Fixating on What’s Important: Wisdom

close up photo of owl with one eye open

By Bill Fix

The other day, my son asked what wisdom was, and I explained to him the difference between knowledge and wisdom. That distinction might be deep for a six-year-old, but I know he at least understood how to use his knowledge to protect himself from harm—like not touching a hot stove.

Sometimes though, we often do stupid things when we should know better. And since I just mentioned the hot stove, I can remember my older brother (who was in high school at the time) burning his hand because he touched multiple burners on the stove “to find out which one was hot…” Too often, we hear about people today getting mixed up in illegal drugs, alcoholism, prescription drug abuse, extramarital affairs, domestic violence, and various other ill-advised decisions when they “should know better.” Or maybe it’s less egregious activities—like gossip, envy, white lies, or a lack of love toward others. The fact is we all know better—we just fail to exercise sound judgment and wisdom at times.

When James cautions us that “to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (Jm. 4:17), it is a strong warning that failing to exercise wisdom is sin. And this warning follows another admonition about making plans without considering God: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow, we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’” (Jm. 4:13-15).

We should exercise patience in all facets of our lives. Doing so will give us more time to think, helping us better apply our knowledge to whatever situation we’re in—thus exercising wisdom. “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (Jm. 1:4-5).

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