Wisdom can seem like a slippery concept. We tend to picture it as some mystical, almost mythical, quality which originates in the ether and is then bestowed on certain fortunate individuals.
Turns out nothing could be farther from the truth. Wisdom is almost a mathematical concept. Boiled down to its essence, wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge to life. Period.
It is the ability to take the information and experience you have and use it in your life situation. It is taking what you know and passing it through the filter of common sense to come up with the best possible course of action.
Which means there are two elements to wisdom.
One is common sense. We’ve all known people who had tons of knowledge but lacked the ability to apply that knowledge to anything remotely practical. They can describe in great detail how an internal-combustion engine works, but need help to put gasoline in their car.
For some people, common sense is God-endowed and supernatural. They are the people to whom God has given the spiritual gift of wisdom. But for most people, wisdom is simply developed from making (and watching others make) decisions, observing the results, and using that to guide future decisions
But whether wisdom is natural or supernatural, the base for wisdom is always knowledge. And to be more specific, relevant knowledge. A person can possess a wealth of information in one area, and show great wisdom there, but lack knowledge in other areas and be unable to exercise any wisdom in that sphere. A person who has excellent knowledge and wisdom in the woods may well get themselves into immense trouble trying to get from Point A to Point B in New York City, while the most street-smart person in Brooklyn could easily die of starvation in an Oregon forest.
That’s why Special Forces spends a ton of time filling a soldier’s head with information prior to sending them into a new area. The knowledge will allow the wise soldier to succeed. Without the knowledge, failure is the most likely result, no matter how well the soldier has done in other environments.
It’s also a big reason we urge leaders in our church to learn as much as they can about churches that are larger than ours, about leadership techniques, and about the ever-changing community in which we live. To make wise decisions for a growing church in an exploding community requires a significant amount of knowledge most people don’t possess.
Solomon urged his readers “Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” Advice that still rings true thousands of years later.