Knowledge, Understanding, & Wisdom

Parables, parables, parables. We are in a season of parables.

But, there is a thread throughout the whole of our scriptures this morning.
It is wisdom, from King Solomon to Paul’s letter, to Jesus’ parables.

Solomon, son of King David, is essentially offered a magical Genie lamp.
God comes to Solomon and asks ‘what do you want? Whatever is your heart’s desire, I will give you. I encourage you to ponder, what would your response have been? What is your heart’s desire?

Solomon asked for wisdom, although it was not the language used in scripture. Solomon asked for the ability to discern the ‘right’ (or wise) choices, not for his own benefit but for the benefit of the people that he had been placed in authority over.

Wisdom, understanding, and knowledge are not quite the same things.
We can know something intellectually and not understand it.
We can understand something and still not have the wisdom to apply it.

As seen online, but adapted…
Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
Understanding is knowing a tomato is a fruit because of the seeds.
Wisdom is knowing that you do not put tomato in a fruit salad.

Knowledge. Understanding. Wisdom.

Paul offers us wisdom about prayer, for how often do people say ‘I do not know how to pray’. The truth is that we do ‘know’ how to pray, but we do not always know or understand what to pray.

Paul writes that our heart’s desire may or may not be aligned with God’s will, desire for us, or the Kingdom to come, but we do not need to know or understand what to pray or ask. God knows and therefore the Holy Spirit, God’s own presence that works in, among, through, and despite ourselves will come in and wisely prays for us. This is especially true when are hearts and minds are heavy, for the Holy Spirit prays for our sighs too deep for words.

There is a country song entitled ‘Pray for You’ (Jaron and the Long Road to Love), it is about a jotted lover who will pray for his ex, but the prayers are similar to the brakes going out on her car. When I hear it, it reminds me that we do not always think to speak the prayers we should. We can stand in the way of our own prayers, and thus it is fine to sit and allow the Holy Spirit to pray for you. It might even be wiser to allow the Holy Spirit to pray on your behalf.

Then, we have this series of parables.

We have been virtually going verse by verse in the Gospel of Matthew, thus the parables begun with the sower, who throw the seeds without care about the soil it lands on. Then, we had the parable about the wheat and the weeds for we do not have the knowledge, understanding, or wisdom to discern between the two and thus, it is best left to Jesus and the angels at the end of time.

Then, we find ourselves within these parables.

The first two parables speak about the Kingdom of God as the unexpected in small packages, such as a bush or tree coming forth from a small, itty-bitty seed. It doesn’t make sense, does it?

Such as a rotting lump of dough, mixed in with flour and oil to become leavened bread. Our image of modern yeast is far too processed, for we buy it at the store and simply add water. During the biblical era, it was literally a rotting lump of bread. Perhaps, the most similar and modern example would be the starter for sour dough bread.

This rotting piece was mixed, more accurately hidden, within the mixture.

Similarly, the Kingdom of God is hidden within our lives, even within us, rotting lumps of bread, and our sin, imperfections, self-centeredness… great things can happen.

Whether we are small or rotten, the Kingdom of God can come forth in unexpected and yet common means: a tree or leavened bread. Although leavened bread is common, we will come to the table and partake in bread which has become extraordinary.

Then, we do skip verses which are the explanation of the parable regarding the wheat and the weeds.

We return to two additional parables with the theme of ‘hidden’: the treasure in a field and a pearl. This treasure and pearl were worth so much that the person literally sold EVERYTHING they had for it. The Kingdom of God is priceless, it is worth EVERYTHING.

The Kingdom of God is the treasure in a field, it is the pearl, and yet we find in it in hidden in unexpected, common means: a smile, a note, a phone call. It is helping one in need; it is the loving and serving of another.

This series, however, concludes with one final parable. It is the Parable of the Fish.
A net full of fish, fish of ALL kinds, which are sorted.

Does this remind you of the wheat and the weeds?
It is intended to remind us of it.

What can we learn from this collection of parables?
The Kingdom of God is hidden and not easily discerned, but yet it is worth EVERYTHING. Thus, our focus should be on God’s Kingdom to come, not sorting the fish or the wheat and the weeds.

Knowledge is knowing that the Kingdom of God is here, near, and not yet fulfilled.
All we have to do is turn on our televisions to know this.

Understanding is knowing that we belong to God, and therefore we do not need to have the answers. We can leave it to the Triune God and the angels.

Wisdom is doing just that and allowing the Holy Spirit to intercede on our behalf with sighs too deep for our words.

May we have the knowledge that a tomato is a fruit,
the understanding that it is because of the seeds, and
the wisdom to not include it in a fruit salad.

And thanks be to God for when we have moments of wisdom like King Solomon. Amen.



Scriptures were 1 Kings 3: 5-12, Psalm 119: 129-136; Romans 8: 26-39; Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52.
Originally preached on 26 July 2020 at Trinity Lutheran Church (Union City, Indiana).

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