These thoughts started a conversation that was had at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, October 23, 2016, as part of “The Message.” The discussion was based upon a reading from Proverbs 1:7, 2:1-10.
What is the difference between knowledge and wisdom?
A working definition for knowledge: the ability to process information.
The average American is bombarded with information at a rate never before experienced by humanity. The University of Southern California’s Institute for Communication Technology Management estimates that we are exposed to 8.75 zettabytes of information annually, or 75 gigabytes of information each day (this doesn’t include media we consume at work!). Put another way, using the analogy of an 85-page newspaper. The average American receives 174 newspapers worth of information each day. That doesn’t mean that we read all those newspapers, but the information does pass our eye whether we take time to comprehend it or not. What is even more amazing, continuing the newspaper analogy, is that we each produce six newspapers worth of information everyday compared with just two and a half pages 24 years ago. We are exposed to, consume and produce information at a dizzying pace.
We live in the information age. Thanks to 24-hour television, radio, and internet media we have access to more information than ever before; and, the amount of information available to us is growing: the amount of data being stored doubles every 18 months!
We crave information—whether it comes via print, television, radio, or a screen—each of us spends more time than generations past processing information. We want to know. We want to understand. But does access to all of that information, does our desire to know and understand anything and everything really make us wise?
Wisdom begins, writes the author of Proverbs, with the fear of the LORD. Note: the beginning of wisdom does not necessarily begin with the consumption or access to more information.
In the beginning, so the story goes, Adam and Eve (the first of humanity) walked in the garden of Eden, God provided them with all they needed. Eat from any plant or tree in the garden, commanded God, except for the tree in the middle of the garden. “Eat your fill from all of the garden’s trees; but don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because on the day you eat from it, you will die” (Genesis 2:17, Common English Bible). Adam and Eve had everything they needed, yet they were tempted by knowledge. They ate the fruit God forbade. They immediately gained knowledge. They learned how vulnerable they were so they fashioned some makeshift clothes out of fig leaves (Genesis 3:7). God came calling, but they hid. God found them. They blamed each other and driven apart from God (Genesis 3:22-23); and their children—who only heard stories about how great the garden was—have been jealous of one another and found it hard to live with one another since that day.
Adam and Eve, when they ate the forbidden fruit, gained knowledge (the knowledge of good and evil), but they were no longer wise. In their attempt to know more, they disobeyed God and drove a wedge between each other. Ever since the near beginning, we’ve been trying to regain the wisdom we lost. We now live in a time when we are bombarded with more information than we can comprehend, but we’re still in need of wisdom.
All the information in the world will not bring peace. Only wisdom can teach us to live in harmony with God and one another. We need wisdom.
James in his letter to the Church, tells us that “anyone who needs wisdom should ask God, whose very nature is to give to everyone without a second thought, without keeping score. Wisdom will certainly be given to those who ask” (James 1:5, Common English Bible).
We need wisdom. Let us seek it out.
Let us pray:
Lord, we need wisdom. Teach us Lord.
We are ignorant, LORD, of who we are. Some of us see ourselves as too broken to matter. We need your wisdom, teach us Lord.
Some of us think too much of ourselves and look down upon others. We need your wisdom, teach us Lord.
Some of us think we’re already wise. We need your wisdom, teach us Lord.
We think we have you, O God—infinite as you are—all figured out. We need your wisdom, teach us Lord.
In our relationships…
with our spouses and partners. We need your wisdom, teach us Lord.
with our children. We need your wisdom, teach us Lord.
with our coworkers. We need your wisdom, teach us Lord.
with our friends. We need your wisdom, teach us Lord.
We are desperate Lord. We need your wisdom, teach us Lord.
We don’t know ourselves, we don’t know you, we distrust and don’t know others. We need your wisdom, teach us Lord.
We don’t need more information. We need your wisdom, teach us Lord.
Teach us Lord. Amen.
“Teach Me, O Teach Me, Lord, Thy Way”
by: James Merrick
Teach me, O teach me, Thy way;
That, to my life’s remotest day,
By thine unerring precepts led,
My feet Thy heavenly parts may tread.
Informed by Thee, with sacred awe
My heart shall mediate Thy law;
And, with celestial wisdom filled,
To Thee its full obedience yield.
Give me to know Thy will aright,
Thy will, my glory and delight;
That, raised above the world, my mind
In Thee its highest good may find.
O turn from vanity my eye;
To me Thy quickening strength supply;
And with Thy promised mercy cheer
A heart devoted to Thy fear.
 James E. Short, “How Much Media? 2015” USCMarshall: School of Business <http://www.marshall.usc.edu/faculty/centers/ctm/research/how-much-media> Accessed October 22, 2016.
 Richard Alleyne, “Welcome to the information age—174 newspapers a day” Telegraph.co.uk, February 11, 2011 <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/8316534/Welcome-to-the-information-age-174-newspapers-a-day.html> Accessed October 22, 2016.