Facts, Information, and Knowledge
Are you able to answer these five questions, without doing an Internet search?
- What is the distance from the earth to the moon?
- How many people live in India?
- How many books did Herman Melville write?
- What is the fifth commandment?
- Are knowledge and information the same thing as wisdom?
It has often been said that we live in the “information age.” Our culture puts a high premium on knowledge and information, as well as easy access to both.
From “trivia” nights at restaurants to the game, Trivial Pursuit, to one of my family’s favorite gameshows, Jeopardy, our culture seems to love knowing facts about almost everything. And yet, all of the information we have access to at our fingertips does not necessarily make us wiser people.
Knowledge and Wisdom
Question number 5 above asked if information and knowledge are the same thing as wisdom. Scripture assures us they are not. To be sure, knowledge is a good thing. In fact, wisdom assumes knowledge. Yet, what God declares for us to do throughout Scripture is to, “get wisdom.”
- Proverbs 4:5 – Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them.
- Proverbs 4:7 – Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost you all you have, get understanding.
- Proverbs 16:16 – How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver!
- Proverbs 23:23 – Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding.
James makes that same case in the book that bears his name.
Wisdom According to James
James wrote his letter to Jewish Christians who, like many Christians of that day, were undergoing intense persecution. He said in James 1:2 that they were “facing trials of many kinds.” And it is in that context that he said something that sounds almost absurd to anyone who operates only with worldly wisdom. In verse 2 he told them, that, as they are facing these “trials of many kinds,” to “consider it pure joy” or, as the King James puts it, “count it all joy.”
How can a person who is going through the pain and suffering of a trial consider it a joyful experience? That would be difficult indeed. However, that is not what James was saying. To explain what James was saying, let me remind you of something the Apostle Paul wrote. In Romans 8:28, Paul wrote these words,
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Notice that Paul did not say all things are good. He was saying God can work all things (even bad things) for good. Good can come even from bad situations. James was saying something similar.
Here’s how Gandalf put it…