September. The month when our thoughts turn to education, learning, knowledge. So, it seems only natural that our monthly focus for September would be WISDOM.
There is a difference between knowledge and wisdom, “book learning” and “street smarts,” intelligence and common sense. We all acquire information by different means. No one way works for every person. Some people learn by reading, others learn by hearing, and still other learn by doing.
The dictionary makes this distinction:
|The acquisition of facts, information and skills through experience or education.||The ability to discern inner qualities and relationships. It is insight, good sense, good judgement.|
Knowledge consists of those things we have been taught. It is facts, figures, dates, place, how to do or not do things. 1+1=2. The capital of Michigan is Lansing. Red and blue make purple. We have taught the three “R’s” –reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. We have studied the history of our country and of the world and know the facts behind the wars, social divisions, diseases that plague us. We are an educated, trained and knowledgeable people, but are we WISE?
According to the dictionary, wisdom has more to do with discernment than dates–it is more about insight than instruction. It is more aligned with relationships than the three “R’s.” Wisdom is about the “why”—rather than the “who”, “what”, “when”, and “where”. Wisdom seeks to understand the meaning behind the actions and the relationship between who we are and what we do. Paul made this differentiation in his first letter to the Corinthians when he wrote
We can showcase our educational “prizes” such as academic cords, straight A report cards, good citizenship medals. We can point to the diplomas on our walls, letters of commendation from professors, trophies and ribbons from elementary school. But do those things mean we are WISE? Do they indicate that we possess good sense and that we are a good judge of right and wrong? Not according to our scripture of today from James! All of those things are merely man’s estimation of how well we have learned the facts, processed the information and acquired the skills to survive in today’s world, but that’s not wisdom.
True wisdom, according to James, is evidence by a good life, humble actions, pure motives—“good fruits”.
Knowledge vs Wisdom
God has given humanity the ability to study, analyze, categorize and develop the physical resources of this earth the benefit our physical life. But that’s where mankind’s “wisdom” ends. Because of sin, our minds are totally unable to discern the spiritual dimension. We do not have the power or the knowledge to change our own heart, the understanding to solve our spiritual dilemma, or the resources that will satisfy our soul-hunger. Because of sin, we are spiritually dead.
Our thinking is constantly being attacked by worldly philosophies, human methodologies, thinking that has been twisted by human desire, greed and selfishness. These are trying to divert us from the Word of God. It’s not a new battle. The Corinthian believers constantly faced the same struggle day after day. They were strongly influenced by the prevailing ideas of their time. When they became Christians and were awakened to the revelation of God, they were exposed to an obvious conflict.
Paul, describing that conflict, said, “The Word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God… Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (1 Corinthians 1:18, 20) While the first century philosophers viewed the wisdom of God as foolishness, in truth, God exposed their so-called “wisdom” as foolish. It is that opposition which makes the knowledge of the world and the wisdom of God incompatible. They are and always will be mutually exclusive.
True wisdom—the wisdom of God—according to James is more than the things we know. It is more than being able to recite dates, places and conflicts. It goes beyond knowing the capitol of Vermont, the President of Kazakhstan, the gross national product of the US for 2018.
Our human knowledge is easily tainted by selfish ambition, bitter envy, self-centered pride. What we know in this world can be warped and twisted by politics, economics and societal pressure. As James said, “Where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every evil practice. (James 3:1;6) Every nation that has ever endured dictatorial rule knows this to be true.
But true wisdom, according to James is “pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17) This is what we need to survive in this world and how we need to interact with one another. This is how God created us to be.
If our world is ever going to become what God meant for it to be…if society is ever going to see liberty and justice for all…if we every hope to make a difference in our little corner of the world, we NEED to be praying—
“Oh, God, give us this day…WISDOM.”
Scriptures Used in Today’s Message