Wisdom Versus Knowledge


Wisdom: The ability to make right choices or decisions. The act of doing right as opposed to wrong based on the knowledge available.

Knowledge: That which is learned by education or experience.


Wisdom is different from knowledge in that it requires the use of knowledge in righteous or beneficial ways. Knowledge may be true or false. Wisdom can help discern the difference between that which is true and that which is false. Wisdom not applied through action is worthless. It is unwise.


People commonly know the best or proper course of action but choose an alternate course. The results are generally considered unwise, as a poor course of action will lead to poor results. When we see someone make an obviously bad choice we often declare that choice to be unwise.


Smart people seem to be prone to unwise choices just like everybody else. Letís consider Solomon. The famous story of Solomon ordering a baby cut in two knowing that the true mother would reveal herself is a classic case of wise behavior. We all recognize the extraordinary wisdom when we hear the story but how many of us could honestly say we would have responded in a like manner if we had been the king? It wasnít knowledge that saved the child and revealed the mother. No, it was what was done with that knowledge! And yet for all of Solomonís wisdom he did incredibly unwise things.


Holman Bible Dictionary has this to say in an article about Solomon.

*†† The Bible clearly notes that Solomon had faults as well as elements of greatness. The "seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines" came from many of the kingdoms with which Solomon had treaties (1 Kings 11:1). He apparently allowed his wives to worship their native gods and even had altars to these gods constructed in Jerusalem (1 Kings 11:7-8). This kind of compromise indicated to the historian a weakness in Solomon not found in David. Rebellions led by the king of Edom, Rezon of Damascus, and Jeroboam, one of Solomon's own officers, indicates that Solomon's long reign was not without its turmoil.


The so-called Wisdom books are Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. You will notice they all contain truths and suggestions about how people ought to act with regards to each other and with God. All three books are, of course, divinely inspired and so we can expect to learn much from them about wise behavior or in a word, Wisdom! But a recipe book is not sufficient to impart wisdom. Here are a few samples of wise advice from Proverbs.

*†† (Prov 1:7 NIV)The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

*†† (Prov 1:10 NIV)My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them.

*†† (Prov 5:21 NIV)For a man's ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all his paths.

*†† (Prov 9:7 NIV)"Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse.

*†† (Prov 10:4 NIV)Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.

*†† (Prov 12:1 NIV)Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.

*†† (Prov 12:15-16 NIV)The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice. {16} A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult.


And we could go on a great deal more. All of these verses are undoubtedly true. Perhaps they all could be memorized. But what good would that do if they werenít put into practice? And what if a particular situation isnít expressly covered? Part of wisdom is learning to apply the principles of righteousness even in new and extraordinary situations. So memorization or knowledge is not enough. We need to have the mind of God, that is the Spirit of God, working in us so we can see what is hidden to others. And, so we can do what is right even when it is not popular. And, so we can do what is right regardless of the emotions and temptations we face. Almost always a person knows what is the better of two or more possible choice. The very wise man will consistently follow the better choice while the man that is not so wise will not.


Another lesson we can learn from Solomon is this. Smart people and wise people can be smart and wise in some areas of their lives but totally stupid and unwise in other areas. That is the lesson we can learn from Solomon. So another part of wisdom should encourage us to find and correct our stupid and unwise areas. You have heard it said, ďA word to the wise is sufficient.Ē Consider this, ďA word from the wise is better.Ē


So letís acknowledge that knowledge is good, but wisdom is better.

*†† (Prov 4:5-7 NIV)Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them. {6} Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. {7} Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.