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Words mean things and I’ll admit that I often use the words “wisdom” and “knowledge” almost interchangeably without realizing they have two distinctly different meanings.
There is a joke that describes the difference between the two words as knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, while wisdom is knowing a tomato doesn’t belong in a fruit salad.
This week, I’ve been going through a YouVersion morning devotional titled “Who Me, Gifted?” written by Michael Youssef. In today’s teaching, he writes about the spiritual gifts of knowledge and wisdom.
Knowledge is the ability to store up information; however, wisdom is the ability to apply the right information to a given situation.
“From a worldly perspective, knowledge helps you make a living, but wisdom makes a life,” he wrote. “Our world is overflowing with knowledge, but we are bankrupt of wisdom.”
Considering the state of the world today, that’s certainly a true statement.
It also made me ponder a claim that the world’s body of knowledge doubles every 10 years. Thanks to the internet, we have so much knowledge being shared around the globe, that the claim makes sense. But, the real challenge today is knowing what’s true and factual.
If our collective body of knowledge is doubling every 10 years, then, conversely, our collective wisdom must be dwindling in nearly the same proportion. We appear to be twice as foolish today as we were 20 years ago.
The problem with knowledge is that it tends to alter our thinking, but for the worse in that in creates a false worldly wisdom. As Youssef notes, “Worldly wisdom rationalizes sin and separates us from God. It can even make people feel godlike themselves.”
It fills normally smart people with so much pride that they deny the existence of God or the need for salvation and restoration through a personal relationship with his son, Jesus.
It’s laughable what qualifies as worldly wisdom today. One of these days, I may compile a list of things the wisest among us believed to be true in just my lifetime and how that knowledge proved to be anything but wise. I have plenty of personal examples that I can share.
In the meantime, the Bible has a lot to say about the differences between the wise and what it calls fools, especially in Proverbs. Here’s a list with dozens of examples.
Some of my favorites include:
- Proverbs 18:2 – Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.
- Proverbs 14:8 – The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.
- Proverbs 15:14 – The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.
- Proverbs 9:9 – Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.
- Ecclesiastes 10:2 – The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left.
- Proverbs 14:15 – The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps.
- James 3:17 – But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
Lord, help me to be discerning in accumulating factual knowledge and wise in my ability to rightly apply that information to situations I face.