Knowledge without Wisdom

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Proverbs 4:7-8

Understand what wisdom is.

If you’d like to know about one of the books of the Bible, you could spend a few bucks buying one of the Anchor Bible commentaries. The volume for Song of Solomon is about 740 pages long and includes an index to the Ugaritic references in that book. Ugaritic? What’s that? And the bibliography spans 55 pages of text. This is a monumental work of scholarship, written and edited by Marvin Pope, a Yale University Hebrew scholar who has read everything that can be read on this topic. I guarantee that you do not now nor will you ever know as much about the Song of Solomon as does the man responsible for this book. Don’t feel bad. My level of knowledge will never approach his.

As impressive as I find Dr. Pope’s learning, I do not know that the man possesses true wisdom. The faculty offices at the old-line divinity schools of this nation–Harvard, Duke, Yale, and so forth–are full of really, really learned men and women. They know a lot. But do they possess wisdom? That’s a more open question.

Learning is a positive thing. Learning allows us to expand human knowledge, to achieve feats of engineering and medicine, to propose new legal and economic theories. But without wisdom, learning can be a dangerous thing, providing nuclear weapons without the sense to control them, providing novel financing tools without the restraint to use them ethically. Learning without wisdom believes that because we can do something, we may do it.

When our knowledge outstrips our wisdom, bad things follow.

  • In what area do you possess the most knowledge? Do you possess and use the wisdom necessary to use that knowledge?
  • Do you have pride in your level of knowledge in any area? How does that compare with your feelings about the level of wisdom you possess?
  • Do you, like Solomon, routinely ask God to provide you with greater levels of wisdom?

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