A few weeks ago I received in my e-mail inbox an article on a psychological study regarding wisdom. My first reaction to the article was, “How can you study wisdom from a psychological perspective?” So I read. The article spoke concerning the “Wisdom Project,” conducted at the University of California Davis. In the study, the researchers sought correlations between religion, spirituality, and wisdom. The researchers concluded that those who were “spiritual” were more likely to be wise than those who were “religious.” “Spiritual” people were defined as people who “create their own sense of truth.” “Religious” people, on the other hand, were defined as people who belong to a community of those who are like-minded�i.e. a church. What did the research find? That those who were “spiritual” tended to be wiser than those who were religious. The study even listed not attending religious services as one of the predictors of wisdom.
After I read this, I thought that this was all wrong, but I couldn’t place my finger upon how they had come to these conclusions. Then I realized something. The definition of wisdom that they used predefined the kind of people that tended toward that “wisdom.” What was their definition of wisdom? In essence, they defined wisdom as being open minded to all different kinds of ideas. It should be obvious that if “spiritual” people are defined as creating their own sense of truth, that they would be open to just about anything and since that is how “wisdom” is defined, they were “wise” by definition. On the other hand, “religious” people, who are more concerned about being like-minded, i.e. promoting a standard of truth that is objective for all, would not be as open to just any old teaching, hence, by definition, they would not be “wise.” I also noticed another assumption which was incorrect, namely, that religious people are not spiritual people and vice versa. The last time I read my Bible, the religious were spiritual and the spiritual were religious as well. But again, it goes back to the way that those terms were being defined for this study.
First, what does the Bible have to say about “wisdom” and the source for wisdom? The first passage that came to my mind was James 1:5 “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” The source of wisdom is from God. That means that wisdom cannot be defined as stated above, namely, just accepted any old thing as truth, because God has defined for us truth. If wisdom comes from God and God’s truth is absolute, then God’s wisdom is going to be absolute as well. Proverbs 9:10 states, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” For one to be truly wise means to fear God. The definition of wisdom that involves creating one’s own truth is an incorrect definition.
Second, what does the Bible have to say about being “spiritual”? It certainly doesn’t mean that one has abandoned religion. In 1 Corinthians 14:37, Paul wrote, “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.” Spirituality meant acknowledging the truthfulness of the things that Paul and the other apostles wrote as the commandments of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 2:13-16 also teaches that for one to be spiritual one must acknowledge the words of the Spirit of Christ. Being spiritual means that one lives according to the desires of the Spirit instead of the desires of the flesh (1 Corinthians 3:1). Being spiritual means that we be the kind of people that God wants us to be in His service (1 Peter 2:5).
What is the fundamental problem with these terms “wisdom” and “spiritual” as used in this study? The words have been redefined not to reflect the truth regarding these words and their appropriate use, but to reflect how Satan through society has changed the definition of these words to propagate a fa�ade of spirituality. There is no difference in changing a definition and in telling a lie. How God has defined these words over the ages, however, has been consistent. Wisdom and spirituality are both things that come from God and His word. They have a firm standard of truth to support them, namely, the knowledge of Christ. When it comes to wisdom and spirituality, let us make Paul’s prayer to the Colossians our own: “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Col.1:9).