The Balanced Walk: Knowledge, Understanding and Wisdom
Oftentimes the quote “knowledge is power” is used to motivate people to learn. There are many ways to acquire knowledge, especially in the world. Our goal is to gain knowledge of God’s Word. Yet, is knowledge by itself sufficient to produce a more than abundant life? We must seek the answers we need from the written Word of God and act by wisdom in order to live a victorious life in Christ. Knowledge by itself puffeth up (I Cor. 8:1), but knowledge with a heart to have Jesus Christ living within and the love of God produce a more than abundant life.
Knowledge balanced with wisdom will lead us to a victorious life. The Bible is full of verses that explain that we need wisdom. How do we begin to achieve this balance between knowledge and wisdom? It begins with every born again believer having the spirit of God within them, Christ living within you (Col. 1:27), The spirit provides the connection to walk with God, to discern wisdom and to understand knowledge. God desires for us to walk by that spirit. There are times when we are deceived into thinking that all we need in life is to walk by the spirit. Yet, there must be an accurate knowledge of the Word as our foundation to ensure we are walking in alignment with God’s will. The spirit is vital and helps us to understand the basic principles in the written Word. The spirit in operation enables us to act wisely upon that knowledge.
Ephesians 4:1 gives more clarity to the balance of our walk. The first three chapters of Ephesians are about doctrine and give us knowledge about who we are in Christ. The last three chapters are all about practice, how to live the doctrine.
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation wherewith you are called.
There are two figures of speech in this verse. The first figure of speech is for the word “walk.” It is a Hebrew idiom which means to live. Your walk expresses your entire life, the whole manner of conversation, the way you conduct your life. The other figure of speech is polyptoton. This figure consists of doubling where there are two words based in the same root word. The emphasis is on the repetition, “calling wherewith you are called.” You are called. Our calling is that we are sons of God with all power and everything that is included in the new birth is our calling.
We are to walk, or live worthy of the calling as sons of God. We have two components, the walk and the calling. The word “worthy” is the Greek word axios and means to be in balance. It is a picture of a scale. On one side you have the calling and on the other side you have the walk. They need to be in balance. If either the walk (the spirit told me so) or the knowledge (this word means this and this is what I think) is too heavy, your life will be out of kilter.
The following verses add more to our understanding on how to have a balanced life.
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.
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 addition to having knowledge (what you know) and wisdom (what you do), there is another element that we need to add which is spiritual understanding. The figure hendiadys is used in verse 9, where two nouns are used but one greater concept is meant. Wisdom is fantastic, understanding is fantastic, but the two together mean something even more than the two combined. There is no actual word for the idea of wisdom and understanding combined, but the concept is grander than completely understandable wisdom! God is trying to emphasize and communicate the greatness of wisdom and spiritual understanding together.
Now we have three components; knowledge, wisdom and spiritual understanding. How do we begin to have these three keys? Proverbs sets the foundation.
Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.
Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of both knowledge and wisdom. Fear means to have reverence and know that God is the source of all knowledge and all wisdom. Beginning is the word for starting point. Without God as your true starting point and foundation, you will not be able to receive his knowledge and wisdom. When we go to God and recognize our dependence on him as the only source, we get true knowledge and true wisdom.
My children provide a good illustration of this concept. When my children were babies, I had to do a lot of work. I fed, clothed, and cared for them. As they grew up to be teenagers, they wanted to make their own decisions. They said “I want to do this,” and “I think this is important to have so I’m going to go get it, goodbye mom.” As children they looked up to me and knew that they did not have the source of their own provision. As teenagers they wanted to provide for themselves. But teenagers as well as adults still need to go to their parents, especially their heavenly father to provide wisdom. All of our attitudes towards God should not be that of a teenager but that of a child. We do not know everything and need God to direct our decisions. We always need to be dependent upon God because he is the starting point and we must always go back to the starting point to have stability.
There are two wonderful verses in Isaiah that talk about wisdom and knowledge being the stability of the times.
The Lord is exalted; for he dwelleth on high: he hath filled Zion with judgment and righteousness.
