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This week's blog is submitted by Phil Bell, retired pastor, University Baptist Church. He is a stroke survivor, and occasionally writes an article for the local newspaper. He permits us to post them, also.
Street & Steeple August 9, 2019
“Wisdom Better Than Knowledge
By Phil Bell, retired pastor, University Baptist Church
August is the month when our schools will be opening including Macomb Public, St. Paul’s, and WIU! Students will be returning, either by choice or by force. Their quest for knowledge will once again resume after a summer of fun and / or work! That doesn’t mean knowledge wasn’t gained in the summer, but then it was more accidental than purposeful as in a classroom!
The problem with knowledge, is that once possessed, it doesn’t mean it will be wisely put to use! My homespun definition of wisdom is “the proper application of knowledge.” One internet dictionary defines it as “the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment,” and “the quality of being wise.”
For me, the best example of the difference between knowledge and wisdom is one I heard made by Dr. David Jeremiah, being “Knowledge is knowing tomatoes are a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put them in a fruit salad!” That, for me, describes them perfectly! I’m not depreciating the value of knowledge, quite the contrary. I am saying it’s not enough alone! Alexander Pope recognized the danger in it in his poem, “An Essay on Criticism,” writing, “A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep or taste not the Pierian spring; there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again.” Put in modern lingo it probably would be, “Go big or go home!”
I agree with him. If one is going to acquire knowledge, don’t cut it short. Get all you can! I’d go further, “Knowledge without wisdom is like having a really great looking car without gasoline, it may impress people, but won’t get you too far!
Having only one functioning hand and arm, occupational therapy was very important for me. There, I learned how to put on and take off a shirt by myself. I might have stumbled on to learning how to do it on my own, who knows, but that’s what occupational therapy is for, to cut down on the stumbling! Yes, I have the knowledge to do it, and do, but when my wife says, “let me help you with that,” I have the wisdom not to say, “That’s alright, I can do it myself!”
The Bible has a great deal to say about wisdom. First, let’s begin with King David. He links wisdom with being righteous and justice. We read in Psalm 37:30, “the mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice. I think it’s no coincidence wisdom is shown by speaking. Too often one shows his or her ignorance by something he or she says, which reminds me of a modern proverb, “Better to remain silent and have people wonder if you’re a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt!”
Staying in the Psalms, David describes wisdom as coming from God. In Psalm 51: 6 is found, “Behold, you desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part /you make me know wisdom.” Still in Psalms 90:12 we read, “So teach us to number our days so we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” Clearly the psalmist is saying a wise person knows life is not eternal here on earth and lives accordingly!
The New Testament also speaks of wisdom. In 1 Corinthians 1:20 we read, “Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since Paul is saying there is a difference between the world’s wisdom and the wisdom of God. In the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”
Paul is saying there is a difference between the wisdom of God and the wisdom of the world! By his wisdom we are saved, but by only earthly wisdom we cannot even know God! My point is not to depreciate knowledge, but rather to say it should not be where our education ends. True wisdom acknowledges God and trumps mere knowledge!
For example, our knowledge changes over time. Once, in history, everyone knew for sure that the earth was flat. Some time later it was common knowledge that the sun revolved around the earth! I wonder what things we know for sure, today, will be foolishness a hundred years from now! Who knows, maybe by then, Pluto will be a planet again!
Wisdom is not relying on the knowledge and wisdom the world gives us if they disagree with God’s Word. Remember, though we need both, wisdom is better than knowledge!
Phil Bell, retired pastor, University Baptist Church