There are times we think if we just have the intelligence and good judgment to make pretty solid decisions, we will do well in this life. That works some of the time, but not with great consistency. I have pumped the right type of gas in my car from the station on the side of the road which made it easiest to get in and out of with the least amount of cross-traffic, only to find a station on the opposite side of the road just a little further down the road offered me the same gas at a much more reasonable price! I made the right choice of gas. I even made the right decision of what provided me with the greatest of safety when it comes to the traffic issue. Yet, I didn't make the wisest decision about cost - I factored in everything else, but forgot the cost. We cannot ever forget there is a cost to each decision we make. We need more than just intelligence and good judgment to help us out there. Wisdom, understanding, and knowledge - aren't they the same thing? Not really, for each carries a little bit of unique meaning as is evident in our passage today. Wisdom helps us build up our lives; understanding helps us have a sure foundation; and knowledge is what gives us the insight to embrace the right stuff.
Wisdom is required to build a house; understanding is necessary to make it secure. Knowledge is needed to furnish all the rooms and fill them with beautiful treasures. (Proverbs 24:3-4 VOICE)
Wisdom is the knowledge of what is true and right, but it also carries the idea of having the sound judgment to know what to act upon and when. It has been said that wisdom is the application of knowledge - knowledge being what we can gain by watching, listening, and processing the things we take in through our "senses". In this particular case, that would make knowledge kind of "practical", more or less gained by what we entertain in our minds and interpret through our senses. Understanding is that "dawning" which comes when you finally fit all the pieces together of this little bit of knowledge and the other piece. Then we tie it all together with wisdom - putting all the pieces into order, with the ability to know when and how to use them.
Build your life by knowing how and when to take particular action, with reasonable and purposeful intent. The importance of knowing both where to build and with what materials the building should be built comes from understanding the various "agencies" which will operate both within and without the walls of that home. For example, if I build a thatched roof house in the high winds of the open desert, I may get shelter from the sun for a little while, but when the summer winds come and that thatch is completely dried out, it will blow away in a flash. I may have had the materials with which to build, and they didn't cost me much, but I didn't stop to take into consideration the forces which would work against those materials in the long run!
Knowledge is what some may call the gaining of "principles" in life. A perfect example of this is the study of mathematics. You don't begin the study of mathematics with complex geometric equations. You begin with the basics of addition, then move to subtraction, eventually mastering multiplication and division. In time, the principles of two numbers added together bringing you a greater quantity and one number removed from another leaving you with less become the basis of how you make decisions in life. My daughter was on the phone with me the other night and she said she came across a bargain at a local retailer, but she needed me to tell her what 40% off of the price came to. She prefaced it with her usual statement of not being good with math. I gave her a quick lesson in dropping the zero on the 40 and multiplying it by the first number in the cost. Then in the end she would add back in the remaining zeros. A $6 item at a 40% discount could be figured at 4X6 or $2.40 off. It was like the dawning of a new day for her! The principles of math don't make much sense until we put them into application in our lives - knowledge is just knowledge until we allow those principles to help us make practical decisions based upon that knowledge.
So, when we build our lives by taking what we know to be true and right, then placing those things upon the foundation of what is purposeful and reasonable, we build a stronger, more secure life. We then see our lives become enriched by applying the principles we have gained along the way consistently and in multiple different ways, until our lives become enriched in all ways. We might make some pretty good decisions quite by mistake in our lives, right? The problem with this kind of "success" in life is that it is fleeting. It doesn't last very long - for the next problem will arise and if we use the same "principles" in that moment, it may not yield the same results. As with math, there are times when the principles build upon the other and then we see more consistent results. It was like when the math teacher used to tell me that I could get to the right answer the way I performed the solution to my math problem, but I would not reach that same answer each time I used that method of reasoning.
We need all three to be operational in our lives and to be used in conjunction with each other. The house built well on a great foundation, but left empty on the inside without any furnishings will just be a house! The house built with shoddy materials, but furnished with great finds will not protect those finds very well. The gaining of truth is important, but learning how to apply it in our lives is equally as important. The principles we gain along the way help to give us "points of reference" by which we compare, make judgments, and take actions in particular directions. These go hand in hand and cannot be focused upon one over the other. We need God's help to keep all three in mind and then to use them appropriately - hence, we need the mind of Christ! Just sayin!