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What Wisdom Is, and Isn’t

Sometimes you guys give us ideas for posts. Corwin did that in a reply to my last post, talking about Solomon’s turn away from wisdom:

Turns out knowing what is right doesn’t necessarily mean that you will do what is right. By the end of his life, Solomon had actually started to lead his people away from God.

I’ve thought about that before. Here’s Solomon, loaded with wisdom — defined in my dictionary as “the ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting; insight.” He had it: He just didn’t keep it. He lost it not abruptly, but over time and in stages. He started to pursue polygamy (a frequent source of trouble in the Bible), married women who followed pagan gods, and started down the same paths as his wives. Solomon presumably stayed very intelligent and learned: Who knows, he might have thought he was being quite the cosmopolitan in his idolatry. But in the end, he squandered the wisdom which he’d once treasured.

If we want to treasure wisdom, we should think clearly about what wisdom is, and what it isn’t. For example, some people associate wisdom with intelligence. But the two don’t necessarily go together. Physicist Stephen Hawking, one of the world’s most intelligent people, is pushing the idea that the universe “create[d] itself from nothing,” sans God. That’s not wisdom; it’s foolishness. And it shouldn’t shock us that someone brilliant can be foolish. Wisdom isn’t about intellect. Sometimes the smartest people can be the biggest fools, especially when their smarts go to their heads. And sometimes the simplest people can be the wisest.

This is just one example of worldly “wisdom” that’s in conflict with the true wisdom of God. From ideas about God to ideas about our relationships with each other, there’s a ton of falsehood masquerading as wisdom. What other examples have you noticed?

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About the Author

Matt Kaufman

Matt Kaufman has been a columnist for Boundless since the site’s founding in 1998, and did a stint as editor in 2002-2003. He’s also a former staffer and current contributing editor for Focus on the Family Citizen magazine. Matt is a freelance writer/editor who spent some years in Colorado, but gave up the mountains for the cornfields: He now lives in his hometown of Urbana, home of the University of Illinois. His house is a five minute drive from the one where he grew up, and he enjoys daily walks around the park where he used to play baseball.

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