Collective Wisdom

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By Rick Moore

At the age of 18, I took a summer job on a farm planting tomatoes. The owner, affectionately named Big E, asked me if I knew the difference between knowledge and wisdom. After making a few guesses, I gave up. He explained: “Knowledge is recognizing a tomato is a fruit and not a vegetable. Wisdom is understanding you should never put a tomato in a fruit salad.” No one ever mistook Big E for a philosopher, but he had a way of explaining things I will never forget. Wisdom is not just for the rich, the sophisticated or the highly educated. Wise people come in many sizes, and some even wear overalls.

As a southern boy, I grew up with an inferiority complex that northerners were much smarter. My high school teacher even said so. She backed up her claim by telling the class that every winter it gets so cold up north folks can’t go hunting, so they sit by the fireplace and read books. That’s how they become so smart she said. Just for fun, I recently searched the internet to discover the top places people like to read books. Reading by the fireplace was number two. The number one answer was reading by the beach. I think my high school teacher was wrong, but it was an interesting theory.

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My pastor, Steve Vaggalis, recently shared how he also had an inferiority complex in his younger days. He was always in the shadow of his older brother who was smarter, more athletic and very popular. Then he discovered a secret that began to flip the script for him. That secret was wisdom. Our church, Destiny Worship Center, is currently in the middle of an eight-week study on how to “Build Strong” with wisdom. Pastor Steve has written a book and workbook which is given out for free so hundreds of small groups in our area can focus on wisdom. With thousands of people studying how to become wiser at the same time, the entire Emerald Coast is experiencing a collective wisdom that will have an impact on this area for generations to come.

Wisdom comes when we get our priorities straight. I was recently in a check-out line at one of our local stores when a man came back inside holding his grocery bag. I just knew he was about to tell the clerk that she had overcharged him. That was not the case. He explained that somehow an item was placed in his bag that he did not pay for, and he wanted to make sure she scanned it so he could pay the proper amount. This man is more than honest. He exemplifies what it is to be a man of wisdom. In a world where so many wise guys are trying to prove how clever they can be, it sure is great to see true wisdom on display.

Being a person of faith, I’ll end with a prayer for you. I have found this to be a real source of inspiration throughout my life. It’s called The Serenity Prayer. Written by Reinhold Niebuhr in the early part of the last century, this prayer is perhaps more applicable today more than ever: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” May God grant such wisdom to you this very day.

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