There is a serious problem in our culture today where many people confuse the meaning of the terms education, wisdom, and knowledge. This confusion has led to many false notions which have proved detrimental to our society, and the problem needs to be remedied. The old nursery rhyme claims, “words will never hurt me,” but this is isn’t true for our poor society. Words are much more than a simple combination of letters–they stand for ideals. When definitions of words change, the ideals change right along with them. The three terms and ideals of education, wisdom, and knowledge are essential to having a good society, so let us set about properly defining each of them.
Education is perhaps the most commonly misused and misunderstood term in our entire society. Education is almost always associated with schooling, but this simple connection alone misses the mark completely. Education is primarily the formation of one’s conscience. This may sound strange since education has been so terribly distorted in our country, but the explanation is actually quite simple. Any school subject is meant to be applied to the formation of one’s conscience. For example, math teaches two of the most important life skills–problem-solving and the ability to think logically. These two assets are essential to any good conscience. Problem-solving and logical thinking are the two main processes involved in determining whether or not something is moral. Thus, if these two skills are not developed in someone, their conscience will not be fully formed.
Our backwards society has done away with the connection of education to the conscience, and has completely watered-down the idea of education to the point where it now is defined as simply the amount of years spent in school. But using our correct definition of education and the example above, the amount of time spent in school has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on true education. If someone were to spend a century in school but never form their conscience, they would not be educated. In fact, schools too often today have the opposite effect on students by destroying their consciences as they parade immorality as being moral. How evil and backwards has our society become that we now do the opposite of educating in the very places established specifically for education!
Another term that is often confused is wisdom. We tend to believe that wisdom comes with age and experience, but wisdom and age actually have very little connection. Properly defined, wisdom is that gift which gives us a relish for the things of God and directs our whole life and all our actions to His honor and glory. Again, this might sound odd given that our society has also misconstrued this concept, but the confusion is easily resolved after some examination. The proverbial wise man is the one who always knows the correct course of action. This is an accurate depiction of wisdom, but the bigger picture is often completely missed. The wise man always knows which is the correct course of action because he realizes that it is simply the one which honors God.
One of the biggest problems that comes with our incomplete understanding of wisdom is that it often discourages young people from believing they can be wise. If wisdom is simply a gift which enables us to direct all our actions towards pleasing God, then there is no reason why young people cannot receive this gift. Notice the emphasis on wisdom being a gift. This means that wisdom cannot be attained through our own efforts, and it will certainly never magically come to us as we add on years and experiences. The only reason that wisdom is so often associated with old age is due to the fact that it can take nearly an entire lifetime for one to prove themselves worthy of such a great gift. Regardless of how long it takes, however, we all must strive to be worthy of the great gift of wisdom in hopes that we will someday actually be blessed with it. A young person who believes that they cannot be wise will certainly not be worthy of the gift of wisdom. We have to realize that wisdom has very little to do with age, and instead start working on making ourselves worthy of such a great gift by showing that we have the proper respect for it.
Knowledge is one more term which needs to be clarified. Similar to education, knowledge is often wrongfully summed up as how many books one has read or how many college courses they have taken. In truth, knowledge is another gift and it enables us discover the will of God in all things. How can this full and correct definition be reconciled with the contemporary definition? Our society currently considers someone to be knowledgeable if they know a lot of facts or information. We often consider such a person to be very smart because they know so many things. But the truly knowledgeable person is the one who knows the will of God in all things. It is one thing to know facts and have a lot of information accumulated in one’s brain, but it is another thing entirely to be able to discern God’s plan for us in all matters. This is an infinitely more useful tool, as knowing what God wants from us in each situation is much more practical than simply being able to spout off a few facts. The problem with our contemporary understanding of knowledge is that we have made knowledge of mere facts to be more valued than knowledge of God’s will and plan for us.
These few selections are but a tiny sample of the confusion our society is steeped in. It might seem silly to some, but holding fast to the true definition of terms means adhering to the ideals for which they stand. Education, wisdom, and knowledge are all under assault in our society because they are all good things. A citizen who is truly educated has a fully-formed conscience; who is truly wise knows that the proper course of action is always the one which honors God; and who is truly knowledgeable knows what God wants from us in each situation. A citizen with these three attributes could never go along with the total destruction of our once good society that is occurring before our very eyes. This is precisely why these terms, and consequently their accompanying ideals, are under such a vicious attack. And this is precisely why, if we want to defend our society, we must start by defending these truths.