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Monday, July 10, 2017

From Foolishness to Wisdom

Scripture lists three virtues along a common line. You will find knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. What is the difference? As it turns out, you can find a common line in the opposite direction as well -- ignorance, stupidity, foolishness. What is the difference? Turns out these two trajectories are parallel.

Ignorance is not stupidity. It is the lack of information. It is "don't know". Now, there is "willful ignorance" -- "I refuse to know" -- but I'm just talking about the basic form here. It isn't bad -- evil -- to be ignorant. The solution to ignorance is information. The solution to ignorance is knowledge. "Knowledge" is knowing something. It is the possession of facts, data, information.

Stupidity is something different. Basically, in juxtaposition with "ignorance", stupidity is the failure to grasp the truth. It is improper use of the truth. It differs from a lack of knowledge in that it has the knowledge, but simply fails to understand it and, therefore, misuses and abuses it. Understanding, on the other hand, is a step past knowing. It is a grasp of the knowledge. It is a comprehension of how it works. A person, for instance, may know all the pieces of a car engine, but it takes understanding to put together how it works. A person can know that Bill killed Marty, but it takes understanding to know why. Stupidity lacks this understanding.

Then there is foolishness. Foolishness assumes knowledge and even understanding. The fool knows truth and even has a grasp of it to some degree, but the fool fails to properly apply it. David wrote, "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'" (Psa 14:1) Now, this fool has the knowledge of the world around him and can understand that it all points to God's invisible attributes and His power (Rom 1:19-20), and then declare "There is no God." Silly, sure, but the idea of "foolishness" is that kind of thing -- the misapplication of truth. A fool has the necessary information and understanding but fails to use it properly. Wisdom, then, is the opposite. Wisdom is built on true knowledge that has matured into an understanding of that knowledge that leads to the correct application of that understanding.

On one hand, then, we might move from ignorance -- not knowing -- to stupidity -- knowing but not understanding -- to foolishness -- understanding, but failing to properly use it. On the other we can have knowledge -- correct information -- that leads to understanding -- grasping how that information works -- and ultimately to wisdom -- a correct view of how to properly apply what is known and understood. Two paths leading to bad or good.

The Bible is clear. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord (Psa 111:10; Prov 9:10). Interestingly, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge," too (Prov 1:7). Therefore, to start with proper knowledge (God) and arrive at the correct way to use that knowledge (the fear of the Lord) starts with (as we would imagine) a fear of the Lord. It would follow, then, that no fear of God leads to foolishness. And the Bible takes a dim view of fools (Psa 14:1; Psa 92:6-7; Prov 10:14,23; Prov 12:15; etc.).

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