Knowledge and Wisdom


Andy Stanley's current series, Ask It, has gotten me thinking a lot lately about knowledge, wisdom, and the difference between the two.  Ours is a knowledge-obsessed culture (we are living in the information age, after all). As a result, we tend to confuse knowledge and wisdom. If we have a problem, our knee-jerk reaction is to throw information at it. Read a self-help book. Watch an instructional video. Google it. We want to believe that if we have enough information, it'll solve our problems.

But it's not quite so easy, is it? Sifting through all the information out there to find what's true and helpful is challenging. That's because knowledge tells only half the story. The other half belongs to wisdom. To clarify things, let's take a quick look at some definitions from

Knowledge—acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as from study or investigation.

Wisdom—knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action.

Knowledge is about knowing (duh). Wisdom is about living. One can't be wise without knowledge, but the acquisition of knowledge for its own sake doesn't make one wise. Application is the path to wisdom. This is so true that you can actually become wise by leaning into other people's application. We can learn from the experiences and mistakes of our parents, mentors, bosses, and friends, without having to repeat those experiences and mistakes, if we listen humbly and thoughtfully.

So, what does all this have to do with group leadership? Well, if you've been a leader for any amount of time, you've probably bumped into group members hungry for knowledge. They talk about wanting to go "deeper" in Bible study. There's nothing inherently wrong with digging into Scripture, but keep in mind that our culture over-emphasizes the power of knowledge to affect change. People often don't grasp that just knowing the Bible won't grow them spiritually.

It's more important that your group's interaction with the Bible is focused on personal application than it is on depth. Going deeper for the sake of going deeper won't change your life. But even a "shallow" reading of Scripture—one that doesn't take into account stuff like historical context, literary genre, or rich theological analysis—can change your life, if you ask, "In light of what I'm reading, how can I change the way I live in order to align my heart and my mind more closely with God's?"

Asking that question is the path to wisdom.