Knowledge Understanding and Wisdom are not Synonyms!

Knowledge, Understanding, Wisdom

Are these three words synonyms?  Most people today think so, including teachers, pastors, and parents…the influential people who should know the difference. The distinctness of each and sequential training of all three has been lost, and society today is suffering because of it.

Yes, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom are three different things:

  1. Knowledge is the careful and thorough study of, and memory learning, of things.
  2. Understanding is how those things work, came about, and are used.
  3. Wisdom is knowing how to apply those previous two to what you say or do.

Wisdom is the goal and result of the first two, and cannot occur without the foundation those two set.  They must occur sequentially. Any statement or task, when done alone or out of sequence, is a disaster, and you don’t have to go far to see the carnage. Look at most Facebook comments, or letters to the editor, or the subject of nightly news reports, or a botched auto repair…

“Knowledge is not enough; we must apply.  Understanding is not enough; we must do. Knowing and understanding in action make for honor.  And honor is the heart of wisdom.”  -Johann von Goethe

Prior to doing a brake job on your car, you must read the chapter on replacing brakes in a repair manual (or YouTube video), understand how the brake system works, disassembles, and goes back together, and go through the process in our mind, or you will have a disaster.

In non-tangible issues in life, the ever-relative and ever-current manual is the Bible. So what does it say about knowledge, understanding, and wisdom?

Proverbs 2:6. says:  “For the Lord gives wisdom: out of His mouth cometh knowledge and understanding”.  Couple that with 2 Timothy 3:16 which says:  “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work”  and you understand that out of the mouth of God comes knowledge and understanding, and all scripture has been breathed out of the mouth of God.  The Bible is your basis of knowledge and understanding, which God then uses to impart wisdom to us!

God promises to give us wisdom if we read the Bible, which sounds daunting, but isn’t supposed to be…which is why it has smaller books and even smaller stories and advice. The book of James for example is great little book on advice for living, and even starts out telling us how to get wisdom:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” James 1:5-8

Doesn’t it sound familiar that people without wisdom (from knowledge and understanding) who doubt God and the Bible are like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind, or are unstable?  Most biblical Christians I know, are even-keel and stable.

James also says without faith, you cannot have wisdom. Faith takes effort to get.  Paul also wrote in Romans 10:17 that faith comes from learning by reading the Bible: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” So, read the Bible.  The book of James is good, so is 1st Peter.  Then try 1st John.  Your life will change for the better when you read those.
Since I am in the building industry, I can’t resist one more:  Proverbs 24:3-4 “Through wisdom a house is built; and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge the rooms are filled…”


A stable person is like a house whose foundation is wisdom, framed by biblical understanding, and furnished with biblical knowledge.

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