Wisdom and Understanding

“Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her and she will preserve you; love her, and she will keep you. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom” (Proverbs 4:5-7a).
Kalimpang, India is a beautiful city of several thousand inhabitants, high in the foothills of the Himalayas in north-eastern India. Until about 1900 it was just a sleepy small village in a remote and rather harsh (though beautiful) setting. But then a British educator came and built a school, which was soon known throughout a wide area for its excellence. Students came, then others until a large and vigorous community was created, which endures to this day. Kalimpang now is probably better known as a tourist and trekking destination, but its school is still open, still of highest reputation, and still making a positive contribution to the city.
Many cities worldwide are known because of schools located within them. Athens, Greece was the bastion of culture and wisdom for centuries. Alexandria, Egypt; Cambridge, England; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and many other ancient and modern cities are linked with schools or with the ideals of education and wisdom. All this is simply to suggest that there is something fundamentally constructive about the whole process of education and those who devote themselves to it.
There is, however, a caution which we must add. The Bible word for the constructive product of education is “wisdom”. The pursuit of wisdom and its exercise are wholeheartedly endorsed throughout Scripture. There is a distinction between wisdom and mere knowledge, though. The pursuit of facts alone does not constitute true education. It is the possession of facts (i.e., knowledge) along with discernment and judgment (i.e., wisdom) that brings blessing. And true wisdom is found only when one seeks after God. James teaches,
“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 2:5).
Paul adds, “Knowledge puffs up” (1 Corinthians 8:1b). Intellectual arrogance and pride abound in our modern degree-conscious world. One’s worth is assessed by the string of letters or titles following his or her name. Our vocabulary is increasingly laden with technical terms that only the informed insider can recognize, so that we have many “languages” designed to be spoken only within a small, knowledgeable circle. Does this really make us worth more? Does it constitute true wisdom? Not according to the Bible.
The genuinely wise person is the one who knows how little he truly does know. The one who recognizes his own insufficiency and need for God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). Only when we turn to him in humility and need can we be said to have acted wisely.

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