Knowledge is not Wisdom, but without Knowledge, you can’t have wisdom

We have all heard, perhaps, that you may have the best knowledge in the world, but you may turn up to be a foolish man. A PhD guy may end up with making the most foolish decision in life. The stats is clear. But a village woman or man with little or no education may make much wiser decision. The reason is knowledge is just knowing in the heads, but wisdom is actually application of that knowledge, and it involves judgement call, discerning your inner values, and personal convictions. Personal wisdom is vital and crucial, and the book of Proverbs has plenty to advise us.

Proverbs 1:5let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—

The word “learning” in Hebrew leqah means extensive study. Extensive study! A lot of us don’t read enough books at all, let alone extensive study. I do find from my experience that, depending on your culture and/or upbringing, if you don’t have much reading as a habit, you are not going to have extensive study. An average church member goes to church to listen to a 30 min-40 min sermon and come home watching TV or reading up the headlines news on internet. That includes pastors too. Extensive study is required (leqah in Hebrew in Prov 1:5) for adding to their learning or wisdom. So that begs the question that if you don’t read much at all, worse still not at all, how are you going to add to your learning?

So, can you have wisdom without knowledge? No. You have to be knowledgeable about a subject before you can apply it with the discipline, discernment, and discretion of wisdom (Tim Keller-Proverbs).  So, Proverbs calls those who would be wise to add to their learning.

Tim Keller writes: “To be wise we must understand human nature, how human relationships work, suffering and death, and the character of God himself. Wisdom is wedding thought and experience to become “competent with regard to the realities of life.” And among all other things we should study, true wisdom requires deep knowledge of the Scriptures. Even Jesus based his every move on the Bible, quoting Scripture to face and explain his death (Matthew 27:46; Psalm 22:1)”[1]

Based on my preaching experience before, I have always focused on the Scripture to expound from it from my limited life experience, and what I observed or read from news, but to understand human relationships, human nature, suffering and death, they are hardly found from the news’ reading. So, the idea of understanding better human nature, how relationships work, that’s just superficially scratched in my years of pulpit. Unless I begin to read books by these philosophers, thinkers, journalists, it will be a stretch for me to catch up. And worse still, I have been doing that for years on the pulpit without knowing it, thinking that all is good, a frustration that is unimaginable. With now being in New York City, I am very blessed to access all the good books recommended by a top pastor Tim Keller in NYC, and himself a theologian from the seminary, and begin to fill myself up with all this great knowledge about God, and about human relationships, dynamics in this real world. Also, listening extensively great sermons like Tim Keller, John Piper, Martin Lloyd Jones, have definitely opened my eyes to the treasures of the Word of God, and how it interfaces with humans in real world.

My point is we must get knowledge. The idea that we don’t need to read too much, because they are dry, but just wait upon the Spirit and let him reveal word of God, is appallingly shallow, short sighted, and missing out so much. Because God clearly says we need “leqah” which means extensive study in Hebrew. Prov 1 talks about gaining wisdom. That’s what Scriptures means leqah, extensive study. God says we need extensive study. We must be prepared for extensive study. I am in the seminary now doing my MA in Biblical Studies and am so blessed, and I am beginning to experience the “extensive study” that’s commanded in the book Proverbs 1. We would be naïve to think that somehow, by praying and speaking in tongues a lot, this will replace the extensive study. This will never help us to get to know the human relations with one another, the character of God etc. They come from extensive study. And of course, I am not saying that we only need extensive study, because we need also pray in tongues, pray in English or Chinese or BM or whatever language, and we need both. It’s like fire and wood. Wood is the Word of God, and the Spirit is the fire. These two combined will produce flame, fire.

The spiritual giants of our ancient fathers like Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, etc. all studied extensively, and their writing, preaching oratory skills is phenomenal. They did their work of extensive study. Luther, after studying Romans extensively, came up with the 95 theses, and nailed it onto the door of the church that eventually resulted in a spiritual revolution called Reformation in Europe in 16th century.

In modern days, for us to understand post-modernism, individualism, anxiety, fears, hopes, of a man or a woman, we must read and study extensively, listen to sermons that deal with our psychology and physiology, so that our preaching can connect with modern people with all their liberal education from colleges/universities today. If we hope to reach out to them, we must speak the language of rationality combined with our bible faith. Rational rhetoric is part of the bible. Augustine is expert on that. Try reading The Confession and it will blow your mind!

True wisdom requires deep knowledge of the Scriptures. To be competent to the realities of life. experience must meet with our thoughts. Thought can only come from deep study of the Scriptures. Amen.


[1] Tim Keller, Devotional Wisdom on Proverbs

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