You Don’t Have to Know a Lot of Things

You Don’t Have to Know a Lot of Things

Polymaths are people who know a lot about a lot of things (think Leonardo Di Vinci, the quintessential “Renaissance man”). They are the Enlightenment demigods. They are the Ben Franklins and the Marilyn vos Savants, and we find them very impressive. Many of us wish we could be one — a futile and vain (in the prideful sense) wish.

But this quote by John Piper can free us from our polymathic fantasy.

You don’t have to know a lot of things for your life to make a lasting difference in the world. But you do have to know the few great things that matter, perhaps just one, and then be willing to live for them and die for them.

The people that make a durable difference in the world are not the people who have mastered many things, but who have been mastered by one great thing. If you want your life to count . . . you don’t need to have a high IQ. You don’t have to have good looks or riches or come from a fine family or a fine school. Instead you have to know a few great, majestic, unchanging, obvious, simple, glorious things — or one great all-embracing thing — and be set on fire by them. (Don’t Waste Your Life, 44–45)

And I find John to be a great model of this truth. His book Doctrine Matters (available free of charge in three electronic formats) is the distillation of the “few great, majestic, unchanging, obvious, simple, glorious things” — all aspects of the one great all-embracing Thing — that set John on fire for 33 years in the pulpit of Bethlehem and are still making him burn.

We share this book with you because we want you to be set on fire too. It’s fire fuel. These ten truths are some of the most important you can ever know. And if ignited, they will make your joy burn hot.

Being a polymath is not the ultimate path to joy. You don’t need to know a lot of things to make a lasting, massive difference. You just need to be set on fire by a few glorious, eternal things. Here are some. May they fuel your fire.


Doctrine Matters is now available in a paperback, as well as free of charge in three electronic formats (PDF, EPUB, and MOBI).

Jon Bloom (@Bloom_Jon) is the author of Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking by Faith and serves as the President of Desiring God, which he and John Piper launched together in 1994. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Pam, their five children, and one naughty dog.