Is it Better To Be Smart or Clever? (Proverbs 4:7)

My maternal grandfather came from Japan to Honolulu, Hawaii at the age of 17 years. He remained in Hawaii, marrying, and raising a family. Being a first generation Japanese, english was not his native language and he struggled to communicate with his grandchildren. Once I learned a little Japanese, I attempted to engage him in conversation, but he was a quiet man, and in any language, we probably would not have much dialogue.

Many years later, when he knew he was dying from stomach cancer, he broke his silence one day and asked his children, in english, “Is is better to be smart or clever?” The question caught everyone by surprise and, after a few moments of awkward silence, one of my uncles cautiously answered him, “Both are important, but I suppose it is better to be smart.” My grandfather thought about his answer, nodded affirmatively, and said nothing more. A few months later, he passed away.

I have often pondered about this interaction, not only what asking the question meant to my grandfather but why he asked it and what insight he gathered from the answer. What is my answer? When I was a young adult and I first heard this story, without hesitation, I thought I would want to be clever. After all, many people can be book smart but have no common sense. Life often throws us curve balls and it is the clever person that can navigate its slippery slopes. But as I grew older, I realized that being smart was not as limiting as it may seem. I was confusing being smart and being wise; the two were not synonymous.

Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom.
And in all your getting, get understanding.
Proverbs 4:7

The Bible is our manual for life. It clearly points us in the direction of wisdom. It is not enough to know something, we must truly know and integrate it within our very being. And Wisdom personified is Jesus Christ. When we accept Him as our Lord and Savior, we are welcoming wisdom into our life.

My grandfather exhibited wisdom by asking this question. Deep down, I suspect he knew that being smart or clever is not enough. We must learn to be wise.

Aloha blessings!
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.