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How to Cultivate Wisdom in an Information-Saturated World

Every time I enter a bookstore, a jumble of emotions floods over me: I can barely contain the impulse to laugh and cry at the same time. It fills me with joy to contemplate my opportunity to learn about theology, natural sciences, history, philosophy, and literature. Yet it saddens me to recognize that, no matter how hard I try, I’ll never learn everything I want to learn (at least for now—I hope there’ll be libraries in heaven).

Today, we have more information than ever at the tip of our fingers. It accumulates every second. A quick Google search can provide answers to any questions that come to mind, from “Who is that actor who seems so familiar?” to “What’s the best method to get my baby to sleep?”

We feel we can know everything. But far from bringing us peace, this produces an insatiable hunger for more information. We think that maybe if we get one more piece of data, we’ll feel satisfied with our knowledge or our decisions. But we never find true rest; tranquility lasts only a moment before we’re again aimlessly navigating the infinite sea of information.

Some of us are good at pretending this tireless quest for data is something godly. We justify it based on duties: I must keep an eye on what the young people in my church are doing, so I follow them minute by minute on all their social networks. I must be an informed citizen, so I spend the first three hours of the day glued to Twitter and the news. I must write a good article, so I read five books and 15 essays on the dangers of information overload. We deceive ourselves, convinced we need to know more rather than know well. We drown in information while allowing our souls to languish in a wisdom drought.

The good news is that we can start walking differently today. Let me share six proverbial pieces of advice for cultivating wisdom in an information-saturated world.

1. Fear the Lord.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Prov. 1:7)

To be truly wise—to live a good life—we must begin by seeking God, not searching the internet. Wisdom isn’t merely about accumulating a bunch of data about how the world works. We cannot become wise even by memorizing answers from a Bible trivia game. Knowledge is essential but insufficient. We must apply that knowledge properly; we must seek to walk according to the divine standard, not the fashions of our generation.

Knowledge is essential but insufficient.

God made everything we see and what we can’t see. He understands how everything works in this broken world and how it should work. Who better to tell us how to live well than the Author of Life? To start being wise, we must surrender to the lordship of the Wise One.

2. Ask for wisdom.

For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. (Prov. 2:6)

There’s good news for all those hungry for wisdom: God isn’t stingy. Our Lord delights in pouring wisdom out abundantly on all who ask for it in faith (James 1:5). To walk well in this world, we don’t need to try to be omniscient like God. We can cry out to him for wisdom to show us what good works he has prepared for us and what we need to know and do to walk in them (Eph. 2:10).

For example, if I’m a youth leader, my job is to disciple my students, not to watch them like a police officer. The wisest thing to do will be to invest time in cultivating my knowledge of God’s Word (which is powerful to transform them) and meeting with them regularly to see how they’re doing and to pray together. Knowing every detail of young people’s movements on social media may make me concerned about them, but it hardly helps me serve them.

3. Immerse yourself in the Word.

My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments. (Prov. 3:1)

In a world with countless sources of information, it’s easy to forget to drink continually from the well of eternal truth—the Word. It’s in the Scriptures that God has revealed the most important truths about himself, about us, and about the world we inhabit.

The Bible doesn’t give us answers to every curious question in our minds. The reason is that we don’t need answers to all those questions. Insatiable curiosity often distracts us from what we need most desperately—answers to the deepest concerns of our souls. In Scripture, we find identity, purpose, and hope. Its truths nourish us, unlike the junk food we often binge on for entertainment. If we neglect our intake of God’s Word, it shouldn’t surprise us that we feel spiritually anemic and seek to satisfy the craving for nourishment with more and more data.

4. Forget about knowing everything.

Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. (Prov. 4:25)

When Paul said to “examine everything; hold firmly to that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21, NASB), the internet didn’t exist. Examining “everything” was relatively simple when it consisted of a few conversations throughout the day, a couple of letters a week, and perhaps a scroll here or there if you were intellectual and affluent.

Now our “everything” is, well, practically everything. We have at our fingertips almost all the information that has been produced in the history of humanity—the good, the bad, and the terrible. Email, messaging apps, streaming, and social media bombard us with data that demands our attention every minute.

Are we surprised so many have stopped examining and simply consume without thinking? Are we surprised our gaze goes from one place to another instead of focusing on what’s important? We must work hard to limit our sources of information so we can examine what we read or hear.

5. Be corrected.

Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. (Prov. 9:8)

God didn’t create us to be alone. That’s why it’s good to participate in reading groups, join Bible studies, and have coffee with godly friends with whom we can share what we’re learning. We must be open to listening to and being instructed by others who can see what we can’t. Look for people full of the Word, with experiences and perspectives different from yours, who can help you persevere in wisdom.

6. Glorify God in your ignorance.

The reward for humility and fear of the LORD is riches and honor and life. (Prov. 22:4)

We must be open to listening and being instructed by others who can see what we can’t.

When we encounter something that surpasses our understanding, our first impulse is usually to improvise a half-cooked answer or to study for hours to determine our opinions. But there’s no need to give in to those impulses.

Of course, a particular topic may be worth analyzing in the future. But our ignorance shouldn’t make us feel threatened. We can rest in the fact that God understands everything and marvel at his glory while saying, “I don’t know.”

Are You Willing to Be Wise?

Wisdom is available to us all (Prov. 1:20–23). The question is this: Do we want it? It’s easy to say yes; seeking it is another thing. Our distraction-filled world saturates us with information to distract us from seeking wisdom. Don’t allow it to.

Jesus gave himself on the cross so you and I could receive new hearts that submit to the lordship of the God of all wisdom. We weren’t born again to live in foolishness. The days are evil (Eph. 5:16); let’s stop wasting time in the whirlwind of data and strive to walk as Jesus walked. In him, we have everything we need to do so.


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