Is wisdom the same as knowledge?
Some think so. The possession of facts and information seems to be all important. We live in the so-called “information age” with its explosion of knowledge and data. Our parents would never have dreamed of the technology that has given rise to the ease in obtaining information online. No one needs The Encyclopedia Britannica anymore.
Thomas a Kempis in his classic work of spirituality, “The Imitation of Christ” which we are reading in our book study group, wrote “There is a great difference between the wisdom of an illuminated and devout man, and the knowledge of a learned and studious scholar.”
In the Wisdom literature of our Bible the theme of wisdom of course abounds. It is often personified, referring to wisdom as “she.” In those works, wisdom is found in knowing, understanding, and obeying God's law and being true to the covenant. In short, wisdom is revealed in humble and true worship of God.
In the Book of Wisdom chapter seven this personification stands out boldly. Wisdom is “her.”
“I prayed, and prudence was given me; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me. I preferred her to scepter and throne, and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her, nor did I liken any priceless gem to her; because all gold, in view of her, is a little sand, and before her, silver is to be accounted mire. Beyond health and comeliness I loved her, and I chose to have her rather than the light because the splendor of her never yields to sleep. Yet all good things together came to me in her company and countless riches at her hands.”
That mid-sentence stood out for me. Health and comeliness (outward beauty) are two things that we often seek above all else. Both things gradually or sometimes rapidly diminish with advanced years. Many times I hear the comment, “If you have your health, you have everything." Apparently a person's attractive appearance runs a lose second. Watching the plethora of advertising for beauty products and anti-aging creams and potions on television should make the case.
Wisdom is to be loved and desired more than these? And more than prestige, popularity, power, gems, and gold and silver? But that when you receive wisdom you get “all good things together” too? It's all in the package of wisdom? That sounds too good to be true!
But that's exactly what King Solomon received. Because he asked God for wisdom and not for the rest of the other things, it pleased the Lord to give him the “everything else” as a fringe benefit. Jesus brought that promise even more abundantly into the New Covenant by saying that when we “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, all these things shall be added unto you.”
Wisdom is not a commodity to be kept for oneself. Wisdom is like wind. You can't see the wind; you can only see the results of it by hearing the rustle of leaves in the trees or feeling the gentle brush of a breeze on your cheek on a sweltering day. I know I have received wisdom when I carry out a wise action or speak a wise word, like Solomon did when he “practiced wisdom.”
People expect wisdom from those in advanced years. That's why I have asked the Lord for it above all else. Where will wisdom come from? It is bound up in the person of Jesus Christ. The Scripture says “He was filled with wisdom.” Through Him “we are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God.” It is one of the Gifts of the Spirit—“the word of wisdom”—to be received. God gives us “a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.” In Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Saint Paul prayed not that we might have a trickle of wisdom, but that we might “be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” We are to “let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom.”
Clearly, wisdom is available for me to receive and to express. But I feel deficient in wisdom. I don't have enough. “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). Other translations say that God gives wisdom “without resenting your asking” and “without finding fault” with your asking, or “reproving or rebuking you” for asking. It's not a shame to ask God for wisdom. He welcomes me to confess my need for wisdom.
I need generous amounts of God's wisdom! So I'm going to be greedy in a positive way and ask God for His wisdom to constantly flow into me and out of me. And I'm going to be on the lookout for “the everything else” that He promised will come along as a bonus!