Wisdom or Knowledge: Which One Will You Choose?

Wisdom and knowledge: are they the same? At first glance you might  think both words have identical meanings, but there is an important difference between the two.

Knowledge means that one is acquainted with facts, truths or principles, that were learned from study or investigation. To know something is to see or understand it clearly. It can also mean to be aware of something or even to memorize something (like a poem or a script).

Knowledge is information that is stored in the mind. To know something does not require that you do any external action. Once a person acquires knowledge they must then decide what they will do with that new information.

Knowledge can be good or it can be bad. It can be used to build people up or it can be used to destroy them. Knowledge can be the truth or it can be a lie.

A person can have an abundance of  knowledge but not have any wisdom. People know lots of important facts about health, safety, and other  matters. However, many times these people who know better do not act on the knowledge they have. They still have their knowledge, but this information does not affect how they live their life.

Wisdom, on the other hand, balances specific knowledge of what is true and right with good judgment. Wisdom is more than just knowing facts or truth—it also requires making  proper decisions based on that knowledge. This knowledge affects a person’s thoughts, speech, and how they choose to live. 

The Hebrew word for knowledge is da’at. This comes from the Hebrew root word yada, which means to know. (This is where the expression yada, yada, yada, comes from )

The Hebrew word translated wisdom is chokmah. Chokmah means  the knowledge and the ability to make the right choices at the appropriate time. This wisdom is shown by what you think, what you say and what you do.

An individual who makes the right choices shows his or her chokmah (wisdom). A person’s lifestyle or walk is an indication of the individual’s maturity and development.

In Proverbs chapter 1, verse 7 we read that “The fear of the L-RD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

The word instruction is a weak translation of the Hebrew. The word in Hebrew is musar, which means chastisement; reproof, warning or instruction; also restraint.

Wisdom comes through knowledge and instruction. This instruction is not simply a gentle teacher relaying facts to a student. It is more like the drill instructor who gets in your face to teach you, warn you, chastise you, reprove you and teach you how to have restraint.

G-d gave us His Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to be  our internal drill instructor. The Ruach is there to teach us and to correct us when we venture from the proper paths.

It is not an easy process. We think we know what is right and we want to do things our own way.  The Ruach diligently teaches us wisdom much like an earthly father would instruct his son.

Moses was given the task to teach wisdom to the children of Israel. In Deuteronomy 4:5-6 we read:

"See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the L-RD my G-d commanded me, that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it.

“So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ ”

The Torah of Adonai is the true foundation of wisdom. We need to read it and study it. But we need more than just head knowledge—we need to live it!

We have an over-abundance of  knowledge in our society and not much  wisdom. Is it because we do not live the simple truths of Torah that we have learned?

Solomon was one of the wisest men who ever lived. How did he get so wise? He asked for this gift so he could lead G-d’s people.

We read in 2 Chronicles that the L-rd appeared to him after Solomon had worshipped Him (in the way the L-rd had instructed in Torah). 

“In that night G-d appeared to Solomon and said to him, ‘Ask what I shall give you.’ ”

Solomon’s answer was :

“Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people, for who can rule this great people of Yours?”

“G-d said to Solomon, ‘Because you had this in mind, and did not ask for riches, wealth or honor, or the life of those who hate you, nor have you even asked for long life, but you have asked for yourself wisdom and knowledge that you may rule My people over whom I have made you king,

“‘wisdom and knowledge have been granted to you. And I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings who were before you has possessed nor those who will come after you.’ ” (from 2 Chronicles chapter 1:7, 10-12)

The value of G-d’s wisdom is expressed in Solomon’s words in Proverbs chapter 4, verses 11-13:

“I have directed you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in upright paths. When you walk, your steps will not be impeded;

And if you run, you will not stumble. Take hold of instruction (musar); do not let go. Guard her, for she is your life.”

Solomon continues on in Proverbs chapter 24, verses13-14:

“My son, eat honey, for it is good, Yes, the honey from the comb is sweet to your taste;

“Know that wisdom is thus for your soul; If you find it, then there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off.”

Wisdom is necessary for life. We can learn wisdom from other people  and through life experience, but there is another way to get wisdom.

If we need wisdom, we can ask G-d for it. Ya’akov (James ) 1:5-8:

“Now if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask G-d, who gives to all generously and without reproach; and it will be given to him.

 “But let him ask in trust, doubting nothing; for the doubter is like a wave in the sea being tossed and driven by the wind. Indeed that person should not think that he will receive anything from the L-rd,  because he is double-minded, unstable in all his ways.”

Wisdom or knowledge, which one will you choose?  Wisdom presents a powerful argument in Proverbs 8:

“I, wisdom, give good advice and common sense. Because of my strength, kings reign in power, and rulers make just laws.

“I love all who love me. Those who search for me shall surely find me. Unending riches, honor, justice, and righteousness are mine to distribute. My gifts are better than the purest gold  or sterling silver!

“My paths are those of justice and righteousness. Those who love and follow me are indeed wealthy. I fill their treasuries.

“How happy are all who follow my instructions. Listen to my advise—oh, don’t refuse it—and be wise. For whoever finds me finds life and wins approval from the L-rd. But those who miss me have injured themselves irreparably. Those who refuse me show that they love death.”

Knowledge without wisdom is just information. Make the right choice, choose wisdom.

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