“Wisdom is the principal thing, therefor get wisdom, and in all thy getting get understanding.” Proverbs 4:7. Knowledge and understanding, two vitally important and yet vastly different aspects of learning. To some they would seem similar or even the same, but I beg to differ. The differences may seem miniscule, but on a fundamental level they are distinctly opposite of one another.
In my search for wisdom on this subject I was reminded of an article I came across a few years ago on the good ol’ interwebs. A man decided to test his ability to physically apply head knowledge, so he came up with the brilliant idea to install reverse steering to a bicycle. He simply rigged his bike with gears so when he turned the handlebars left the front tire rotated in the opposite direction, to the right. Seems simple enough right, we can all get this. Well in his video, which is absolutely hilarious, this did not go over as smoothly as planned. It turns out that often basic knowledge of something does not equate to being able to accomplish said task.
So here is where I stand on the subject. Knowledge is great, but understanding and application is where it’s at. It is like in a math class, sure you may understand how to do an algebraic equation in theory, but when it comes time to actually work a problem you find yourself unable to find a starting place. Frustrating, yes I know. So really how valuable is knowledge without application? Depends on the subject.
If you are a history major, knowledge will certainly suffice, or maybe a business analyst. Any field where explaining something will do the job. Lets say you are a mechanic, you can read all the textbooks and watch every youtube tutorial on the internet, but when it comes time to pop open the hood, if you aren’t physically used to loosening a bolt, you are going to run into issues. If your anything like me you may end up breaking something in the process.
So what good is it to know that two plus two equals four if you don’t understand that if you have two quarters and your friend has two quarters together you have four? In my opinion it is total nonsense. It is like people in the music industry who have thousands of dollars worth of equipment but never spent any real hours in the practice room. Will you ever call someone for a gig just because they have good gear? Not unless you just need to borrow it. Unless you end up being one of those supervisors on a job that does nothing but tell you what to do, which we all hate (please don’t be this person), applicable understanding and ability to do it is necessary and should be the goal of learning. Some people call it hands on, I call it comprehension.
So where does this take us with our faith? You can understand all the scripture you want, but if you can’t actually love your brother than what use are you? Nobody is going to listen to a proclaiming believer who spouts off verse after verse but is rude to a waiter. Yeah, there is a lot of those… This is what James means when he says, “faith without works is dead.” The knowledge of God is good, but you aren’t a true Christian until you actually try to live like Christ. Jesus said if you want to be my disciples then pick up your cross daily and follow me. Why does He tell us to pick up our cross, shouldn’t it be understood we are always going to have it with us? Because He was implying that being His disciple takes action. It takes knowledge and learning, it takes studying to be able to defend your reasoning for your belief, and it takes a life style change, walking out your salvation on a daily basis. All trees are known by their fruit, and it is easy to identify those who profess but don’t live by the standard. These are the ones that kept me out of the church for many years, lovingly nicknamed the “hypocrites.” Don’t be one of these, that is an uncomfortable term to be identified by.
As you can see, there is a tangible difference between knowing something and actually “knowing” something, or in other words, actually being able to do something. All the studying in the world is useless if we can’t eventually do what we are learning about. This is why teaching is a high calling, which is why it is BS that people say, those who can’t do teach. So therefor, the principal thing is understanding, how to apply the things we learn. What experiences have you had learning and finding out later you don’t actually know how to do something? I cautiously evaluate this in my daily studies, what is my purpose in reading this and am I actually willing to commit to practice this until I can use it. I try not to spend much time on the things I am not ready to commit to. I find this helps me use my time to much better suit my plans for progress.