Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Do you know the difference between wisdom and understanding?


You know those churches that have the cutesy movable-letter signs out front? I saw one the other day that read: “Wisdom is understanding what’s important.”
First off, why is that in front of a church? It is not from the Bible. It appears to be a quote from a brain-science text entitled,Wisdom: From Philosophy to Neuroscience, by Stephen S. Hall.
Why can't churches see what they are doing? How is it possible they can read 2 Timothy 4:3, and not realize they are fulfilling that prophecy themselves?
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires."

The Bible does talk – quite a lot, actually – about wisdom. Also understanding, discernment, and knowledge. But the Bible doesn’t mash them all in a blender, as the above quote does. Here’s a way to remember the difference:
You are standing on a piece of wood that, front to rear, is about the same size as your shoes. It extends a couple feet to your right and a couple feet to your left. Beside your shoes, about a foot and a half away from each, are two pieces of steel. They are about twice as high as your feet. The two pieces of steel appear to taper and come to a point in front of you. At the place where they converge is a very tiny machine, and a wisp of smoke.
Those are the facts. The Bible calls this collection of facts “knowledge and most would agree.”
Since you are not a newborn, you apply your mental faculties to these facts. One of the mental tools you’ve picked up over time is something called “perspective.” So, you come to the conclusion that the two pieces of steel are not really tapering and coming to a point in front of you. They in fact remain parallel as they run off into the distance; therefore, what appeared to be a tiny machine and wisp of smoke are in fact a fairly large machine some distance away.
That mental talent, of using previous life experience to separate and make sense of new situations and experiences is called “discernment.”
Thanks to discernment, your brain is now able to make sense of this image: the wood you are standing upon is a railroad tie, the two pieces of steel are rails, and the machine with the smoke above it is an approaching train.
That “aha!” moment is what the Bible calls “understanding.” 
So, you have knowledge, discernment, and understanding. You can give yourself a mental pat on the back for sorting out these puzzling images. But do you have wisdom?
Clearly not. Because while you are standing on the railroad track congratulating yourself on what a smart fellow you are, the train continues to draw closer.
Wisdom is “understanding in action.” Albert Einstein is credited with being one of the smartest men of the last 100 years. Some of his quotes include references to God and creation. Yet when religious people of his day tried to use his quotes to credit him with belief in God, Einstein himself said: "It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly."
One of the smartest men in the world; spent his life studying train tracks and never had understanding enough to notice the train coming, or the wisdom to get out of the way.
Bill K. Underwood is the author of several novels and one non-fiction self-help book, all available at Amazon.com. You can help support this site by purchasing a book.

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