Monday, February 14, 2011

What is the Difference Between Knowledge and Wisdom?

Sometimes people will ask if there really is a difference between knowledge and wisdom.  Which is better, to be smart or to be wise?  Does the Bible give a clear indication of how to define wisdom?

While studying the parable of the Ten Virgins I realized that there is a clear distinction between knowledge and wisdom.  (See Matthew 25:1-13)

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise.”  (Matthew 25:1-2, NIV)

In telling the parable Jesus clearly identified five virgins as foolish and five virgins as wise.  But, as we look carefully, we also see a division between having knowledge about something, and being wise regarding that situation.

All ten virgins had knowledge.  All ten knew that the bridegroom was returning.  If they did not have knowledge of his return, then they would not have even gone to meet the bridegroom.  Make sense?

“The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.”  (Matthew 25:3-4, NIV)

All ten virgins had knowledge of the bridegroom’s return.  However, only the five wise virgins took extra oil.  When the bridegroom’s arrival was later than they expected, the lamps of the five foolish virgins began to go out.

Based on this parable I see four possible situations:
No Knowledge and No Wisdom:  Certainly this is the worst possibility.  Someone in this situation doesn’t know what is going on, and even if they did, they wouldn’t be prepared.

No Knowledge and Wisdom:  This too, is a bad situation.  What good does it do to have wisdom and not know what is happening?

Knowledge and No Wisdom:  This is the case of the five foolish virgins.  They were better off than those who did not know, but in the end, the result was the same.  They were not let into the wedding feast.

Knowledge and Wisdom:  These five virgins, the ones with both knowledge and wisdom, were the only ones allowed into the wedding feast.

It seems to me that knowledge is having the correct information.  Wisdom is acting on that information, responding appropriately, accurately applying what you know to achieve the best outcome.

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