Which is Better – Knowledge or Action?

By Ne’Shaun Borden

Talk Better Together is an intimate event hosted in the Interfaith Center. Talk Better Together is an opportunity for people from very diverse worldviews to come together to enjoy a meal and engage in meaningful conversation about themes across four religious texts. In the first Talk Better Together I attended, we explored service and how it is defined in the Christian New Testament, The Quran, The Baha’i text, and the Hebrew Bible. As a Christian, I knew that I was expected to serve my neighbor but I did not fully understand the weight this duty carried. As we read the text in the first Talk Better Together of the semester, I learned that this responsibility is inherent part of our relationships and responsibilities to each other. I left that text study feeling convicted not only to serve but to learn more about mine and other faiths.

Because of the rich experience I had at the first Talk Better Together, I was excited to attend the next one, especially when I learned that the topic would be “knowledge.” The text study took place on October 9th, 2014 at 6 pm here in the Interfaith Center. Although service and knowledge are different topics, I think in many ways they are directly related. I was excited to learn how gaining knowledge could help me be more purposeful in my service.

So how does one acquire knowledge according to the text?

Jewish: “Rabbi Tarfon and the Elders were once reclining in the upper story of the Nithza’s house, in Lod, when this question was posed to them: Which is greater, study or action? Rabbi Tarfon answered, saying: Action is greater. Rabbi Akiva answered, saying: Study is greater. All the rest agreed with Akiva that study is greater than action because it leads to action.”

Muslim: “It was narrated that Anas bin Mâlik said: The Messenger of Allah said ‘Seeking knowledge is a duty upon every Muslim’.”- (Sunan Ibn e Majah, Book of Sunnah, Hadith no 224, Classified as Sahih by Allama Albani)

 Baha’i: 110. We have permitted you to read such sciences as are profitable unto you, not such as end in idle disputation 77. The Baha’i Writings enjoin the acquisition of knowledge and the study of the arts and sciences. Baha’is are admonished to respect people of learning and accomplishment, and are warned against the pursuit of studies that are productive only of futile wrangling.In His Tablets Baha’u’llah counsels the believers to study such sciences and arts as are “useful” and would further “the progress and advancement” of society, and He cautions against sciences which “begin with words and end with words”, the pursuit of which leads to “idle disputation”.

Christian: But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for your salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

            So, which is more important knowledge or action? This prompted tons of meaningful discussion. I strongly believe that action is more important. What’s the use of having tons of knowledge if you’re not going to do anything with it to help another person? Everyone did not agree with me but we were able to challenge one another in a respectful way. People made very valid arguments on why knowledge is more important than action. How can we act without knowledge to direct our actions? I reflected on these texts over the course of the study and continued to think about this for the next week.

I have decided that they both are equally important for me and actually – if I thought about it – I have been gaining knowledge and acting at the same time.

I thought back specifically to an interfaith trip to Washington, DC that I participated in this past spring. Prior to this trip, I had limited knowledge about people experiencing homelessness and the systems in place that make it easy for people from all walks of life to easily fall into this system. While learning and interacting, I put my knowledge into action and was able to make an impact immediately. This has continued to ring true through my work at the interfaith center. Every we time we have an event I am challenged to learn new things about people and use those things to help educate and inspire those around me.

Moving forward with Talk Better Together, I am excited to see new faces and to see how the dialogue evolves and enriches my experience at the Interfaith Center.

Our next Talk Better together is on Thursday, November 20, 6:00-8:30 in Founders Hall, Building 2, Suite 2100. We’ll be exploring the topic of “sin/wrongdoing.” Talk Better Together is open to all UNF students of every religious, spiritual or values-based worldview and we’d love to see you there!


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