What is the difference between Wisdom, Knowledge and Understanding?
Briefly, knowledge should lead to understanding. A mature understanding leads to a person with wisdom.
“The knowledge of good and evil” was what Adam and Eve gained by eating the forbidden fruit. That knowledge was harmful to them.
Genesis 2:16-17 (KJV) 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
Exodus 31:2-5 (KJV) 2 See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: 3 And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, 4 To devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, 5 And in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship.
(God gave Solomon a good sort of knowledge, but it was not enough to save Solomon from sinning.)
2 Chronicles 1:11-12 (KJV) 11 And God said to Solomon, Because this was in thine heart, and thou hast not asked riches, wealth, or honour, nor the life of thine enemies, neither yet hast asked long life; but hast asked wisdom and knowledge for thyself, that thou mayest judge my people, over whom I have made thee king: 12 Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like. (David asked for a good sort of knowledge.)
Psalm 119:66 (KJV) Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments.
(Some people choose not to accept a good sort of knowledge.)
Proverbs 1:28-30 (KJV) Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: 29 For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: 30 They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof.
Hosea 4:6 (KJV) My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.
(The time will come when Jesus Christ establishes a righteous government, and then a good sort of knowledge will cover the earth.)
Habakkuk 2:14 (KJV) For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. (There is something bad that is wrongly called “knowledge”.)
1 Timothy 6:20 (KJV) O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: (Quite different is the knowledge of Jesus.)
2 Peter 3:18 (KJV) But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.
Understanding is good. It should lead to behaviour that pleases God.
Colossians 1:9-10 (KJV) 9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
In the whole of Proverbs 8 wisdom is personified as a woman. For example:
Proverbs 8:12 (KJV) I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions. (Wisdom is to be sought by Christians.)
Colossians 3:16 (KJV) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
In the Biblical sense, wisdom is the “ability to judge correctly and to follow the best course of action, based on knowledge and understanding” (Lockyer p. 1103). The Wisdom teachings of the Bible follow from the two great themes of the Ten Commandments and the Greatest Commandments of Jesus : reverence to God, our Creator, and respect for all persons, everywhere.
Customs are not Wisdom
Biblical-era life for the Jews and early Christians was harsh (Ward, pp. 37-118). Slavery was commonplace. Tyrannical rule by outside powers was the norm. Women’s status in society was distinctly second class. Children were disciplined with beatings.
These conditions were often accepted in the Bible as customary for society during those times, but they were not taught as being virtuous or wise. True wisdom is always consistent with the two great wisdom themes of the Bible: reverence to God, our Creator, and respect for all persons, everywhere.
Wisdom is More than Following the Rules
A set of commandments or rules can give us important examples of wisdom, but they are only examples. No set of rules can cover all situations, and it is up to us to generalize the commandments to all cases. Many times, as in this passage from Matthew, Jesus condemned the hypocrisy of those religious leaders who observed the law in its strict, literal sense, but violated its spirit:
Matthew 23:23 (KJV) Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
Wisdom means always acting according to the spirit of the Commandments and not looking for an ambiguity or omission which we can use to evade their true intent. Wisdom means understanding the consequences of our actions and words before we act or speak. Wisdom means having the knowledge and understanding to recognize the right course of action and having the will and courage to follow it.
Why Follow Wisdom’s Path?
Following the ways of Wisdom helps bring us in harmony with God because these ways are in accordance with His will, as revealed in the Bible, and are pleasing to Him.
The ways of Wisdom also bring us in harmony with other persons because respect for others is the very essence of the Commandments. The wisdom teachings of the Bible are much more than an arbitrarily dictated moral code; they form a prescription for living in peace with the people we interact with daily.
Finally, acting with Wisdom brings us in harmony with ourselves, giving us a sense of self-worth and inner peace. This inner peace is achieved because we are acting in accordance with our consciences and avoiding the shame and guilt of following our baser instincts. (Read Proverbs 3:13-18)
We often fail in our daily struggle to act with wisdom — it does not come easily or naturally. Although it is easier to follow our less-than-wise impulses, the reward for acting with wisdom is great. When we give it our best effort, the payoff in self-esteem and inner peace will compensate us many times over. (www.twopaths.com)