Facts, Knowledge and Wisdom
Information is so prevalent around us that we are literally drowning in it! In fact, information (data) has become a form of currency and is being ‘mined’ from you on a moment-by-moment basis. Your internet search habits, your shopping preferences, your choice of TV and Radio… even how you take your coffee! All of this is data that is being sold to the highest bidder. Information, it seems, is golden.
Enter the Internet. Since the dawn of the World Wide Web, information (and access to it) has multiplied at an insane rate. Buckminster Fuller created the “Knowledge Doubling Curve”; This theory goes that until year 1900, human knowledge approximately doubled every century. However, by 1950 human knowledge doubled every 25 years. In 2000, human knowledge would double every year. Now, our knowledge is almost doubling every day. (And this was reported nearly three years ago!) This has lead to information overload… There is so much out there, we don’t know how to sift through it all. And that doesn’t even consider the question of its’ accuracy or validity.
Truly, if the Internet has given the world something, it is an abundance of the ridiculous. There is no shortage of grumpy cats, dancing babies, and fake news. Foolishness is glorified. Yet the world yearns for wisdom. Parenting tips. Marriage advice. Leadership principles. Personal growth. Life hacks. Fancy words describing one thing - wisdom.
What is Wisdom?
First, let us realise that learning is an activity that begins before ones’ first breath. Even in the womb, a child is learning. Active learning begins as the infant utilizes the senses to process its’ understanding of the world. It takes in all sorts of input, data, and then attempts to make meaning out of it. Obviously, this meaning can be a little skewed since there are no frameworks in place. But as a child grows, and as meaningful frameworks are built, new data is appropriately processed to form real meaning.
As society has progressed, learning has transformed. What was initially a human to human transmission, is now a broadcast system of information dissemination. The art of story telling, which formed the basis of knowledge transfer, has been lost. Old men telling tales around fires, Bards initiating the young and Rabbis educating the disciple in his own household are bygone examples. What has been lost is the complete chain of transfer. Knowledge is now separated from actual application.
Perhaps it is useful to consider three related, yet very distinct words: the distinction between information, knowledge and wisdom is important. Information is best described as a collection of facts or data. Knowledge is then understood as the ability to apply that information to achieve a goal. Wisdom can be considered then when, where and whether to use that knowledge.
It is true, and useful, knowledge that sugar makes things sweet. That is information. So does ethylene glycol. That, too, is information. Knowledge would be seen as how to use that sweetening effect to make our beverage taste good. Wisdom would be determining if this were a good idea. In 1985, a number of Austrian Wineries chose to use ethylene glycol to make their wines sweeter and more full-bodied. The resulting scandal destroyed the Austrian Wine industry for over a decade. Wise? Not.
Martial Arts is another area where the difference between information, knowledge and wisdom can be clearly seen. In the beginning, one must learn to gain control over oneself, and only later to gain victory over others. Possessing a mere collection of techniques (information) means nothing in actual combat. Understanding of the application of these techniques, as per one’s unique abilities, to different types of opponents, in various environments is real knowledge. And yet, at its height, there must be present in an individual the wisdom necessary to show compassion to even the most vociferous enemy.
Wisdom is also essential when it comes to our spiritual lives… some would say our Real lives… The Bible has much to say about wisdom: It is more precious than rubies (Proverbs 8:11) and gold (Proverbs 16:16). So are we willing to pay? Talk is cheap. Wisdom costs. Wisdom is only words if not applied. Words become wisdom when they are internalized and the heart changes. And that is a sacrifice only a few are prepared to make. If you desire wisdom as the foundation for your life, or require wisdom for a specific situation you face, here are some important verses to start you on the path:
1 Corinthians 1:24
"But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God."
Ravi Zacharias said, “Outside of the Cross of Jesus Christ, there is no hope in this world. That Cross, and resurrection at the core of the Gospel, is the only hope for humanity. Wherever you go, ask God for wisdom on how to get that Gospel in, even in the toughest situations of life.”
"Wisdom is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her."
When God appeared to Solomon, He gave him the opportunity to ask for anything he desired. What did Solomon desire more than all else? Wisdom. Not gold or long life, wisdom. Wisdom is paramount. It is great to be smart and have knowledge, but it is abundantly more valuable to have the wisdom to apply it appropriately. If you aspire to anything in this life, desire wisdom.
"Don't turn your back on wisdom, for she will protect you. Love her, and she will guard you."
We long for safety, for protection for business deals, holiday plans, school and career. So ask for, and apply, wisdom. Wisdom helps protect you and your family from motor accidents, shady business deals and harmful relationships. The Holy Spirit guides you and leads you in all things. Heed His warnings and look for His peace (Philippians 4:7).
"If you prize wisdom, she will make you great. Embrace her, and she will honor you."
Wisdom truly makes you great. Society says we achieve greatness through hard work, the right connections, possessions or even a load of cash. While such things may give a certain air of greatness, true greatness takes wisdom. The wisdom not to give up, the wisdom to develop discipline, the wisdom to ask others for help. Such behaviours are often not associated or thought of as wisdom, but are marks of true wisdom in action.
"Wisdom will multiply your days and add years to your life. If you become wise, you will be the one to benefit. If you score wisdom, you will be the one to suffer."
With conflicting health information appearing daily, it's good to know you don't need to rely on following the latest food or health fads for total wellness. Wisdom listens to the advice of professionals, gets a second opinion if necessary, and stands on the promises of God. Wisdom will not be swayed by Dr. Google, fake news, or hearsay. Such wisdom will multiply your days.
"To acquire wisdom is to love yourself; people who cherish understanding will prosper."
Seek Wisdom and you will prosper. Don't forget: prosperity is more than material wealth. It includes good relationships, thriving children, a happy marriage, good physical health and financial gain. You can only attain prosperity in every sense of the word when you apply wisdom. Wisdom will guide you toward a healthy, balanced life… which is the essence of prosperity.
"Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom."
It takes great humility to submit yourself to the wisdom of God above your own wisdom. As you will discover, humility and wisdom intricately linked. You can't be wise without being humble. On the same token, if you are humble, you will find yourself unwittingly wise.
Humility requires honesty. As Thomas Jefferson said, “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” Be humble enough to honestly recognise areas where you still have much to learn.
"Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people."
When it comes to wisdom, no one arrives. There is always more wisdom… always more to learn. We must remain teachable… be open to learn new things. This is wisdom. Jesus, the wisdom of God, was not beyond growing in wisdom. If Jesus grew in wisdom, surely we also should continue to mature in wisdom.
In the play, As You Like It, William Shakespeare said, “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” In other words, be humble enough to know you really know nothing… and you've reached the beginning of wisdom.
"If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking."
The last few verses demonstrate the link between wisdom and humility. Again, it is demonstrated here in the book of James, "If you need wisdom, ask." It really is that simple. Humble yourself, ask for wisdom, have a teachable spirit, and God will give it to you. He is the ultimate source of wisdom.
Later in James, we find a definition of what wisdom looks like: honourable, not selfish or jealous; true, pure, peace-loving, gentle, merciful and good. A life of true, Biblical Wisdom cannot be achieved without God. Ask and He will provide… not as the world does.
"I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God."
Finally, like Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus, I pray Jesus Christ gives you spiritual Wisdom that you may grow in your faith and your experience and knowledge of Him. I pray that your heart remains humble, and teachable, and that you always look to Jesus as your wisdom.
Grace and Peace.