Dear Beloved in Christ,
Today is the feast of Mid-Pentecost, on which we commemorate two events in Christ’s life, both of which take place in the temple in Jerusalem. The first, when He was twelve years old, was when He went to Jerusalem with His parents for the Feast of Passover and He remained in the temple, speaking with teachers, after Joseph and Mary had left Jerusalem. (Luke 41-52) The second, during the time of His ministry, was when he taught in the temple, and the people were amazed at His wisdom, knowing that He hadn’t been educated.
This feast, the feast day of Agia Sophia Academy, accentuates the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge comes from learning, from studying, while wisdom comes from experiencing. Knowledge is valuable, however it is a means to an end. By contrast, wisdom is the goal itself, because wisdom is a gift from God, and also an experience of God Himself. (The famous church in Istanbul is named “Holy Wisdom,” Hagia Sophia.)
In the Church there have been many saints who, like Jesus, were uneducated, and yet had great wisdom, such as St. Silouan the Athonite. These saints remind us that the pursuit of knowledge has its limit, and if it divorced from its purpose (the acquisition of wisdom), then it is fruitless—a human encyclopedia, and nothing more.
As a comparison, think of a skilled surgeon or electrician or sculptor. In each of these occupations, a great deal of learning is required. Knowledge is essential. However we intuitively recognize that the greater value is in wisdom: If you had a child needing major surgery, or an entire house needing rewiring, or a statue you wanted to commission as a gift, you would always seek out the more experienced person (i.e. the one who is wise in his or her craft, having spent years applying the knowledge and gaining wisdom).
We live in an era in which knowledge is king and wisdom is demeaned. The one who is more knowledgeable about a given subject is thought of as superior. Meanwhile wisdom, which is far more difficult to quantify, has been placed on the sidelines. Our elderly, who are the deposits of wisdom and have from time immemorial been held in the highest esteem, are instead mocked because they don’t know how to use a smartphone or search the internet. The hubris of knowledge imagines that it is greater than wisdom. But it is not.
What we need is wisdom. Let us strive toward godly wisdom, toward the pursuit of God Himself. Let us give honor and respect to those who have run most of the course of their lives garnering wisdom from experience. And let us not be deluded by mistaking knowledge for wisdom.