And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the Lord is his treasure.
God is the stability, the sure foundation of your times if you go to him with reverence as the source. He is the source of knowledge and wisdom. He is our foundation for living.
There are four key points illustrated in Proverbs:
My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding,
indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.
In Hebrew poetry there are parallelisms. In each of these verses, there is a parallel. If you accept my words, then you store them up. Essentially, they are saying the same thing twice, except the second phrase is more intensified. By accepting God’s Word, you have received them, but you can go further by storing them up like treasure. You can turn your ear to wisdom, but more intensely you can apply your heart to understanding. You can call out and you can more intensely cry out for understanding. You can not only look but diligently search.
The first key to receiving wisdom is having humility to accept the words of God. Acknowledging God as the source but also going further by accepting and keeping his words in your heart require a humble and meek heart. Humility is always wanting to learn and continuing to seek for the best answers.
Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.
The word for meekness in Aramaic means to lie down flat under something. We are to lie down flat under God looking up to him, ready to receive his wisdom, reproof, knowledge and love. Then we can store up his Word as treasure in our heart and keep seeking.
In order to hear God, you must turn your ear toward him to listen. The second key is applying your heart to understanding. Turning and applying require energy and effort. Understanding is the Hebrew word bin meaning to separate or divide. You are able to divide and separate knowledge to mean something by having spiritual understanding. Our energy employed towards understanding produces an ability to discriminate. This paints a beautiful picture. Understanding is the fulcrum between knowledge of what to say and when to say it. Redeeming the time (Eph. 5:16) means knowing the will of God and acting accordingly to make the most of the opportunity.
Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man’s heart discerneth both time and judgment.
Because to every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore the misery of man is great upon him.
Wisdom is defined as the ability to make the right choices at the right time. For everything we do, there is a proper time and a procedure. You need both in order to have wisdom. If you have the right procedure but perform it at the wrong time, great is the misery of the man. In every situation and every relationship, this principle holds true. There is proper a time and a proper judgment, and both come from God as the source.
It is important to recognize knowledge of how to do something but you need the balance of spiritual understanding to order to put it into practice effectively.
The third key to receiving wisdom is calling out to God and asking for him to supply it. God promises to supply if we just go to him and ask.
James 1:5 (NIV)
If any of you lack wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault. And it will be given to him.
Asking also requires humility and acknowledging God as the source of wisdom and understanding. It is simple to ask for something but we must earnestly desire and trust that God will give us the answers we are seeking.
The final key is in verse 3. If we look for wisdom as silver and search for it as hidden treasure, then we will have it. Colossians 2:3 says that the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid in God and Jesus Christ. It requires concerted effort to search for this treasure just as it takes effort to mine for silver. The orientalism of silver mining requires some searching in itself. In the East during this time there was no dynamite or explosives available. All that was available to mine were shovels and picks. People would first look for and then search the source of a river, or a mountain where they thought there might be some silver or gold. Then they would follow the vein by digging a little, picking a little until eventually it became a mine. Job 28 shares more about how they mined for silver and creates an entire picture of searching for wisdom like hid treasure. With this same attitude of heart we should seek after the treasures in God’s Word. God will show which direction to follow, where to look and energize your efforts.
All of the keys to acquiring wisdom (humility, understanding, asking and seeking) have a common thread: applied effort and dependence on God. God is the source of all life and in order to tap into that life we must know how to take the necessary steps and then act.
It is available to walk worthy of the calling of God, to walk in balance. We must have a balance in all areas of our lives: knowledge and wisdom, spirit and truth. What connects and enables the balance of all of these is spiritual understanding. You cannot always know what to do by your five senses but you can humbly go to God, ask, listen, look and cry aloud for spiritual understanding to apply knowledge and wisdom. The beginning of wisdom and knowledge start with God. As we go to him in humility, searching for spiritual understanding we will know what to say, how to perform it at the right time and how to apply it so that wisdom can guide our lives. We have doctrine, practice, knowledge and wisdom. The key to it is spiritual understanding.