During my travels I have had the opportunity to be in the company of people from different countries, cultures and backgrounds from all over the face of the Earth. Through my desire to know more about different countries, people and cultures I often find myself in conversation with people asking them multiple questions about themselves, their countries, their cultures and their lives. Most of the time, people are quite elated by the fact that I show interest in them and who they are and are willing to fill me in.
There are moments in conversation, when great wisdom comes from the most unexpected persons… and also great idiocy! In my life time, I have heard the wisest of words come from those that are not expected to have it; the ones that are not very educated, learned or cultured. They are not the most eloquent and are overlooked because they lack appeal. They have not achieved much in their lives according to modern society’s standard, yet they hold priceless treasures of wisdom in their words. Likewise I have heard the most foolish and ill-conceived words come from so called “intellectuals” and “educated” folk; you know, the ones who hold multiple degrees and distinctions, are aged, cultured and eloquent yet, their inferences, though eloquently spoken, lacked prudence.
I started asking myself a lot of questions recently in regards to my encounters. This is how my thought process ensued with my conclusions:
Obviously education, degrees and distinctions do not necessarily make one wise.
There are those who have much knowledge and there are those who have wisdom.
What’s the difference between knowledge and wisdom?
So I looked up the definitions of both:
Knowledge: information, understanding, or skill that you get from experience or education
: awareness of something : the state of being aware of something (Merriam-Webster)
Wisdom: knowledge that is gained by having many experiences in life
: the natural ability to understand things that most other people cannot understand
: knowledge of what is proper or reasonable : good sense or judgment
So knowledge is acquired information through experience or education while wisdom is acquired information through life experience with extraordinary understanding and good judgment.
I pondered a bit on this.
I could not help but consider how today’s modern societies idolize intellectualism. The more “educated” one seems, the level of degrees one has, from where one attains these degrees and how eloquent one is dictates one’s status in society and how others revere them. They are the so called gurus, experts and designated authorities so their words hold more weight in society’s eyes. Some societies are even worse, where fame and wealth actually places many in the place of gurus and experts even if they are some of the most ignorant people on the planet! Smh! The World we live in!
Nevertheless, I have observed that many intellectuals (not all) wear their intellect, degrees, distinctions, eloquence, etc. as a badge of pride, symbol of status and as a way to feel superior to those who are less “educated” than they. In my opinion, this shows their lack of wisdom. One who has wisdom searches out knowledge and uses it with good judgment. In my conclusion, one has intent that is rooted in pride while the other is rooted in humility. One is selfish while the other is selfLESS. Less of self is always the goal of the wise; the acquisition of knowledge and understanding for more than selfish gain and recognition.
What I have come to understand is that intelligence should not be mistaken for wisdom. Intellect is not necessarily followed with wisdom but wisdom is followed with intellect. Intellect without wisdom benefits little. Wisdom is of greater value.
“For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.” King Solomon
As I type, I am reminded of so many proverbs from the Book of Proverbs written by King Solomon that talks about the importance of wisdom, attaining it and the intent and recompense of the wise and the foolish. Here are some of my favorites!
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” – Proverbs 9:10
“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom and in all your getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she will promote you; She will bring you honor, when you embrace her.” – Proverbs 4:7&8
“Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold. For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.” – Proverbs 8:10-11
“When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom.” – Proverbs 11:2
“In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” – Proverbs 10:19
“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.” – Proverbs 12:15
“He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.” – Proverbs 13:20
“A wise man fears and departs from evil, but a fool rages and is self-confident.”- Proverbs 14:6
“Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” – Proverbs 26:12
…and in the Book of Ecclesiastes
“Wisdom strengthens the wise more than ten rulers of the city.” – Ecclesiastes 7:19
“…And a wise man’s heart discerns both time and judgment, because for every matter there is a time and judgment, though the misery of man increases greatly…” – Ecclesiastes 8:5&6
“Wisdom is better than strength. Nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard. Words of the wise, spoken quietly, should be heard rather than the shout of a ruler of fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war; but one sinner destroys much good. – Ecclesiastes 9:16-18
“For wisdom is a defense as money is a defense, but the excellence of knowledge is that wisdom gives life to those who have it.” – Ecclesiastes 7:12
…and in the Book of Sirach
“Blessed is the man that shall continue in wisdom, and that shall meditate in his justice, and in his mind shall think of the all seeing eye of God.” – Sirach 14:22
“For wisdom came forth from God: for praise shall be with the wisdom of God, and shall abound in a faithful mouth, and the sovereign Lord will give praise unto it.” – Sirach 15:10
“Better is a man that hath less wisdom, and wanteth understanding, with the fear of God, than he that aboundeth in understanding, and transgresseth the law of the most High.” – Sirach 19:21
“A man of sense will praise every wise word he shall hear, and will apply it to himself:… “ – Sirach 21:18
“…and the knowledge of the unwise is as words without sense.” – Sirach 21:21
“The heart of fools is in their mouth: and the mouth of wise men is in their heart.” – Sirach 21:29
King Solomon (in Islam he’s referred to as “Sulayman”), the author of The Book of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes was considered the wisest of all Kings that ever lived; past, present and future! He did not ask God for riches or fame but asked God for wisdom to lead God’s people.
“Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in and Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted. Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”
The speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. Then God said to him: “Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked for long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you and I have also given you what you have not asked: both riches and honor, so that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days.” – 1 Kings 3:7-14
You see! His motive was not selfish but selfless. It was for the benefit of God’s people not for himself. Solomon was humbled by and accepted the truth: he knew nothing about being a king and guiding God’s people. His acceptance of this truth and his desire was a humble one, not a prideful one. So God, being pleased with his request, granted him great wisdom and with that wisdom came honor, wealth and notoriety.
Reader, please do not misconstrue my words. I do not believe there is anything wrong in being intelligent, educated or with seeking out more education/knowledge. All I advise is that you always examine your motives; understand what you are doing and why. If your acquisition of knowledge is self-centered, after you have accomplished it, you will still be dissatisfied and unfulfilled. However, if your intent is selfless, then you can find purpose, joy and peace of mind.
And if you truly desire wisdom, do like King Solomon… and ask for it!
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” – James 1:5
“For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; He guards the paths of justice, and preserves the way of His saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice, equity and every good path.” – Proverbs 2:6-9
“Let thy thoughts be upon the precepts of God, and meditate continually on his commandments: and he will give thee a heart, and the desire of wisdom shall be given thee.” – Shirach 6:37
Be encouraged today and may wisdom be found of you.
Writings that have encouraged me on my personal quest for God, understanding and wisdom: