Wisdom is the delicate connection and sum total of knowledge, understanding, and truth.
Wisdom is all three, applied together, and existing only by the perfect balance of all three aspects. Wisdom is not knowledge alone — many fools names are followed with the letters PhD. Wisdom is not understanding alone, for understanding is meaningless without the knowledge with which to apply the understanding. And wisdom cannot be complete without the third element of truth; it is the cornerstone of all wisdom, for truth is the unchangeable reality upon which knowledge and understanding are founded.
And what is knowledge?
Knowledge is the gathering and retaining of information. The methods of gathering are many and varied: experience, age, school, or training. The methods of retaining are likewise varied: memorization, repetition, and practice. Knowledge is the first element of wisdom because to be able to apply understanding, there must be something to apply it to. Ignorance cannot precede wisdom because understanding of nothing equals nothing. Thus, the greater the knowledge, the greater the meaning and importance of understanding.
And what is understanding?
Understanding is accurate perception of things knowable through abstract thought. One understands something when he or she percieves its truth, the intended meaning of its revelation. To understand a language is to percieve the intended meaning of its words; to understand someone’s reasoning is to perceive the intended meaning of his or her logic. The essence of understanding is to accurately apply knowable facts to mean what they are intended to mean.
Things can be well known but not understood. I can learn a paragraph of Aramaic and speak it perfectly and have complete knowledge of those successive words, recognizing them by seeing them written and by the hearing of my ear, yet not understand the meaning of any part of it. As such, there is knowledge without meaning, and this knowledge is of very limited value. Further, I can know of the complexity of the formation of a single cell or how a star is formed in space, but understand nothing of its purpose or implication or origin. Knowledge does not imply wisdom because knowledge alone is mere factual comprehension, whereas knowledge with understanding is facts comprehended within a framework of what those facts mean, or are intended to mean.
Understanding is the second vital and integral part to true wisdom.
And finally, what is truth?
Countless people have asked the question posed by Pontius Pilate to Jesus Christ, centuries ago: “What is truth?”
If one really considers the concept of truth, it begs to be asked: why are people looking for truth? If truth is true, then truth is real, then truth is everywhere…then it cannot help but be seen and experienced and known. But people continue, century after century, to ask this almost universal question. Why is that?
Truth is elusive because in the world in which we live, the great enemy of truth abounds, permeating every part of our existence, all the time, and in every way.
There may not be anything in all the world more common than lies. Lies permeate our every day, they tell us how to find happiness, but lie; they tell us how to find meaning, but lie; they tell us we will be okay if we just get enough satisfaction, but lie…the lies and the tellers of lies never tire, and never end.
Truth defined is singular: truth. There is one truth, because there cannot be multiple truths. But it is not so with lies. Lies are many. Countless lies upon lies upon lies raging war against the one, never changing, solid and unchangeable truth.
So while truth as God gave it since the beginning of time abounds in all of reality and human experience all of the time, the vast ocean of lies, salted with desire and attraction, draw people to barter for them as a new truth over the revealed truth of God, which is from everlasting to everlasting. And they do this to their great disappointment and ultimate demise.
Truth is what the Bible calls truth.
Assurance, endurance, faithfulness, certainty, understanding, and discernment.
- The Bible calls it assurance, because it can be trusted forever…
- The Bible calls it endurance, for it never tires or wears out…
- The Bible calls it faithfulness, because it is born of God and He is perfectly faithful…
- The Bible calls it certainty, for while so much of life is uncertain, truth never fails…
- The Bible calls it understanding, for there is no confusion in that which is ultimately true…
- The Bible calls it discernment, for truth is the illumined path to what is right and just…
When we look at the essence of wisdom, we see that truth is a most integral part of it.
Do you seek wisdom? Then you must grasp what is true.
Do you seek truth? Then you must exercise wisdom.
The two are inseparably linked.
Wisdom is motivation (goads) to do what is good and right. Wisdom prods the wise in a way which motivates them on to better choices with more joy, and less sorrow.
Wisdom is protection (nails) from evil. Wisdom provides a cover, a shield, from the trials and tragedies which result from sin.
Wisdom was at the beginning of creation; wisdom will be at end of the world. Wisdom has no life expectancy, for she is forever young, yet eternally old.
What is Wisdom Not?
Wisdom is not what many think it is. Many people think of wisdom as positive thinking, or educated decision making. Of course wisdom encourages positive thinking and education. But wisdom is not these characteristics by themselves. Rather, positive thinking and education flow from the application of wisdom, in contrast to being the source of such wisdom.
Why study wisdom?
