The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. ~Proverbs 1:7
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” ~ Albert Einstein
Originally posted on Facebook–November, 2013
It is my personal belief that most of us are well-intentioned. That is, at the time we engage in an activity, we have—whether consciously or subconsciously—determined it appropriate. Dare I say that many of us would go as far as to say that our actions are not just appropriate, but good? Though, that begs the question, what is “good?” While nearly everyone who speaks English uses the word, “good,” I would argue that, semantically, the word differs in significant ways among various groups of people.
For instance, “good” could be construed as that which best serves you; or, that which best serves you and those for whom you care. Further, is “good” being used with a focus on your short-term or long-term interests; given, that what appears beneficial in the short-term may not be over the long haul? Even then, wouldn’t that necessitate determining what constitutes our “best interests?” Would our “best interests” be focused on joy, camaraderie, physical pleasure, financial security or physical safety—or, all of the above? And in implying that there is an inherent “good,” doesn’t that suggest that there also exists an inherent evil? Thus, wouldn’t the meaning of “evil” be just as influenced by semantics as the definition for “good,” considering that evil typically denotes that which is in opposition to good?
I once thought that when we were capable of interpreting and applying a word in our writing and our conversation; this meant that it was “learned.” Now, I am more prone to believe that we’re “exposed” to words, and that we develop “relationships” with words. The more we experience, the more our “relationships” with certain words will likely change; evolving and aligning with our experiences and subsequent beliefs.
Another word that can semantically be construed numerous ways, with each way possessing its own implications, is “intelligence.” How do we define it? In his book, “Frames of Mind,” Howard Gardner claims that there are nine (9) distinct types of intelligence: naturalist, existential, logical-mathematical, linguistic, spatial, musical, kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. While his claims have not been supported by research, it’s easy to understand how dangerous it may be for us to assume a simple, universal definition for a complex concept that’s expressed in one word.
For instance, we use SAT, GRE, GMAT, LSAT, and MCAT scores as predictors for future success in academically driven pursuits. Many individuals accept an IQ score as an appropriate measure of intelligence. Yet, there are many people that score high on these measures that fail in life. Others struggle with tests that determine these scores, though, they become highly successful. And for those that would argue that the situations of which I speak are anomalies, think about the psychological influences society places on those that receive these scores. Imagine performing well throughout your youth, yet obtaining an atrocious score on your SAT. Given the emphasis placed on such scores, you now believe that you’re, colloquially speaking, “dumb.” You start believing what society tells you that the score reflects—your intelligence—lowering your expectations. When you begin to struggle, you attribute it to your cognitive limitations. You settle for what you achieve with your initial efforts, rather than challenge your limits. How many dreams have been ruined because of these tests?!?!
I do believe that there exist two words that are somewhat easier for us to agree upon their definitions; helping to direct us toward the eventual point of emphasis intended by this writing. The two words are “knowledge” and “wisdom.” These words are complements—related but distinct. Knowledge can simply be stated as “that which we know.” Wisdom, I’d argue, is “our ability to use our knowledge effectively.” But then again, this brings us to ask, “effectively for what or whom?”
If we defined the word “wisdom” as “our ability to use our knowledge effectively to generate wealth,” then we’d operationalize (which means “to develop a way to measure”) wisdom by measuring an individual’s wealth—and ability to increase it. If we chose to broaden our definition of “wisdom,” then we could define it as “our ability to use our knowledge effectively to secure power.” Then, we’d determine one’s wisdom by more than purely earnings potential. The political associations, strategic alliances, and other resources (such as military control) a person possesses would need to be used in measuring this operationalization of wisdom. This power could be “good” or “evil,” right? And who gets to determine “good” and “evil?” It’s said that “those that win the wars, write history.” And typically, wouldn’t the powerful be expected to win wars? Does this mean that if Hitler and Nazi Germany were the victors of WWII, they’d have been deemed “wise?” Isn’t that sort of how it worked for Genghis Khan, Nebuchadnezzar, Pharaoh, Alexander the Great, and Julius Caesar? This “wisdom” of which I’m describing I refer to as the “wisdom of the world.”
