Never before have so many people had access to so much information. With human knowledge doubling every few years and search engines like Google and Yahoo! at our fingertips, the potential for learning seems endless.
The horizons of knowledge—According to Reuters News Service, the Hubble Space Telescope has found 10,000 galaxies in a window of the night sky about the size of a full moon.
The Human Genome Project is another scientific effort that is harvesting knowledge faster than our minds can process. This global effort to map and sequence all of the 20,000-25,000 genes of the human body promises implications for the treatment and prevention of disease. Yet with the dawn of such information we are faced with questions of bioethics that are surfacing faster than their answers.
The misuse of knowledge—As with everything else in life, there is a downside to living on the information highway. While looking for useful knowledge, we can get lost in a blinding blizzard of data. The same browsers we are using to solve our problems can be used to multiply misinformation, pornography, and instructions on how to make a bomb.
We’re not the first to find more than we were looking for in our pursuit of knowledge. The Bible’s Adam and Eve discovered long ago that knowledge without wisdom is dangerous. By eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they lost their innocence and found a world of understanding that clouded their minds and broke their hearts.
The value of wisdom—Many years later, Solomon, the wise king of Israel, wrote, “Happy is the [person] who finds wisdom, and the man [or woman] who gains understanding; for her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, and her gain than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies, and all the things you may desire cannot compare with her” (Proverbs 3:13-15 NKJV).
But what is this wisdom that Solomon celebrates with such enthusiasm?
The meaning of wisdom—By proverbs, parables, and the voice of experience, Solomon takes us beyond the common understanding that wisdom is the practical art of using knowledge to reach a desired goal. He reminds us how foolish it is to be wise in our own eyes (Proverbs 3:5-7; 26:12).
Ironically, it is this same Solomon who gives us one of our most memorable examples of what can happen when we lose sight of where we came from and where we are going (Ecclesiastes 1:1-18; 12:1, 7, 13-14).
When he, himself, forgot his Creator and the purposes for which he was made king of Israel, Solomon began wandering, like a man without a compass.
Reflecting on his resulting confusion, the king wrote, “ ‘Meaningless! Meaningless! . . . Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’ What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1:2-3 NIV). Only when he remembered his God and his coming day of accountability did Solomon recover the wise perspective for which he is remembered.
From firsthand experience, he wrote, “Be warned, my son . . . of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. Now . . . here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (12:12-14 NIV).
By returning to such a conclusion, however, Solomon leaves us with a question that he himself seemed unable to answer. What hope is there for people like us if someone as wise as Solomon wasn’t able to live up to his own counsel?
Looking back, it’s apparent that the Bible was actually written to answer that question. In one way or another, everything between its covers points to the Messiah who offered to do for others what they could not do for themselves. By the questions Jesus asked, the stories He told, and the miracles He did, He exposed the foolishness of those who saw themselves as being either good or wise in their own eyes.
Then He showed how far He was willing to go to take anyone who trusted Him to His Father. By a bold plan of rescue that balanced the justice and mercy of God, He courageously suffered and died to secure everlasting life for those willing to rely on His wisdom rather than their own.
In the process, He gave us a perfect example of wisdom in action. He showed us what it looks like to remember our Creator even in the days of our youth (Luke 2:42-49).
By the way He remained true to His Father in heaven, He showed us how to live for the pleasure of our God rather than for the praise of others. By the way He prayed, He showed us where to find the strength we need to become increasingly like Him in our responses to others.
Father in heaven, in all of our knowledge we too often forget to acknowledge You. By relying on our own understanding, we have lost sight of the goal for which You have given us life. Please give us today Your wisdom in our minds and Your skill in our hands, to show Your love in our hearts. —Mart De Haan