The Distinction Between Knowledge and Wisdom {Book Club}

Welcome back to Humble Roots and Scouting the Divine! If you missed the announcement last week of our summer reading, you can check it out here. 

Today we are discussing chapter 7 in Humble Roots: vine ripened, in reference to tomatoes. Two weeks ago we talked about a different kind of vine in Scouting the Divine: grapes and wine. What struck me comparing these two chapters, is that we need both, the seasonalness of tomatoes which have to be planted and tended every year AND the longtermness of wine where you won’t see the fruit of your labor for years.

I was interested in the history of the age-old question: is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?Who knew it was taxes and the Supreme Court in the U.S. that made the distinction “legal.” I loved the Mile Kington’s quote: Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

The overwhelming feeling I had reading this chapter was love and gratitude. Again and again I wrote in my notes something about my parents. I saw this up close! or The profound love of my parents. or I love my parents all the more!!

I did not expect reading this chapter to tie in so strongly to my parents, but reading takes us where it takes us, right? I am privileged to have been raised by wise people, not just knowledgeable. My parent’s wisdom was rooted in God, love, relationships, the bigger picture, and being a conduit of blessing.

This chapter brought several conversations or comments back to mind.

When I was in elementary school I asked my dad how much he earned. (A foreshadowing of my life in China where it was a common question? No, a window into my heart wanting to make sure I would be okay.) His answer? Amy, I am not going to tell you for two reasons. First, I do not want you telling your friends because some will not have as much as we do. Second, all you need to know is we have enough. You do not need to concern yourself.

Flash forward to high school when I was on the debate team. If you are not familiar with debate, there are strict time limits and when your time is up, you have to stop talking no matter how brilliant your point. I would time myself to see how quickly I could speak and still make sense. I do not remember the context, but I recall being in the kitchen and using our new microwave (cutting edge technology I could be around since I was not pregnant) to time myself. My father sighed and said, Amy, you know life is not a debate to win.

Apparently I needed that reminder because it has stuck with me.

Though an engineer, my dad was a very strong extrovert and absolutely loved talking with people. When we were kids, but not super young, my parents would sit in the living room for about 30 minutes after my dad came home from work and talk. Mostly my dad talked and told my mom every (boring) detail about the projects he was working on. Mom jokes that she is the best trained non-engineer there is.

Roll the clock a few more years and I’m in my early 20s.  I asked my mom, “Do you really like hearing all of those boring details? Dad goes on and on.” (I was charmingly immature. Let’s go with that, instead of downright rude.)

“No,” she admitted. “But I love your dad and the ‘L’ in ‘love’ stands for listen.” Wisdom, pure and simple.

One more. Move the clock forward a few more years and a family member made a decision that could have lead to a fracturing of our family. My mom said, “We will not lose this person over this decision.” The subsequent years found us exploring the dance between acceptance and approval, as we gladly extended one, but could not give the other. Wisdom can be messy, and confusing, and can lead to misunderstanding.

More than once, people said to me, “The Bible is very clear, how your family is handling this situation is wrong.”

But as Hannah said in this chapter, “Humility teaches us to be less concerned with knowing the answers and more concerned with learning the answers.”

I loved this part, “It’s interesting that while Jesus is concerned that His disciples grow in their understanding, He is also comfortable with them not knowing all things—in part because they aren’t ready for more knowledge yet. Jesus is also confident in the Holy Spirit’s ability to  take them through the process.”

If you haven’t read the book, Hannah also stresses we do not neglect the spiritual ABCs—Bible knowledge, prayer, and community. But that we need to “create space for the questions and doubt that lead to growth.”

Tomatoes take time to ripen. Grapes take years to turn into wine. God and his wisdom are knowable and mysterious.

