Wisdom vs Knowledge

1. The Bible credits which two men with killing Goliath?

I am a big nerd.

Seriously. I almost exclusively read non-fiction and I listen to TED Talks on my way to work. I once made a spreadsheet to help me keep track of world history. I’m a great big nerd, but to be honest I take that as a compliment. After all, there’s nothing wrong with having a healthy curiosity about, well, everything.

Trouble is, I’m not sure how well that works when it comes to the Bible.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for studying the Bible; this blog wouldn’t exist otherwise. But as I get older and realise how little I really know, I get nervous about my obsession with the minutiae. Because that can become the be all and end all of our reading, and yet if our Bible study fails to transform us then really, what’s the point?

2. How many children did Abraham have?

Reading and studying the Bible should be a dynamic process, the word of God helping us encounter the living, active Word of God. Ultimately it should leave us more like Jesus, so we should start getting worried if it seems to be making Jesus more like us.

That can happen when the words calcify and when we become more interested in backing up our arguments and when we sit there trying to figure out who’s in and who’s out. I’m not sure how much the Kingdom is grown by online poopstorms between pastors. All those words, which the Spirit can use to change and refine us become placard fodder, verbal stonings delivered by a sign in a church car park. The Bible may be the sword of the Spirit, but that doesn’t mean we should go around looking for victims to skewer.

3. Which biblical king was responsible for wall mounted death machines?

But then, there’s a difference between knowledge and wisdom: I know a tomato is a fruit, not a vegetable, but I’m wise enough not to put it in a fruit salad (as the old cliche goes). Knowing about the Bible is great, but we constantly need to be praying how to use that knowledge wisely. It’s not about building walls between us and those around us, not about amassing trivia, not about whittling a pointy stick out of our proof texts.

I’ll admit it, I’m guilty of some of that. I like knowing stuff, but often that’s at a distance – I’m not sure I’m altogether comfortable with it changing me, or if I’m brave enough to let it take my burdens.

But to quote WB Yeats, “Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire”. That’s doubly true of the Bible, which isn’t a dusty old textbook but a means to encounter and engage the living God.

Maybe I should pray for less data and more sparks.

1. David and Elhanan (but see 1 Chronicles 20:5)

2. Eight; Isaac, Ishmael and six far less famous sons

3. King Uzziah


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