Wax On, Wax Off: Information Is Not Wisdom

One of my mentors, Suzanne Stabile, is fond of quoting one of her mentors, Richard Rohr. Richard says, “Information is not knowledge, and knowledge is not wisdom.” I’ve thought about this quote a lot. Mostly because Suzanne references it over and over, but also because it seems to run so counter to the way most of us approach life.

The internet was dubbed the “Information Superhighway.” It amazes me how people, myself often included, can delude ourselves into thinking, because we have a library card or know how to use an online search engine, that we are experts or fully informed on a given subject. Who needs to go to med school or consult a family physician when popular medical websites can diagnose you 24/7.

When I was in high school I was meeting with some people of another faith tradition. I went out and purchased a book from my local Christian bookstore that explained to me the beliefs of this particular religion. I wanted to be “ready” for whatever my conversation partners might throw my way. Halfway through one of our conversations they asked me where I was getting all of these ideas about their faith. I sheepishly told them of the book I had bought. They laughed at the idea that I was consulting a book written by someone who had never practiced their faith to try and learn what their faith was about. The point was not lost on me. I had valued information over practiced or tested experience.

When I consider God’s wisdom it seems it is born out of humility, patience, openness, and experience. One of my favorite scenes in any movie comes from The Karate Kid. Daniel LaRusso is a teenager who wants to learn karate to defend himself from bullies. Mr. Miyagi agrees to teach him, but then has him do days upon days of tireless manual labor around his house. Finally, in frustration Daniel complains to Mr. Miyagi that he is tired of submitting himself to Mr. Miyagi’s tutelage if all he will be doing is grunt work. It’s clear Daniel is ready to quit in all his frustration. Mr. Miyagi has Daniel show him the motions he has learned through hours of repetition paining the house and waxing the car. Mr. Miyagi demonstrates that these seemingly pointless exercises have given Daniel a foundation for karate skills.

When it comes to wisdom in our lives or in our world how often are we like Daniel? Are we unwilling to submit ourselves? Are we unwilling to be patient? Are we unwilling to allow the Spirit of God take experience and life to mature us in the Way of Jesus Christ?

I confess I often want instant-expertise and quick decisions leading to quicker action. How might our instant society get in the way of God’s wisdom in our lives?

1 Corinthians 2:6-16

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
    nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.[a]

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.