#78: Knowledge vs. wisdom

Well. It’s been quite a while since I’ve done a sermon-like post.

The concept which I wish to consider today is the difference between knowledge and wisdom.

Or simply (succintly – another word to improve your vocab) put, what’s right isn’t always wise.

To illustrate my point, let me use two examples that are close to my heart. The first is what we call a Pyrrhic victory. The story behind the term is an interesting one. It originates from the story of King Pyrrhus and his invasion of Rome. The Greek and Roman armies were evenly match but Pyrrhus appeared to possess better troops, better tactics and a wealth of battle experience. Yet after several days of fighting, the outcome wasn’t any clearer.

Finally, the Greek army managed to prevail and drove back the Romans. Yet, Pyrrhus was now in an incredibly weak position. Far from home and without reinforcements, the enemy may had lost the battle but were still in the stronger position. Pyrrhus said “One more such victory and I am lost”. He never conquered Rome.

The lesson of the story here is that some battles are won at too great a cost. This is often the case in relationships with other people. You know you are dead right, and maybe the person eventually does too. But pride stops us from stopping when we should. And so we end up forsaking the relationship for the victory as we argue and slam the other person’s opinions. It was right, but it wasn’t wise. Treasure the relationship, not your pride. If the other person is wrong, gently correct, never assuming yourself as a superior example, but as a friend to guide.

The second illustration I feel applies to exemplary leadership. And this is ever more evident in the context of the church today. It can be summed up in one key bible verse:

“Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” 1 Corinthians 8:1.

This verse was written in the context of eating food sacrificed to idols. Although all foods were proclaimed clean, for the conscience of the weak believer, the mature wise believer should refrain from such foods as to not condemn their weak consciences. The bible calls us to refrain from becoming a “stumbling block” to other believers.

And this applies across every facet of leadership. From your relationships to your actions, it is important that none become a stumbling block to others. Knowledge in its context here can be interpreted as a truth without love. And so I present wisdom as its extension, a truth practiced in love. The wise man is known by God, because he loves God. This is seen in verse 2. And to be known by God in this context is something not to be taken lightly!

This gives us the foundation to move from knowledge to wisdom. And as the wise man loves God, this love overflows onto others. And this love being rooted and established in God, who is Truth, the embodiment of all that is Right, thus surpasses knowledge. It’s really the difference between “head knowledge” and “heart knowledge”. The first precludes love, the second is borned out of love for God.

So here’s the exhortation. In all you do, in every aspect of your life, always act rightly, not out of a knowledge of good and evil, but out of a wisdom that comes from loving God and knowing God.

And to the leaders (both present and future and even past) of the youth/college group at my church, this is an ever more important exhortation:

Don’t go for Pyrrhic victories. Always treasure the relationship over your pride. As mentioned, this doesn’t give us license to let wrongdoing fester, but it tells us to enforce the truth IN love.

And in all your ways set a wise example. Maturity does not give you license to do everything without consideration for love. The biggest example of this is, in my opinion, in the area of boy-girl relationships. Just because it’s not wrong to pursue one discards the principle of wisdom. If you do not want to be a stumbling block, the wise course suggests to steer clear until you’re 18, i.e. out of secondary.

And finally, to those who might think this post is directed at them, well you are in every sense right. But I do this out of love for you as a person, not out of a need to stamp my ways on you. The course of wisdom is always justified by the blessings of God, as perceived in the book of Proverbs.

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One response to “#78: Knowledge vs. wisdom

  1. Hi, I am one of the random people who stumbled across your blog… This is great! It made me think…
    Thanks for taking time to write stuff like this!
    -Danielle

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