by Donielle Kazim
Originally printed in MOMs (Moms on a Mission) Magazine
Proverbs 2:6 For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
I was trying to get out the door on a busy morning. Whenever we are running late my toddler seems to sense it and decide not to cooperate. Little Miss Independent wanted to hold the plate of scrambled eggs herself. Knowing that would be a disaster I said no and stuck a bite in her mouth. She looked me in the eye and spit the eggs out on the floor. Later I lamented to best friend about my stubborn toddler. Wise woman that she is, she responded, “She is so smart. She wants to be in control, but at two years old she lacks wisdom.” My little one has knowledge. She knows how to behave while eating. She even has understanding. She knows there will be consequences for her actions. She lacks the virtue of wisdom.
We see throughout the first three chapters of Proverbs that knowledge is the first step to gaining wisdom. Knowledge becomes understanding, which becomes wisdom. We seek knowledge to gain the virtue of wisdom. Knowledge is for cultivating the soul. Knowledge should make us more like Jesus.
We have been taught to think of knowledge in purely practical terms – if it has no practical application, we have no use for it. Nowadays we value knowledge only to the extent that it gives us power. Francis Bacon, Enlightenment thinker, is credited with stating that “Knowledge is power.” It’s not that people didn’t know that before his time, but they felt it crude and crass to mention it. Power was not the goal of knowledge. Now we plaster that slogan all over classrooms and teach it to small children. Our view of knowledge has become utilitarian.
Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” Fear of the Lord is reverence and respect that He is Knower of All Things. Fear of the Lord, and therefore knowledge, requires humility from us.
1 Corinthians 7:1 says, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” We fail to humble ourselves and therefore have a twisted relationship with knowledge. We want to be in control of it. 1 Corinthians I3:2 says that I can possess all knowledge, but without love, I am nothing. What does a utilitarian view of knowledge get us? Either prideful know-it-all attitude or stress and anxiety, trying to control something we were never meant to.
“Just look around at the stressed out, burned out children in this country who are infected by a falsified “American dream,” gobbling up as much knowledge as they can so that they can eventually become consumers who will gobble up as much stuff as they can in a fruitless, exhausting attempt to become “happy.” By high school these children will have already—perhaps unwittingly—crossed the event horizon that will rapidly lead many of them to a midlife crisis and a realization that they have no more control over their lives as ‘educated’ adults than they did as ignorant children.” Jason Faulkner, “The Language of Knowing”, Circe Institute.
We lose sight and we minimize the cultivation of the love of knowledge, of understanding, and wisdom that leads to virtue. In forcing as much knowledge as we can down our kids, we lose sight of cultivating a love for math, for history, for literature and God’s nature of order and perfection, of constancy, or of creativity revealed in it.
We judge our children by evaluations, assessments, and tests, literally assigning to our children a value – telling our children what they are worth. Are they an ”A”? A 75 percent? A 1270 SAT? After all, masters of math scores, or of foreign language, or of public speaking, is what is going to bring them success in the real world.
Parker Palmer, in To Know As we are Known: Education as a Spiritual Journey, asks a provocative question, “Do we present knowledge as something to be possessed and controlled or a gift to be loved?” Ponder that for a few minutes!
Proverbs repeatedly presents wisdom, the end result of knowledge, as a woman – to be desired, pursued, and to have a relationship with, to be loved. As women, we are to treat knowledge and wisdom the way we want our man to treat us – longed for, valued so highly that other pursuits fade.
Mr. Faulkner goes on to say, “If we encourage our students—wittingly or unwittingly—to objectify knowledge, to hold truth at a distance, to study it in order to master it so that they can use it to get what they want out of life (good grades, good college, good job, good retirement—or, summed up by the three S-words: safety, success, and security), then how can we act surprised when they come to ‘know’ Jesus in the same domesticated, transactional, utilitarian manner? Woe to us for leading these children astray.”
Do you wonder why this generation doesn’t seem to appreciate art museums, symphonies, and ballets? While they still like to draw and sing and dance? The museum, symphony, and ballet performances are not useful in the immediate. They are each designed for contemplation.
As Christians, we teach our children that there is more than what we know with our five senses. They have souls and a Heavenly Father that loves them. Our goal in gaining knowledge is wisdom and virtue. Do we want a world full of know-it-alls? Or families who are fully known, and loved, by the Knower of All Things.
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