I have noticed that there is a significant misunderstanding about being smart and being wise. It is easy to think that these two terms describe the same thing but that is not true. Smart, speaks of a person’s intelligence. It can be reflected by someone’s intellectual accomplishments or their knowledge of something. Wisdom on the other hand focuses on being able to add insight to the knowledge. It speaks of being able to apply knowledge to real life situations. And there is a big difference between these two.
I remember a situation from many years ago in basic electronics lab required for those pursing an Electronics degree. My lab partner happened to the smartest guy in the our class. He was a straight “A” student. I would not be surprised if he graduated with a 4.0. Yet, when it came to getting the circuit for a particular lab working he struggled. He could tell you all the facts about electronics, and could quote the specification for the electronic devices off the top of his head, but if the circuit he was required to build did not work the first time, he struggled to figure it out.
This illustration highlights the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is knowing the facts, the details, and maybe even at a high level but this is not wisdom. Wisdom also requires knowledge but not necessarily at the same level but it does require knowing how to put it into practice. This is often referred to as “common sense.” I have heard it said that “common sense is not all that common.” So let’s talk about one way wisdom matters to the follower of Jesus.
Relationships. Yes, relationships. Growing relationships demand wisdom. One of the greatest insights into the need for wisdom is Jesus’ teaching in Mathew 18 on resolving conflict. He said, ““If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” (Matthew 18:15) Now I want you to think about the other worldliness of this admonition. Jesus, says, if you have an issue with someone, go talk to them. Yes, some of you are thinking this is just “common sense.” Yet how often do we hold a grudge against another person and they do not have a clue. This is very common in marriage relationships. And without wisdom the relationship is doomed to unnecessary failure.
Let’s explore just a couple wise practices in a situation like this. First, make sure you have as many facts as you can reasonably obtain. The reason for this is many times we “read” motives into others actions. I like to put it this way, give the other person the benefit of doubt. Our human natures have a tendency of thinking the worst, rather than assuming the best. Wise individuals work to give the other person the benefit of the doubt.
Second, approach them humbly. I recently read an article that made the suggestion of coming to the other person and saying something like, “I have a problem and I wonder if you could help me with it?” This is an incredibly wise course of actions. I frequently will ask, “Have I offended you in some way?” Hey, we are people. We rub each other the wrong way. If I am willing to humble myself before another person it almost always opens the door to resolution rather than if I came as the prosecuting attorney demanding my pound of flesh.
Third, be willing to forgive. A wise person considers the importance of the relationship. They also evaluate if the “Hill” is worth dying on or destroying a relationship over. A wise person is one that understands their own frailties and therefore will be gracious to others. You see wisdom really is the product of life experiences. The Apostle speaks of the importance of relationship when he wrote, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
This Sunday we will launch a new sermon series based on 1 Corinthians called, “Be Wise. “ Our study will take us through the challenges of being a testimony for Jesus in a secular culture. And that is another reason wisdom matters. When we are wise it is a testimony of Jesus’ work in our lives.
-Pastor Joe Parkinson