Goodness and Wisdom

The Jewish Torah, (the first five books of the Old Testament), has been described by Dennis Prager (1) as the most important book ever written. It’s been his lifelong passion to study and teach others about the truths set out in the Torah. He believes that “if people properly understand the Torah and attempt to live by its values and precepts, the world will be an infinitely kinder and more just place.” One of those precepts is that goodness matters. We can’t be kind without being good.

Prager also makes the point that “it is impossible to do good without wisdom.” All of the good intentions in the world are worthless without wisdom. It’s critical to note that wisdom is not the same as higher learning or education. Today, wisdom isn’t even regarded as valuable. In the post-Christian religion of Relativism, knowledge has replaced wisdom as the measure of worth.

But, what is wisdom? Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary defines wisdom as “knowledge and the capacity to make use if it.” (Emphasis added). Knowledge of itself is not wisdom. Knowledge is possessing a mental understanding of certain information. Wisdom is the practical ability to use that knowledge to consistently make good decisions. One can be knowledgeable without being wise (2). Wisdom is most certainly also knowing what you don’t know and having the humility to rely on other’s judgment for those things.

Biblical wisdom might be defined as “an accumulated knowledge of God and His creation, resulting from study and practical observation, and applied through the two most important commandments: Love the Lord your God. Love your neighbor as yourself.” (3) That would seem to be a starting point for goodness.

All wisdom starts with knowledge (4), not necessarily that taught in the halls of learning. Attaining wisdom is directly related to biblical literacy. As our culture carries us further away from the Bible, we become less wise and more morally confused, substituting “knowledge” for actual wisdom. There is no better time to refocus ourselves on the wisdom that is revealed in God’s word. The existence and the survival of our society ultimately depend on goodness and wisdom.

God on Wisdom:

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure and full of quiet gentleness. Then it is peace-loving and courteous. It allows discussion and is willing to yield to others; it is full of mercy and good deeds. It is wholehearted and straightforward and sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness.” James 3:17 TLB

/ht Becky Kincaid

1. Radio show host, writer, lecturer, public intellectual, and author of The Rational Bible series.

2. One common illustration of the difference between knowledge and wisdom goes like this: knowledge is understanding that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.

3. Matthew 22:36-40

4. Proverbs 1:7

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