Understanding is perhaps the most elusive component of faith. It is the critical link between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is readily available. Facts are easy to memorize. Knowing what to do or say in a particular situation is not always obvious. Application is the key. On one occasion, a scribe questioned Jesus about the greatest commandment of the Mosaic Law. The scribe who posed the question was impressed with the answer and responded, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:32-33 NKJV) Jesus complimented this wise statement by saying to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:34 NKJV) The scribe did not pursue the matter further. He was content to bask in his “wisdom” and remain outside the kingdom of God.
The Corinthian brethren were enamored with spiritual gifts, especially speaking in tongues. The temptation to show off these amazing skills wreaked havoc on their ability to worship reverently. The Apostle Paul explained that the gifts were not intended for their exclusive benefit. Rather, the complimentary gift of interpretation must be accommodated so all can benefit. This is the spiritual equivalent of Amazon using Corvettes to deliver empty boxes. “For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified. I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all; yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue. Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature.” (1 Corinthians 14:17-20 NKJV)
What does a lack of understanding look like? “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ.” (Ephesians 4:17-20 NKJV) Contrast that to true understanding. “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.” (James 3:13 NKJV) Application is the key! “For this reason we also, since the day we heard (of your love in the Spirit), do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. (Colossians 1:9-12 NKJV)