorance is a matter of negligence.

*†† Negligence: In law negligence is a failure to exercise the degree of care considered prudent or reasonable. Negligence can be grounds for finding a person guilty of an offense.


So if you donít know something that you should know then there really is no excuse for not knowing! Whether you like it or not, whether it scares you or not, whether you think itís a matter of salvation or not, you can be held responsible for your ignorance. Try telling a judge in a court of law that you just spent the last hour on the freeway and never noticed the speed limit was 65. Yeah, thatíll work. You might be able to actually fool that judge in other matters but you will never fool the Judge of the world!

*†† (1 Pet 1:14-16 NIV)As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. {15} But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; {16} for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."

*†† (2 Pet 3:16 NIV)He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

*†† (Isa 57:17 NIV)I was enraged by his sinful greed; I punished him, and hid my face in anger, yet he kept on in his willful ways.

*†† (Rom 1:32 NIV)Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.


If we have a false understanding we naturally look for others to affirm us in that false understanding and suppose that somehow we are now OK. I remember doing that as a kid. I would try to tell my folks or my teacher that, ďAll the kids do it.Ē Iím sure you tried the same thing. Did it work then? Do you suppose it will work now?


When you think about it, very little of what we call willful ignorance is ignorance at all. Clearly we have a pretty good idea about what we are trying so hard to not know or we wouldnít be trying so hard to not know it! We just donít want to acknowledge the truth.

*†† (2 Chr 29:10-11 NIV)Now I intend to make a covenant with the LORD, the God of Israel, so that his fierce anger will turn away from us. {11} My sons, do not be negligent now, for the LORD has chosen you to stand before him and serve him, to minister before him and to burn incense."


I have often spoken of unity of belief, diversity of understanding, and one in Christ. Men of good will, honest men, can disagree on the meaning of scripture. But that should be an honest disagreement not one based on willful ignorance. Not all doctrine is equal or right. And we must love one another even when we disagree. But the fact that we can disagree agreeably is not license for us to avoid the truth.

*†† (2 Tim 3:16 NIV)All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

We must not be afraid of the truth or cherish our own desires to the point that we become willfully ignorant.