WHAT IS KNOWLEDGE, UNDERSTANDING AND WISDOM?

What is knowledge, understanding and wisdom?

When I was little, I would come across certain quotes titled “Quotes from wise men” and I was always left to wonder why these men were called wise! It was difficult for me to really understand why they were called wise and till date, I still feel the criteria with which we measure wisdom is flawed. When we understand what wisdom is, it may also change how we rate it. Sounding wise doesn’t mean we are wise. I would like to also present my perspective of what wisdom is and how it also relates to knowledge and understanding.

On many occasions, people have called us wise because we know just so much and sometimes we have also allowed ourselves to get swayed on the premise of what some people say about us. Oh well, when they come close, they realize that there is more to wisdom than being and sounding knowledgeable. Knowing so much doesn’t equate to being wise. The Bible says in Proverbs 4:7

“The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”

“Knowing so much doesn’t equate to being wise.”

  • WHAT IS KNOWLEDGE?

Knowledge is not wisdom, people tend to use both words interchangeably and being knowledgeable doesn’t also mean that one is understandable. Knowledge is the information and facts that we have acquired through our various experiences or other diverse channels of education. To be educated doesn’t mean to be wise or understandable, it simply means to be aware and in possession of certain information. We hear people say that knowledge is power, it doesn’t indicate that possessing knowledge means being powerful. When we know, it means that power is available to us but knowing isn’t enough to wield power! This is why we must understand other aspects that include wisdom and understanding.

“To be educated doesn’t mean to be wise or understandable, it simply means to be aware and in possession of certain information.”

  • WHAT IS UNDERSTANDING?

Understanding is what bridges wisdom and knowledge. Some people believe that wisdom bridges knowledge and understanding but I think otherwise. To understand means to discern, it is the ability to filter knowledge and make it ready for application where relevant. Knowledge is power but when we don’t know how and where to apply this power, we may remain failures. Nigerian police cannot function in America as police and therefore can’t board a flight, get to America and start making an arrest! He is a police, the awareness of being police is knowledge but discerning where to function and how to function is understanding. We can say that someone is understanding when he or she displays a sense of good judgment based on the knowledge they possess.

In the court of law, you may know a certain case and also know the constitution but you may not understand how and where each law applies but a lawyer knows this and knows where exactly to apply certain laws and where it would be wrong to also apply certain laws. This is understanding. To know what the book says doesn’t indicate you have common sense as common sense is expressed when you discern where and how the sayings of that book become applicable.

While knowledge would be about acquiring knowledge, understanding is the processing of that knowledge.

“Knowledge is power but when we don’t know how and where to apply this power, we may remain failures.”

  • WHAT IS WISDOM?

In a very simply word, we would say knowledge is a raw material, understanding is the processed material and wisdom is the usage of the refined product. Knowledge is like the unattractive raw unprocessed gold! Understanding is like the processing of gold and wisdom is the finished product that can be seen, used and appreciated. The Bible calls wisdom “the principal thing”, which means the most important or the first among other important things! Without wisdom, knowledge cannot be properly applied.

Wisdom is the active practical display of both knowledge and understanding. It doesn’t just have to do with speaking, it also has to do with showing knowledge and common sense. Wisdom doesn’t work independently of understanding because it is discernment that leads to the correct application of knowledge. I believe we now understand what knowledge, understanding and wisdom are. We can now know how to put these definitions into our everyday use but I will digress a little and get more spiritual.

There is the wisdom of men and there is the wisdom of God. I believe in God because even common sense suggests to me that someone is behind the formation of this earth, someone is behind our intelligence. All of the complex things about this earth, us and animals just didn’t happen by accident! It couldn’t have been as a result of a big bang! There could have been more.

Now, if I believe in God who made us, I should also be able to believe that He is wise and His wisdom surpasses that of mere men. The Bible has been the only information that has brought the understanding of God to me in a way that I feel God personally. I have also had some personal experiences with God in Jesus Christ and therefore I believe the Bible and I believe the truth contained therein.

“Knowledge is like the unattractive raw unprocessed gold! Understanding is like the processing of gold and wisdom is the finished product that can be seen, used and appreciated.”

MEN AND GOD’S WISDOM

It is not wrong to be humanly wise, it is not wrong to be humanly intelligent but our wisdom can’t be trusted and therefore depending on it is wrong. The wisdom of men flows with the negativity and flawed perceptions of this world. The world is full of greed, envy, anger, immoralities and so on, it is driven by self. People can still gather knowledge on how to be powerful on earth to suppress the opposition, they can understand the whole concept and apply it in real life! The Bible refers to this kind of wisdom as men’s wisdom. The wisdom of men is selfish, wicked, arrogant and full of lust. The Bible says in James 3:15-16

“For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there are jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.”

Men use their wisdom to satisfy their lust for power, fame and material things but the Bible calls it earthly, carnal and demonic! The reason why the Bible says it is demonic is that God gave man intelligence and the ability to develop it and become wise but after the fall, man became influenced by the demonic forces. Today, some men use their wisdom to traffic women and the girl child but still never get caught! Some men use their wisdom to traffic harmful substances and human parts and never get caught! People use their wisdom to develop dangerous weapons of war! They know their way around what they do and they know what to do to escape certain justice, yet it is said that they are wise. This is the flaws of men’s wisdom.

“Men use their wisdom to satisfy their lust for power, fame and material things but the Bible calls it earthly, carnal and demonic!”

But there is also God’s wisdom or Godly wisdom, this is the wisdom of God Himself or the wisdom that is based on the knowledge, understanding and love of and for God. For instance, one of the clear indications that wisdom is godly is when it is founded on love. The Bible says in James 3:17

“But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace-loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favouritism and is always sincere.”

Godly wisdom is crowned with love, it functions within the boundaries of peace and is expressed in humility and respect for others. Because Godly wisdom flows with humility, love and peace, the world always sees it as foolishness or cowardice. Where men’s wisdom would want to fight, Godly wisdom would be calm and calculated. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 1:25

“This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.”

It is very obvious that love is stronger than hate, peace is stronger than war and humility is stronger than pride. It takes great strength to be powerful and yet humble, to be agitated in the mind and yet remain calm, to be offended and yet remain loving! Natural minds will not understand this, they will not understand the strength of being calm in the midst of the noise. The least of God’s wisdom is greater than the much of men’s wisdom.

Because God’s word reveals the mind of Christ through Jesus, we can learn from God’s wisdom through His word. We can become wise in God’s way, we were never created to be foolish, God wants us to truly be like him. Like I said earlier, the fall of man also affected man’s wisdom, it changed everything! However, we can rediscover God’s wisdom and realign ourselves to perform with His wisdom.

“Godly wisdom is crowned with love, it functions within the boundaries of peace and is expressed in humility and respect for others.”

In our next article, we will be seeing how to walk in godly wisdom.

Blessings.

~ George O.N