Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. [1 Corinthians 3:18]That scripture was recently quoted to me by a reader who disagreed with some of my conclusions. The implications of his comments were clear; “don’t think of yourself as wise or you shall be made a fool.”
Over the years I’ve witnesses a rising trend of “wisdom-haters” both on-line and through more traditional media. Somewhere in the last several years a good education and wisdom gained from careful study and experience has become something to scorn and question rather than revere. Maybe it started in the 60s, (“Don’t trust anyone over 30”) I don’t know but it has clearly accelerated recently.
Information is no longer locked up in ivory towers, the domain of an elite few. We live in the age of the Internet where information is free and easy. Gaining knowledge on almost any subject is only a mouse click away. But mere knowledge isn’t enough.
Understanding, figuring out what it all means and how to apply it, that’s intelligence. As we gain more knowledge we must also be intelligent with its use, otherwise we just become walking encyclopaedias. We’ve all met people like this, in high-school my best friend Jason coined the term Functionally Stupid to describe them, fountains of information with no social skills or ability at practical application.
But knowledge and intelligence can only take you so far. There is a third stage that often gets overlooked. Now more than ever the world requires people to not only be intelligent but also wise. Intelligence by itself leads to arrogance, an air of superiority brought upon by your vast knowledge but wisdom, the ability to distinguish right for wrong, fact from fiction and truth from lies, is also requires humility.
I’m not claiming any special wisdom for myself here but we learn from the story of Solomon that true wisdom is a gift from God as a reward for a humble heart and not something to be taken lightly.
At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” .. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” ...I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. [1 Kings 3:5,9,12]
We’ve seen it time and time again. Wisdom and humility go hand in hand. That’s why it’s so hard to find a wise person who will actually admit it. Wise leaders are the ones that change the course of history while no one’s watching; Ghandi and Dietrich Bonheoffer are two, there have been countless others.
Knowledge is easily gained and Intelligence is just a poor cousin of true wisdom. It’s wisdom that I look for in others and that which I pray for myself every day.