Saturday, February 28, 2009


In Proverbs, Wisdom (personified) speaks: "I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence. I possess knowledge and discretion" (8:12). Reading this surprised me because typically speakers at church emphasize the distinction between knowledge and wisdom. In fact, just 2 nights ago I heard a talk saying that wisdom is not knowledge (in particular, that the wisdom of God is Christ--I Cor. 1:24--which I thought was profound), in keeping with I Cor. 1:8: "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up." From repeated exposure to this dichotomy, and from my own failure to integrate aspects of my life/thinking, I had ended up believing that knowledge and wisdom are completely unrelated.

But as this verse shows, wisdom actually encompasses knowledge. Far from being divorced from each other, wisdom and knowledge are closely tied. This connection can be seen in v. 9, 10; 9:10, 13; 3:19-20, where knowledge is repeatedly used as a synonym for wisdom. When I thought about this, it made sense. Wisdom has to do with knowing God's will, knowing how people work, knowing God's character, knowing how past situations turned out, knowing what facts are relevant and then knowing those facts, etc. Without knowledge of God and man, it's difficult if not impossible to be wise in any useful sense. More generally speaking, if I am seeking God in everything, then I should be finding connections to Him in every random thing I learn. To restate that in a less religiously oriented fashion, ideas and knowledge in academic or abstract areas do connect and apply to daily life, if I take the time to actually think about the concepts.

But the other half of Proverbs 8:12 is that wisdom possesses discretion. I suppose prudence or good judgment would be synonyms for discretion. This trait, more than knowledge, is what I associate with "wisdom." Discretion and knowledge are paired in this verse, and that juxtaposition tempered my new thoughts about wisdom. Gaining knowledge adds to wisdom, but only when that knowledge translates into discretion. Unexamined and unapplied knowledge does nothing but clutter the mind. But knowledge is really God's creation and gift as much as wisdom is, and I have been wrong to think of pursuing knowledge as something I do out of my own personality or out of duty or just for fun.

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