There is a Persian proverb that sounds more like a tongue twister than sound advice. My high school speech teacher had us memorize it for obvious reasons:
He who knows not, and knows not that he knows not, is a fool; shun him.
He who knows not, and knows that he knows not, is a child; teach him.
He who knows, and knows not that he knows, is asleep; wake him.
He who knows, and knows that he knows, is wise; follow him.
All four “types” can be found on every campus, in any business, among all neighborhoods, within each church. They don’t wear badges, nor do they introduce themselves accordingly. You’ll never have someone walk up, shake your hand, and say, “Hi, I’m Dan. I’m a fool.” Chances are good that the last thing he will want you to discover is the deep-down truth that “he knows not that he knows not.”
Then how in the world are we to know whom to shun, to teach, to awaken, or to follow? Discernment is the answer. Skill and accuracy in reading character. The ability to detect and identify the real truth. To see beneath the surface and correctly “size up” the situation. To read between the lines of the visible.
Is it a valuable trait? Answer for yourself. When God told Solomon to make a wish—any wish—and it would be granted, the king responded:
“Give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil.” (1 Kings 3:9)
And who doesn’t know about the wisdom of Solomon to this very day? Paul informed us that discernment is one characteristic that accompanies genuine spirituality (1 Corinthians 2:14-16). The writer of Hebrews 5:14 called it a mark of maturity. Discernment gives one a proper frame of reference, a definite line separating good and evil. It acts as an umpire in life and blows the whistle on the spurious. It’s as particular as a pathologist peering into a microscope. Discernment picks and chooses its dates with great care. It doesn’t fall for fakes
. . . or flirt with phonies
. . . or dance with deceivers
. . . or kiss counterfeits good night.
Come to think of it, discernment would rather relax alone at night with the Good Book than mess around with the gullible gang. You see, it’s from that Book that discernment learns to distinguish the fools from the children . . . and the sleeping from the wise.
Before you start in on the old bromide, “But that doesn’t sound very loving!” better take another look at John’s counsel. You remember John. He’s the guy known for his tender love for Jesus. He wrote:
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God. (1 John 4:1)
“Stop believing everything you hear. Quit being so easily convinced. Be selective. Think. Discern!”