Known Unknown (Luke 12:39)

But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into.

Luke 12:39

There is a concept of four areas of knowledge.

There is the Known Known, the things we are certain that we know. For the believer, Christ’s return is a Known Known.

There is the Unknown Known, the things are know but are not aware of until the knowledge is required. This dovetails into the concept of the Holy Spirit bringing to mind the things we need to speak when we are called to give a defense of the faith. If we have read the scriptures, then the Spirit is able to bring to mind things we did not know that we knew — the Unknown Known.

There is the Unknown Unknown; the things we do not not and are not aware that we should know. These are the things that are discovered along the way. Newton, according to some writers, was struck on the head by an apple and this prompted his thoughts on gravity and would give rise to his Laws of Motion. This kind of discovery falls into into the Unknown Unknown category. He was not aware that he should be pondering those things until the concept quite literally struck him.

Then there is the category that is the title of this morning’s post: the Known Unknown. There are things that I know I do not know. I know that I do not know what other people are thinking. I can form hypotheses based on their behaviors and what knowledge of that person and of human nature in general I possess, but those are guesses at best and often not very accurate. More to the point, I know that I do not know what others are thinking. Likewise I know that I do not know when Christ will return. Jesus puts it in the context of a man whose house was robbed. If the man had known when the robber was coming, then he would have made ample provision to repel the would-be invader from his home. Likewise, if believers — myself included — knew when Jesus’ return would take place, then we would likely become indigent until the time approached. Those who were considering submitting to Christ might change the nature of their decision and wait until just before He was scheduled to come.

The issue with the behavior that would likely be exhibited is that Christ’s return id not the only variable in the equation of a human life and eternity. Our lives are only guaranteed for this exact moment. I could rise from this blog entry and find myself standing before my Maker. There is absolutely no guarantee that my time will be any longer than that. In addition, there is no guarantee that my heart will ever be as tender as it is this moment. If experience is any teacher, then human hearts grow harder with time, not softer. All of this to say that knowing the time of Christ’s return might make people complacent and give us a false sense of security. Christ’s return is not the only player in motion, but we can become focused on it to the exclusion of all else.

Yesterday, I was reminded that I need to trust God and I managed to do nothing of the kind. I spent idle moments planning for eventualities in my job that may not materialize and would be from His hand if they did. As one saint asked, shall I accept pleasant from God and not unpleasant?

The life of a believer is filled with the Known Unknown — I know that God has purposed good for me, but do not know what form that good might take; I know that everything comes from God’s hand, but do not know whether pleasant or unpleasant is forthcoming in the immediate future; I know that Christ will return, but I do not know when. This proliferation of the Known Unknown is, I think, meant in part to motivate me to remain in the now and to trust God in what I know. I know that He is Good and that He has purposed good for me and that He causes all things to work together for good (whole lot of good going on) to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Let me rest in what I know and behave prudently in light of those things which I do not know. The Known Unknown should not always spur me to search for knowledge. Sometimes, it should spur me to action.


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