What’s The Difference Between Knowledge, Understanding & Wisdom?

Knowledge, understanding, wisdom

Charles Spurgeon once wrote,

Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.

All The Gear, But No Idea!

There is a myth that gaining knowledge is the best solution to the problems we face in our lives. The world is now on information overload; just look at the amount of information there is on the internet and in published books. However, knowledge without the meaning or understanding of how to apply it can bring us to the place I call, “all the gear, but no idea!”

Over our next few blog posts, I want to really break down the differences between knowledge, understanding and wisdom and how they affect our lives.

Let’s Define These Three Terms

Knowledge is the accumulation of facts and data through studying, research, investigation, observation and even experiences. It’s being aware of something and having the details to know. People with “knowledge” are able to collect, remember, and access information. It is possible to have the knowledge, but unfortunately, have a complete lack of understanding and wisdom. A person might have the facts, but they don’t know what the information means or what to do next with it.

Understanding is the capability and capacity to discern and make decisions about which aspects of the knowledge they have collected are true. Understanding is the ability to translate meaning from facts and to apply it. People with “understanding” are able to mine meaning out of information. They are able to “see-through” the facts to the dynamics of the “what,” “how,” and “why.” Understanding is like a camera lens that brings the facts into focus and enables someone to produce principles.

Wisdom is the understanding of the facts and principles and then providing the application as to what to do next. Wisdom is also being able to learn from past experiences and thus gain understanding of something. With this gained wisdom, they can choose not to make the same mistakes over and over again. Wisdom allows someone to evaluate what’s right, true and lasting. People that gain “wisdom” know what concepts or truths to apply in a given situation.

Those with wisdom know what actions to take next. They do the right thing in the given situation. In contrast, there are many who have great knowledge and understanding, but who consistently apply what they know wrongly. In other words, they may have the right information, but lack the wisdom to apply what they know!

A Practical View – Running A Race

Imagine you will be running a half marathon and you know you must stay hydrated to finish the race. A piece of knowledge would be collecting the information that a half marathon cross country race is 13.1094 miles long. Another bit of knowledge would be to find out how many hydrating stations will or will not be present along the way.

Understanding comes into play as you are working out how to stay hydrated along the way. Based on the knowledge of how often hydrating stations are available, understanding would compel you to figure out how you are going to pack and carry enough water for the race to stay hydrated in light of how many stations exist or don’t exist along the way. In addition, if there are hydration stations along the way, understanding will figure out how often or when you will stop to hydrate. Do you use a combination of available stations as well as the water you decide to carry?

Wisdom would move on from understanding to actually training in similar conditions prior to the race to know how much water you will carry and will need to drink. Wisdom would apply and test its understanding to know at what mileage the hydrating stations will be present so you can stay hydrated, as well as having a topped off supply throughout the race.

Hopefully, this illustrates the difference between these three areas and how they work in unity to provide the end solution in a practical way.

Godly Knowledge versus Human Knowledge

In closing, there is no comparison between human knowledge, understanding, and wisdom when compared to the “One” who gives us the true meaning of these:

It says in Proverbs 2:6 (NKJV), For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding,And in Isaiah 11:2 (NKJV) it says, “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.”

The Spirit of Truth

If we truly want to operate in knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, then it starts with the fear of the Lord! We need to hear His voice because from His mouth He gives wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Because we have the Spirit of Truth living inside of us, we can operate from the Lord’s Spirit, which includes the Spirit of Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Might, and Knowledge!

Ask For A Greater Revelation

Ironically, because of the overwhelming amount of information available today, focusing on the difference between knowledge, understanding, and wisdom is something we really need to take time and meditate on. Today, ask for a greater revelation of how He desires to speak to you and provide supernatural solutions in your life and the lives of others.