Interestingly, as this world isn’t ruled by one king/country, the amount of glory attributable to them or their followers is limited. Eventually, empires fall. There’s always competition for the top spot. I’d suggest that the entire world has yet to succumb to one ruler because of the numerous cultures that would need to be, in some way, assimilated. Many of those cultures revolve around a common language.
Communication may well be our greatest tool. It can unite us or divide us. It can inspire unfathomable good or unconscionable evil (refer back to Hitler). Communication allows there to be understanding among people. And when focused on the “Word of God,” universal communication (see the Great Commission; Matthew 28:16-20) can bring the kingdom of heaven to earth.
Is it any wonder that God created different tongues (languages) as humanity attempted to build a tower to the heavens (Genesis 11:1-9), following the “wisdom of the world?” Rather than obey Him, and fill the earth, humanity united to follow the path began by original sin; focusing on self-dependency rather than reliance on God. By limiting humanity’s ability to communicate, He limited its ability to conjoin to evil. The people of Babel had their focus away from God, and on themselves. They were seeking power. And God, like a loving parent, took away what they were not responsible to wield—the power available through a universal tongue—an ability to function as one body, with one mind. This “body,” was not the body of Christ, but the “body” of sin; being led by evil purpose. It didn’t have the mind of “Christ,” and resultantly failed in glorifying God. In so many ways, the Tower of Babel story warns against the pride and arrogance of self-reliant “group think.”
Paul, in speaking to the Corinthians, acknowledges the two predominant types of wisdom upon which I’ve been elaborating. He refers back to Isaiah 29:14, showing how all scripture points to Christ—who provides those who know Him the means to understand the “wisdom of God.” Such wisdom acknowledges and submits to a power greater than any held by man.
18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,
“I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.”
20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31, NASB)
As a Christian, I believe that Christ came to earth as both man and God—part of the Holy Trinity. He is the living Word of God, and the “wisdom of God” is made known to those indwelt by the Holy Spirit—who follow Him and His ways. Such wisdom is exhibited by those who use their knowledge effectively for God’s glory. With Jesus as our example (John 13:34-35), and the Holy Spirit as our spectacles (1 Corinthians 2:12), we can see the Truth in God’s Word. Scripture becomes relational. No wonder we’re told to meditate on scripture day and night (Joshua 1:8).
Jesus “wisely” summed up the “heart” of scripture with two commandments: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40, NIV).
But as with any loving relationship, God wants us to know Him deeply—to seek him relentlessly. He pursues our hearts first, so that we’re capable of loving Him. Love is not something that is done from a distance. How can one truly love another by keeping them at arm’s length? We must be accessible—vulnerable—in our love for God and for others. The need to be accessible and communicative in loving others is reflected within the Great Commission:
18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:16-20, NASB).
That’s our charge. We’re to make disciples by serving as God’s hands and feet—the body of Christ—“going” into the lives of others. We must not treat other people as “projects,” but “immortal souls.” We must not place ourselves on the throne, but venture into the filth—knowing we’ll never have to sacrifice as much as our Lord. Following Christ’s wisdom—the wisdom of God—we should heed His sermon on the mount. We should exhibit humility (Philippians 2:3-4), “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Rather than be domineering in our positions of authority, we should exhibit meekness (Galatians 6:1). While words can be powerful, they only carry loving credibility when accompanied by “deed and truth” (1 John 3:18).
17 …the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere (James 3:17).
Thus, based on my understanding of scripture, I believe that Christians should define “communicating wisdom” as “carrying the cross (Luke 9:23), spreading the gospel, contributing to the kingdom of heaven, and ultimately glorifying God through our love for Him and others.” As for its operationalization? It isn’t my role to compare how effective one Christian is from another. We all serve different purposes in the body. Only God condemns—we can only hold our fellow brothers and sisters accountable (see 1 Corinthians 5). Trust God and just “do.” It’ll be enough if He is with you (Philippians 4:13; Luke 1:37).