Ignorance is the lack of knowledge or understanding. Ignorant people are either unaware or uninformed. Sometimes we are ignorant because we did not know there was a need to learn something. Other times, we are ignorant because we have chosen not to learn something we need to know. In Hosea 4:6, the Lord says, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you.” Willfully rejecting knowledge that God wants us to have is sinful ignorance. While unintentional ignorance about earthly topics is understandable, intentional ignorance about spiritual matters can lead to eternal destruction (Romans 1:18–23).
The Bible makes a distinction between ignorance and innocence. We don’t have to be ignorant of the fact of sin; in fact, we can be highly informed about sin yet remain innocent of it. But we should all be ignorant about the practice of evil. Ephesians 5:11–12 says, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.” In Matthew 10:16, Jesus warned us, “I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
To effectively fight the spiritual battle, we must know something of how our enemy functions. Believers are encouraged to forgive each other, “so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs” (2 Corinthians 2:11, ESV). Ignorance about what the devil is up to—and ignorance of the damage done by unforgiveness—is dangerous to our spiritual health. One of Satan’s basic tactics is to keep people ignorant: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Ignorant people are easy prey for those with wicked schemes (Psalm 1:1–2; Proverbs 7:6–7, 21–23).
God says that idolatry springs from spiritual ignorance: “Ignorant are those who carry about idols of wood, who pray to gods that cannot save” (Isaiah 45:20). Ignorance of the true God is unjustifiable, because the knowledge of God’s existence and power is available all around us (Romans 1:18–23). People who substitute false gods instead of pursuing the real God are sinfully ignorant.
Hebrews 5:2 says that Jesus is “able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray since he himself is subject to weakness.” God has great patience, even with the ignorant. Even when we are willfully ignorant, He gives us a multitude of opportunities to learn (2 Peter 3:9). Paul said that God showed him mercy because, before Jesus saved him, he had “acted in ignorance and unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:13; Acts 3:17).
God commands us to repent of our ignorance and seek Him with all our hearts (Acts 17:30; Jeremiah 29:13). The opposite of spiritual ignorance is wisdom, and we are told to seek wisdom above all things (Proverbs 3:13–18). Fortunately, wisdom is readily accessible; the book of Proverbs personifies wisdom as a noble lady who is calling out to all publicly: “To you, O people, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind. You who are simple, gain prudence; you who are foolish, set your hearts on it” (Proverbs 8:4–5). Every time the Bible commands us to “listen” or to “hear,” God is giving us a chance to trade ignorance for His wisdom.