I have a running joke with my students at school about the difference between being book smart and having common sense. Actually, it’s not much of a joke as it is quite true. Some of the most academically educated individuals I’ve met seem to miss some of the most easy-to-understand concepts while those not carrying a litany of college degrees get by just fine with a little ingenuity and common sense. And while there’s much truth about the fact that we can be a success in this world with a little less book knowledge than others, it takes a different kind of wisdom to walk in the will of God. I’m not implying that being a Christian requires years of theological study, but it does require that we have a measure of spiritual discernment that no college degree can offer.
It’s important that we begin by looking at the great keeper of human wisdom, Solomon, in order to understand the differences between worldly wisdom and spiritual wisdom. Solomon was the wisest man to ever live, no doubt because he prayed to God for that wisdom (1 Kings 3:1-15). So why did he consider wisdom as folly (Ecclesiastes 1:13-18)? Although Solomon’s wisdom was granted by God, he spent his time studying and pursuing knowledge of the things of this world. In the end, he found them to be pointless. And he would know. No one before or since has tasted as much of what this world has to offer and found it, in the end, to be lacking.
Ultimately, spiritual discernment is something granted to us when we seek close communion with the Holy Spirit. Besides being a comforter and an assistant in helping us to bear godly fruit, He also plays the role of bringing us into a greater understanding of God and his ways. A worldly person, one who may have an abundance of human wisdom, cannot know God outside of walking with the Spirit. Years can be spent academically analyzing scripture or seeking out more good works to perform, but without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we’ll find, as Solomon did, that it was all vanity and a chasing after the wind.
God wants us to have spiritual discernment. It’s not a gift he wishes to keep hidden from us so that only he knows what’s going on. He loves to bless his children with greater understanding after we’ve given our trust and faith over to him. But first we must ask. Philippians 1:9 and James 1:5 both show us that by prayer we can receive this special gift of wisdom. Having this wisdom gives a deeper, more intimate knowledge of God and makes it easier to recognize what is evil in the world (2 Peter 1:4). The world and the false teaching it offers seeks to distract us from God’s truth (Ephesians 4:14), but the spiritual wisdom of God provides us with everything we really need (2 Peter 1:3).
I know it may seem bold, but why don’t you ask God for his wisdom like Solomon did? I think God would be thrilled if we offered that prayer and believed wholeheartedly that he can grant us our request.