Wisdom’s Many Beautiful Faces

In everyday conversation we hear the ideas of wisdom and intelligence used interchangeably. But there are wise people who may not have high IQ’s, and intelligent people who are not at all wise.

How can this be? How can there be a difference between being wise and being smart? Let’s begin with wisdom’s roots in God’s creation.

Old Testament wisdom literature such as Proverbs and Ecclesiastes explores the depths and limits of human wisdom as based upon God’s own wisdom. We are, after all, made in His image. A relaxed reading of these two books, with an emphasis on Proverbs 8 & 9 reveals that:

Wisdom is good. It is moral, and admits when a mistake is made.
Wisdom is relational. It seeks the welfare of others, not just itself.
Wisdom is righteous. While it is just, it also is merciful.
Wisdom is godly. Wisdom knows we did not just happen.
Wisdom is foundational. The universe rests on universal principles.
Wisdom is curious. Wise humans keep growing throughout life.
Wisdom is flexible. Human wisdom accommodates new data.

The madness we see in our nation will be violations of one or more of these general principles of wisdom: Smart people who are ungodly. Smart people who are unmerciful and impossible to reason with. Smart people who are inflexible and tolerate no opinion but their own. Smart people who double down on their errors, never admit them.

Smart, connected, influential, and even educated, but unwise.

If you want to see how God’s wisdom looks in person, read the Gospels. There, Jesus, the Word, Wisdom Incarnate, demonstrates how to navigate the tricky situations we encounter and evil people who want nothing more than power and room for their own narrative.

“But 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

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