The word voracious has been defined as “devouring in great quantities.” We have all met voracious eaters—people who devour food in great quantities. You may have one living in your house. A voracious learner is one who devours knowledge and wisdom in great quantities.
“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.”
Proverbs 1:5 (NIV)
It is so easy to get sidetracked and replace learning with entertainment. I’ve been watching a show on the Discovery Channel, called Gold Rush, about a bunch of guys who dig dirt in Alaska, run it through a “wash plant,” and hope to capture some gold from the dirt. Every episode is the same: “Let’s get some more dirt.”—“Good idea, but the wash plant is broken.”—“Let’s fix it and maybe we’ll find some gold.”—“Yeah that would be great.”
There are hundreds, if not thousands of shows like Gold Rush on TV. I don’t watch it to learn something; I am never going to move to Alaska to become a gold miner. I watch it just to be entertained. But a leader must ask, “What percentage of my available time is spent pursuing entertainment?” If that percentage is too high it will definitely sidetrack you from being a lifelong voracious learner.
Pride sidetracks you as well. Pride kicks in when you compare how much you know to the knowledge that others possess and come to the conclusion that you don’t really need to devote your time towards learning. “I am fine staying just where I am.”
Pride leads to complacency. So does envy. One pastor told me he doesn’t visit churches bigger than his because he becomes jealous of how much that church is doing. Leaders cannot afford to have their learning sidetracked by envy. I love to go to bigger churches because I always learn something that can help our church reach people more effectively.
I believe that God calls each of us to have a “teachable spirit.” No matter how much you have learned, you need to always be looking for ways to add to your learning. In fact, if you have a closed mind when it comes to learning, it has the same impact on your learning that hardening of the arteries has on your blood flow. A closed mind radically restricts the flow of knowledge and wisdom in your life.
A teachable spirit embodies the proverb:
“Wise men and women are always learning, always listening for fresh insights.”
Proverbs 18:15 (MSG)
This past summer I finished my second Masters Degree—even though I am in my late 50s. I just felt like it was the right thing to do and I wanted to keep learning. But you don’t have to be pursuing a formal degree to be a voracious learner. Books, podcasts, conferences, seminars, a single college or seminary course, or even just listening to people with whom you disagree—these are all ways nurture a teachable spirit. In what ways are you making sure that you are always learning?
When you pursue learning, you say to God, “I have not arrived.” And when you choose to be a voracious lifelong learner who applies what you have learned, your confidence increases that you will one day hear Him say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”