Zeal Without Knowledge


The following story is one that is reported to have been told by Napoleon to spark patriotism among his men:

Once, while visiting a province he came upon an old soldier in full uniform but with one sleeve hanging empty. He proudly wore the coveted Legion of Honor. Napoleon asked, "Where did you lose your arm?" The soldier answered, "At Austerlitz, sire."

Napoleon asked, "And for that you received the Legion of Honor?"

The man said, "Yes, sire. It is but a small token to pay for the decoration." Napoleon continued, "You must be the kind of man who regrets he did not lose both arms for his country."

The one-armed man asked, "What then would have been my reward?"

Napoleon answered, "I would have awarded you a double Legion of Honor." And with that, the proud old fighter drew his sword and immediately cut off his other arm.

What a great story of patriotic duty! It apparently was quite effective in stirring up in Napoleon's men a desire to sacrifice even more for the cause of France!

There's only one problem with the story. You may have already noticed the inconsistency. But apparently it was years before anyone dared to ask Napoleon the question, "How did the soldier cut off his arm with only one arm to do it with?"

Nice story. Stirring, moving, motivating......but it wasn't true. And it's possible for the same thing to happen to us in a religious sense. We can get all "fired up" without much thought as to the truth of what we're getting excited about. Paul said of those who were motivated in such a way:

"...They are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge." (Romans 10:2, NIV)

Zeal is good. We all need more of it. But we need to make certain that our enthusiasm is firmly based on our knowledge of God's will.

Alan Smith alansmith.servant@gmail.com

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