Ever met someone who was incredibly smart and incredibly stupid all at the same time? I have to be completely honest: I think I’m a fairly intelligent person. I received a degree in aerospace engineering and currently have an A-average in my Master’s of Science in Systems Engineering program and am working towards a graduate certificate in Architecture Based Systems Integration. Lots of big words, right? WOW, GEE-WIZ (because that’s how teens talk), YOU MUST BE REALLY SMART!!!! If I’m so smart, then why do I find myself doing some of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard of anyone doing on an almost regular basis?!
The one thing all of this school has taught me is that knowledge is completely and utterly worthless if you don’t have anything to help you apply it in the correct way. The metaphor I used last Wednesday was that knowledge is like a hammer. It may be a fine hammer… actually, it may be the best hammer you’ve ever seen! But what good does the hammer do if you don’t know how to drive a nail? It may be a shiny, expensive hammer, but it’s completely worthless in the wrong hands. It’s all about application. When we stop talking about hammers and we start talking about life, we often think of this “knowledge of application” as wisdom.
Proverbs is full of wise words from someone who is considered the wisest man to ever live: Solomon. We think of Solomon as having this amazing mind, but in reality he likely had the academic knowledge of a modern-day high school graduate. The source of Solomon’s “genius” was in understanding that his ability to ‘know’ things was woefully inadequate compared to God’s ability to help teach us how life works (“applied knowledge”).
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. (Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT, Source: Bible Gateway)
It’s a classic case of “the more you know, the less you know”. What Solomon is saying here is that we can “understand” all we want, but without God’s wisdom all our knowledge amounts to is a very shiny hammer that sits on a table and can never be used. We can get all the grades, certifications, and degrees we want, but if we do not have a heart that is pursuing God’s will in our lives, we are nothing.
This comes back to is a recurring theme that I often emphasize to our students: God tells us how we should live our lives because He designed life itself and knows how it’s supposed to work. Think about that for a second. If you purchase a new car and the gas tank says “unleaded gasoline only”, you don’t fill the tank up with diesel, do you? Well… why not? How do you know you can’t put diesel in the tank? If you’re like me, it’s probably because you know that some very smart engineers designed the car to operate on gasoline so they probably know best. God engineered all of creation. That’s why when He tells us to not fixate on our own intelligence, we can have the confidence in knowing that He knows how this whole “life” thing works better than we do. He build it.
Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. (Proverbs 3:7 NLT, Source: Bible Gateway)
Solomon figured out that the ‘engineer’ of creation probably knows best and knew that as long as he focused on seeking God’s will, he was going to be on the right path. Knowledge isn’t a bad thing (obviously I’ve blown a lot of my life pursuing it). The danger is when “knowledge” starts becoming more important than God’s wisdom. When we put too much emphasis on the hammer and not enough emphasis on the builder, we become useless and can’t be used the way God intended.
Oh any by the way, this applies to “street smarts” as well as “book smarts”. Just because someone has learned a lot of knowledge about life doesn’t always mean they are wise. Wisdom comes from a heart that loves God and seek’s His will. And that should be the challenge for all of us. Let’s seek a relationship with Christ that allows us to receive understanding and wisdom from the “engineer” rather than from our own understanding or interpretation of how life should work. That way, we can seek to be more than just another shiny hammer.