Day 155: Knowledge vs. Wisdom (Proverbs 4-6)

5 Get wisdom; get insight;
    do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.
6 Do not forsake her, and she will keep you;
    love her, and she will guard you.
7 The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom,
    and whatever you get, get insight.
8 Prize her highly, and she will exalt you;
    she will honor you if you embrace her.
Proverbs 4:5-8

I’m a nerd. Always have been, always will be. I like knowing stuff. I’ve got a head for mindless trivia. My wife calls it mental styrofoam. It never goes away, it never degrades; it just blows around in the landfill of my brain.

When I was in fourth grade, me and my friends (also nerds) had a club. We were the Brainketeers. To become a Brainketeer, you had to make a contribution to the Book of Knowledge. The Book of Knowledge was a spiral notebook of lists. A list of the middle names of US presidents. A list of host cities for the Summer Olympics. All the movies that won Best Picture. If you could contribute a list, you were in. Then we would have meetings. Each Brainketeer would add a digit to Pi. Then we would review our lists and talk about lists we wanted to make.

I think our membership peaked at four. By the end of the school year, the Brainketeers had disbanded. But to this day, I’m pretty sure I can call more presidents by their middle name than anyone else in Prattville. My wife refuses to watch Jeopardy with me.

Solomon was a list maker. The description of Solomon in 1 Kings 4 makes him the original Brainketeer:

32 He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005. 33 He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall. He spoke also of beasts, and of birds, and of reptiles, and of fish. (1 Kings 4:32-33)

But Solomon wasn’t just smart. He was wise. When he asked for wisdom, God blessed him with supernatural wisdom (see Day 151: Ask What I Shall Give You (1 Kings 3-4)). Tragically, Solomon would eventually turn away from wisdom because he was led astray by his many wives (1 Kings 11:1-4)

There is a huge difference between knowledge and wisdom. Brian O’Driscoll, an Irish rugby player, famously explained it this way: “Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.”

(The Internet has expanded on O’Driscoll’s quip, adding, “Philosophy is wondering if this means ketchup is a smoothie.”)

Proverbs 4:5-8 shows the value of pursuing wisdom. Verse 7 in the New International Version makes it even more emphatic: “Though it cost all you have, get wisdom.” Fortunately for us, God is not stingy with wisdom. In James 1:5, God promises the He will always answer a prayer for wisdom.

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

God does not always answer a prayer for more knowledge. But He will generously give wisdom to everyone who asks for it.

One of my favorite Presidential quotes is from Abraham Lincoln (who, by the way, did not have a middle name):

“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”

Our own knowledge will always fall short. And even our own wisdom will often be insufficient for the tasks in front of us. But when we come to the end of ourselves, we find that God has been there all along, ready to bless us with His wisdom.



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