The Failure of Knowledge

I believe my greatest pursuits in life have been knowledge and understanding. It has been a true folly on my part. Not in the sense that knowledge and understanding are not of value; both conventional and biblical thought ascribe certain value as this is concerned (2 Timothy 2:15). The failure comes with making these my goal, my “greatest pursuits”. My pastor, Greg DePriest, recently affirmed these thoughts when stating that “being right doesn’t always take care of what is wrong.” This quite naturally leads to the question, “what should I seek with such fervor as I have?”

Ultimately, the Christian answer is God, but I do not want to take an easy road in spiritualizing the answer. Whether a believer or not – whether seeking God or something different, what is the most powerful method of arrival? Indeed the answer has shown itself to be wisdom, but wisdom of a different sort than meant by most. When most people claim to be seeking “wisdom” the truth is that they are looking for a sure “answer” to some decision that needs to be made. It is hard to admit that we don’t have answers and feels much more appeasing and high-minded to look for wisdom. I would like to pose that the words are not interchangeable. “Answer” does not equal “wisdom” and “wisdom” does not equal “answer”. They are not synonyms. We understand this clearly in the realm of mathematics. I have never heard someone state that they are seeking the wisdom for 2 + 5. Yet for some reason, we are very willing to say in less defined matters of life that we are seeking wisdom when the truth is that we simply want an answer. This flies in the face of truth. It is the equivalent of relating a dingy to a great ship. While wisdom will often include an answer, a correct answer rarely necessitates wisdom. What, then, is wisdom?

Knowledge, understanding and answers are often a bi-product of wisdom, but are also things that can be acquired entirely apart from wisdom. Many great minds have demonstrated this throughout history who died no wiser than they were born. True wisdom is differentiated from all else in a few ways:

  1. How it is gained – wisdom is received, a gift freely given; others are sought out and acquired through personal effort
  2. Entry point – wisdom comes through the spirit to the soul; all others move through the flesh to the soul
  3. A different core – Love, grace and motives are at the center of wisdom; tangible evidence is the basis for all others
  4. Focus of time – wisdom looks to the future; all copies and false mirrors thereof seek out the past and present

While I have sought to build a case for true wisdom without spiritualizing it, I am not able. This I believe to be so not because I am inadequate to so much, but that wisdom is indeed a spiritual matter. Not to say that it is a Christian matter (though I do believe that to be the case), simply that it is a spiritual matter.

Additional Note: Many Christians have struggled with the claim made in James 1:5 because they have made such a request which was unfulfilled. First of all, I will make the assumption that these same people have fulfilled the condition that their request was made in solid belief (though I actually doubt that is most often true). The reason for the seemingly denied request is that they were requesting something altogether different than wisdom. The word wisdom may have been used, but the truth is that they most likely desired some combination of knowledge, understanding or answers.

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