Chauffeur knowledge vs Real knowledge

In 1918 Max Plank won the Nobel Prize for physics. As was sometimes customary back then he went on a speaking tour. He traveled Germany with his chauffeur giving lectures on Quantum Mechanics.

Every night he gave the same lecture. His chauffeur commented that it had become very predictable. In fact, the material had become so familiar to him that he suggested that at their next stop in Munich he deliver the lecture instead of the professor! He would put on the lab coat, and Professor Plank would sit in the front row wearing the chauffeur’s cap. Plank liked the idea so they went for it.

It actually went very well… until the question and answer period. As you might expect, someone asked a question that was beyond what the masquerading chauffeur had memorized. So this is how he responded:

“Never would I have thought that someone from such an advanced city as Munich would ask such a simple question! My chauffeur will answer it.”

Ha! I love that story because it highlights two different kinds of knowledge. First, there is chauffeur knowledge. This is what we overhear. We can repeat smart-sounding things and even quote Bible verses. But it’s not personal; we’re just repeating what someone else knows.

But then there is REAL knowledge—what we have learned through personal learning and first-hand experience.

If you’re feeling stuck in your faith, frustrated, or like a hypocrite, ask yourself: Are you listening to Jesus but not putting his teachings into action? Or are you trying to do godly things but haven’t first ensured they’re rooted in what Jesus actually taught?

In Luke 9:23 Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

That involves both learning AND doing. The result will be an evolution from chauffeur knowledge to real knowledge.

By Matthew Ruttan

  • Today’s story is told by Rolf Dobelli in The Art of Thinking Clearly
  • Bible verses are from the New International Version
  • “Up!” is published 5 days a week (Monday to Friday) and returns on October 22.

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