Never before have so many had access to so much information. With human knowledge doubling every few years and search engines like Google, Alta Vista, and Ask Jeeves at our fingertips, the potential for learning seems endless.
Ironically, much of what we are discovering helps us to see how little we know. According to Reuters News Service, the Hubble Space Telescope has seen 10,000 galaxies in a window of the night sky about the size of a full moon. Who can even begin to imagine what it means to find 10,000 galaxies in one small area of the heavens? Our own galaxy, The Milky Way, is made up of about 100 billion stars, and our whole solar system revolves around only one of them.
The promise of knowledge—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 100,000 genes of the human body promises hopeful and disturbing implications for the treatment and prevention of disease. Deciphering the DNA alphabet of the human body brings with it the possibility of human clones to donate organs and gain complete knowledge of the human genetic code, so that any human characteristic can be altered with minimal risk or error. But who can understand the real benefits and risks of having this kind of knowledge?
The danger of knowledge—As with everything else in life, there is a downside to living on an information highway. Overloaded computers can crash and our minds can lock up. 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 look for world-class gossip, pornography, or instructions on how to make a bomb.
Our need for wisdom—Our first parents discovered long ago that knowledge without wisdom is dangerous. By eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they made the fatal mistake of trying to match wits with their Creator.
From that day until now, infected knowledge has been to the human mind what corrupted files are to our computers. Like the MyDoom virus that did billions of dollars of damage by clogging information systems with unwanted e-mails, so the pursuit of knowledge without wisdom can overload our minds and drown us in data.
The meaning of wisdom—Wisdom is the practical side of knowledge. It shows us what is important, gives proportion to what we know, and enables us to use insight skillfully to reach a desired goal.
There is more than one kind of wisdom. According to the New Testament, the wisdom of the world is different than the wisdom of God. The first uses knowledge to get ahead at the expense of others. The second uses understanding for the good of others. Each is distinguished by its motives.
Seeing that real wisdom is not only a function of the mind but also a condition of the heart, an apostle of Christ wrote:
“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom . . . . For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:13, 16-18).
By describing what’s at the heart of both kinds of wisdom, James explained why knowledge makes some people arrogant while enabling others to love. The wisdom he recommended is “pure” because it is not infected with “selfish ambition.” It is “peaceable” because it values good relationships with others. It is “gentle” because it knows the value of handling others with care. This wisdom is “willing to yield” and is “full of mercy and good fruits.” It is also “without partiality and without hypocrisy” because it puts the well-being of others above selfish interests.
The source of real wisdom—Once we see that knowledge without wisdom is like marriage without love, we can see why Solomon 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).
The priceless treasure Solomon is describing is found by those who invest their lives in the principles of the Bible. The Old Testament describes a wisdom that begins with the fear of God and is rounded out by timeless principles of practical insight (Proverbs 1:1-7; 9:10). The New Testament builds on the wisdom of Moses and Solomon but moves to another level of enlightenment. With the coming of Christ, the Gospel writers introduce us to Someone who makes the wisdom of Solomon pale by comparison. As the Son of God, Jesus did more than teach truth and knowledge and wisdom. He personified it (1 Corinthians 1:20-31).
As Lord of heaven and earth, Jesus could have overwhelmed us with new information. He could have lectured on science, theology, and philosophy in the most prestigious academies of higher learning. Yet when He walked among us, He talked about what He knew was most important. He talked about honoring His Father and seeing the value of people who were regarded as worthless by others.
Showing wisdom with a heart of love, Jesus had a way of putting other information in perspective. With a wisdom that speaks for itself, He simply asked questions like, “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
Father, in heaven, we are so quickly distracted from what is important. In our knowledge we are so inclined to be proud and self-sufficient. Please renew us once again in the knowledge and wisdom and love of Your Son