Many believe it is good to read and listen to wisdom through the pens and mouths of those who are learned. Often times the pursuit of wisdom is connected with a better life, better relationships, and protection from harm.
It is all of those things and more, for sure. But the pursuit of wisdom is infinitely deeper than simply finding the path to a better life. Wisdom is the essence of seeking out what is eternally true, for wisdom leads us to understand that without an eternal perspective, all pursuits, however noble, are transient. None last beyond the span of a life, and often times not even that. And because life is so brief, how can a pursuit thus defined be worthy?
The study of wisdom is the study of the essence of life. It has meaning, finality, and purpose. The application of wisdom to any life directs the choices and guides the mind to follow that which is good and right, and a life thus directed experiences fulfillment and security.
How to attain wisdom?
Wisdom, of all things, must be sought out.
“Dead flies make a perfumer’s oil stink; so a little foolishness is weightier than wisdom and honor.” Ecc. 10:1.
In this life, foolishness abounds. It is everywhere, ubiquitous and plentiful. You don’t have to seek out folly; it comes to you with spread arms and open hands, offering its company. But wisdom, on the other hand, is not so available. To find wisdom, one must earnestly seek, and seek every day, all through life.
No one can attain wisdom by wishing for it. No one achieves it through osmosis or length of life. Wisdom is attained one way, and one way alone: relentless pursuit.
The relentless pursuit of wisdom is a pursuit that trumps all others. It is a race that allows no others to contend with it. It is a seeking which seeks at the expense, and often the replacement, of all other things.
Because the pursuit of wisdom is so exclusive and requires such devotion, many avoid it. People enjoy the benefits of wisdom, for its decisions always bring the best of results. But most are unwilling to pursue wisdom at the cost of all else because in their estimation, the costs to gain wisdom offset the benefits of having it. So it is with the seeking of anything of great value.
It is like the miner who, hearing of an opportunity to discover gold, sells all that he has and moves to a place far from home in an unknown land. He takes his earnings, leads a meager existence and buys what he needs to create a mine and dig for the treasures he believes are there to be found. For years he cuts and breaks into the rocky soil in pursuit of his treasure. But he finds little; just a small strand here and a small piece there, but not enough to account for all the belongings he sold to find the fortune.
Finally after many months of toil and difficulty, discouraged with the return of his labors, he stops. He packs up his things and goes back to the life he knew before, saddened and despondent and telling himself the pursuit was not worth it. He goes back to his life of banal mediocrity, always wondering if maybe he should have tried a little more…
Unknown to the miner, his dig was within a few feet of a main artery of gold, worth millions upon millions. But it was too late, and he will never know, because the “pursuit” of the gold simply cost too much to him.
So the man or woman who wishes to find wisdom in life but tires of the cost of such a pursuit and walks away, discovering the genuine pursuit of wisdom necessitates selling off and abandoning all the other pursuits that conflict with it; all the vices and transient pleasures of the world which bring satisfaction for a short time, but leave a void, gaping cavern of meaninglessness in return. In the short term, the pursuit of wisdom seems an unworthy goal. It demands such painful labor and denying of oneself and its payoffs often take time to be realized. But in the long term, the pursuit of wisdom is the only way to live. For once it is seen how wisdom affects one’s life, once the priceless benefits are realized and experienced, only a pure fool who has no regard for the finer aspects of life would return to his old ways.
Why is wisdom so elusive?
Of all of the mysteries of life, wisdom may well be the most mysterious, for on the one hand, it is everywhere and all around us, while on the other, it is found only by the most genuine of seekers. How is this so?
In a word, wisdom is beyond value. There is nothing in all of the world in which we live which can compare to the value of wisdom. This is because wisdom is composed of all other values. Wisdom is wealth, for wisdom in business leads to wealth. Wisdom is health, for wisdom in life habits leads to health. Wisdom is happiness, for wisdom in life choices leads to happiness. And wisdom is eternal salvation, for wisdom in spiritual pursuits leads to genuine salvation of the soul.
As so it can be seen wisdom cannot be compared with any single benefit or value of achievement because it is the summation of all of those together. Wisdom stands alone in this world as the pinnacle of human pursuit and the highest of all endeavor.
If this wisdom, which has no equal, is available to anyone, why is it so difficult to attain? Here we find the mystery of this great reality.
Viewed from a perspective of supply and demand, we see that the harder something is to attain, the more valuable it is. The easier it is to attain, the cheaper it is. This concept is seen all through life.
“The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd.” Ecc 12:11
“Behold, thou dost desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part Thou wilt make me know wisdom.” Psalm 51:6
“He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who keeps understanding will find good.” Prov 19:8
“Yet wisdom is vindicated by all her children.” Luke 7:35