Knowledge and Wisdom

10 February 2010 Memorial of St. Scholastica
1 Kings 10, 1-10; Psalm 37; Mark 7, 14-23

Today we learn three things.

1. The difference between knowledge and wisdom.
2. The reason why we can eat anything. We don’t have food restrictions such as pork or blood.
3. How to know when we’re proud and when we’re humble.

There is a great difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge consists of facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education. It is also the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject. In Philosophy, knowledge is certified understanding or belief as oppose to an opinion.

Wisdom on the other hand, is the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment. It is more than just a collection of facts and figures; more than just knowledge. Wisdom carries with it what people learn through the ages; the lessons they accumulated from a series of experiences that has been tried and tested from generation to generation. And thus, wisdom is a body of knowledge and principles that develops within a specified society or a period in history. Therefore, a person with knowledge will decide according to what he or she reads from a book, learns from the classroom; but the wise will have a sound action or decision based on the application of such experiences, knowledge and good judgement.

Wisdom is what King Solomon possesses. Perhaps, he has learned from the experiences of many people in his generation, and the people who has gone before him. He listened to the old and the wise. The Israelites have a very colorful history and they have observed certain patterns in their lives. For example, when they follow God’s law, their lives are in order; but when they don’t, they experience chaos. The Queen of Sheba therefore finds Solomon’s renown wisdom irresistible that she traveled from afar just to hear him and ask him questions. And they exchanged an abundance of wealth and gifts.

In the end, she says, “Blessed are your men, blessed these servants of yours, who stand before you always and listen to your wisdom. Blessed be the LORD, your God, whom it has pleased to place you on the throne of Israel. In his enduring love for Israel, the LORD has made you king to carry out judgment and justice.” (1 Kings 10, 8-9) Thus, she recognizes that it is the Lord who gave Solomon his throne and his wisdom.

The Gospel also gives us contrasting examples of those who possess knowledge versus those who are wise. For the Pharisees, what defiles us comes from external sources: unclean food and utensils, the touch of a person with disease, a person who is not a Jew or an enemy like the Samaritans. But Jesus who is wise teaches us that what defiles is not what goes to our mouth, but what comes from our hearts such as our evil thoughts, our impure motivations, greed, malice, unfaithfulness, arrogance, envy, etc. And in contrast to the Pharisees whose beliefs come from a long line of accumulated writing, Jesus debunks all of them because He is the source of wisdom. Jesus then declares a new teaching: all foods are clean.

But what is the point in today’s readings? The Queen sees that whatever Solomon has comes from his fidelity to the Lord who is the source of all his wisdom. And the Gospel points to Jesus as the source of wisdom.

Here we get to see the difference between those who are proud and those who are humble. Proud persons think that their abilities come from themselves. They believe that we should admire them for their superiority. This is arrogance.

Humble people think like Solomon: their abilities are bestowed by God and whatever they have should reflect God. The wise person is thus humble: from their experience, whatever they have can be taken away anytime.

The test is this: when people encounter us, what do they discover? Do we lead them to the very source of our greatness? Or do we want them to admire us and us alone?

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