I look forward to our conversations in the comments,


P.S. Did you see I have a new book out to help you connect with supporters? All the News That’s Fit to Tell and How to Tell It

Reading plan for Humble Roots and Scouting the Divine:

May 1—Chapter 7 in HR
May 8—Chapters 8 and 9 in HR
May 15—Part 2 (The Harvest) in SD
May 22—Chapters 10 and 11 in HR
May 29—We made it! Two books read in tandem we will review and have a Get to Know 

Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash


  1. Michele May 1, 2018

    There is SO much to comment on in this one chapter- and then even more when you bring the wisdom of your parents into the discussion! So good! But let me start with this: Did anyone else read about the reasons supermarket tomatoes taste terrible after eating garden ones all summer and think, “That is exactly why I can’t eat bananas in (or Canada, Europe) anymore?” They were fine growing up, but once you’ve had a banana in a country that grows bananas, the ones in the US either need to be blended into a smoothie with lots of other fruit, or left in the produce section.

    Aside from that, I was struck by this quote: “When we believe our righteousness comes from having the ‘right’ opinions or taking the ‘right’ position on an issue, we can never move from that position. I wonder how many of us see life as ‘a debate to be won’ because we have a sub-conscious understanding of our righteousness being tied to right opinions? I know I grew up in a church that at least subtly and sometimes pretty directly taught this kind of righteousness. As I work with people of very different opinions, it’s good to check my heart on this again, and even to be aware that the reason some friends are so vehemently clinging to and expressing their view is that they see their very righteousness tied to it.

    Another quote I loved is “In God’s wisdom the very process of learning binds us to HIm in a way that simply knowing the answers cannot. And so He asks you to trust Him. He asks you to live in dependence.” That just brings so much peace right there. Living in dependence on Him means living in intimacy with Him, and it’s just such a good way to live. It makes me grateful for this cross-cultural life that forces me to keep learning and keep leaning.

  2. Rachel Kahindi May 3, 2018

    I related to her inability to enjoy store tomatoes after growing her own. I used to think that I didn’t like mangoes. Then I had a ripe one, fresh from the tree whose shade I was enjoying here in Kenya, and suddenly I discovered that I don’t like mangoes when they’re picked early.

    The part about the dogmatic person needing to have right opinions and not be wrong really hit home – every debate on social media is found there. “If God accepts us based on our being right about every issue, then we must fight to prove ourselves right; but… none of us have any hope. If, however, God accepts you based on Jesus’ being right, then you are safe.” I don’t know everything. I never will. And that’s ok. Because: “while Jesus is concerned that his disciples grow in their understanding, he is also comfortable with them not knowing all things.”

    The other part that is staying with me is towards the end of the chapter. Regarding disciplining others: “We must learn to view spiritual formation as the process of ripening on the vine, not simply the process of turning red.” It’s so slow, and I want faster results, but faster only gives the appearance of results. That’s not what we need.

    1. Spring May 4, 2018

      Rachel I love your mango analagy! In Belize they eat green mangos. Just the thought makes me pucker. I have a friend from Belize who currently is in the US. She craves the green mangos. 🙂 I just pucker at the thought! All of that to say that yes there truly is a difference between one picked from the tree and a green one 😉

  3. Spring May 4, 2018

    This chapter brings back memories of both recent growing of tomatoes and times in my childhood. My dad definatly made me tomato sandwiches as described in the book. My mom, since children left her home has become more and more of a gardener. She has shelves inside her house where she starts her seedlings or keeps her precious flowers during the harsh winter. Two years ago we had so many grape tomatoes we gave hundreds away. I just love popping the juicy ones in my mouth and eating them in one bite.

    I love this distinction of wisdom. It is rooted in submitting to God, and takes time to mature. I spend a lot of time praying for wisdom. I think God generously has given it to me. Sometimes it doesn’t “appear” when I think it should. When she says my faith cannot rest on my ability to understand, it struck a chord with me. How can I touch others if I don’t trust that it’s not about me, how can I see His grace is at work in their lives?

    We live in a unique country that buds with pockets of Christianity. We have good friends who focus on appearance in their belief system. Sometimes It feels like they are attempting to convert us. This is hard. For them the outward dress and appearance signifies your walk with God. It is difficult to walk the line with them and yet believe that my heart is where the change happens first. This book helped me to think about myself and them with the grace that our situation requires.

    I love Amy that your family stuck to it’s guns in your response. It is difficult when those around you are telling you otherwise. You are so right that wisdom can be messy, thank you for the peace in embracing it.

  4. Annalisa May 5, 2018

    Question: If L is for “listen,” what are the O, V, and E for? Curious minds want to know.

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