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Wise or Clever?

Being clever does not mean that we always make wise decisions

by Kirstine Davis

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To consider the difference between wisdom and cleverness.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need the following proverbs from the Bible.

    - ‘Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.’ (Proverbs 19.20)
    – ‘The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, King of Israel: for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behaviour, doing what is right and just and fair.’ (Proverbs 1.1-3)

  • Optional: you may also wish to have available two hard hats and high-vis jackets.


  1. Use an example of a time when you did something wise, such as wearing sunscreen so that you didn’t get sunburn, gritting your garden path before the frost or putting an umbrella in your car in case it rained.

  2. Explain the ‘wise’ thing and describe the positive consequences of the action.

  3. Ask the children to think of their own examples of a time when they did something wise.

    Listen to a range of responses.

  4. Explain that there are many wise sayings in the world. Ask the children if they have heard the saying ‘look before you leap’. Ask what they think the saying means. Explain that it could mean that it is important to check where we are going to land before we jump off a wall. However, it also has a wider meaning – we should think about the consequences of what we are going to do before we do it.

  5. The holy book for Christians, the Bible, contains many wise sayings. Many of them can be found in the Book of Proverbs.

    Read Proverbs 19.20: ‘Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.’

    Ask the children what they think this verse means.

    Listen to a range of responses.

  6. Read Proverbs 1.1-3: ‘The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, King of Israel: for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behaviour, doing what is right and just and fair.’

    Explain that the things that are mentioned in these verses are important – behaving well, being wise and doing what is right and fair. However, the verses don’t mention being clever. There is a difference between cleverness and wisdom.

  7. Ask the children if they can think of how cleverness and wisdom are different.

    Listen to a range of responses.

    Ask the children to think about these differences as they listen to the following story.

  8. Ask two volunteers to come to the front and name them ‘Jack’ and ‘Joe’. (Optional: if the hard hats and high-vis jackets are available, ask the volunteers to put them on.)

    Explain that one volunteer is called Jack. Whenever you say the word ‘Jack’, you want half of the room to cheer.

    Explain that the other volunteer is called Joe. Whenever you say the word ‘Joe, you want the other half of the room to cheer. Check that the children know what to do and have a quick practice.

  9. Explain that the story also involves some actions when the following words are spoken.

    - ‘Build’: the children should place their fists on top of each other.
    - ‘House’: the children should make a house shape with their hands and say, ‘Ta-da!’
    Rain’: the children should make a pattering noise.
    - Wind’: the children should move their hands around.
    - Foundations’: the children should tap on the floor.

    Practise the actions, although the children will need reminding as the story progresses.

  10. Building Well

    Once, there were two men called Jack and Joe.
    Jack was very clever. Joe . . . wasn’t.
    Jack passed every exam with top marks and was good at everything. Joe . . . wasn’t.
    Jack had loads of money. Joe . . . didn’t.

    One day, both men decided to build a house. Jack was so clever that he thought he knew everything there was to know about building, so he got to work straightaway.
    Joe . . . didn’t. He realized that he didn’t know much about building a house, so he asked some of his friends who were builders what he needed to do. After he had found out lots of information, he started building.

    Both men worked hard for a long time, and eventually, they finished their housesBy this time, it was winter. One night, there was a huge storm. The rain poured down and the wind blew fiercely, and both houses got a bashing. Both of them were made from good materials and they were both about the same size, but only one fell down.

    It was Jack’s that fell down. Why? Because he had built it on a swamp by mistake. He hadn’t looked at the land and he hadn’t built any foundations.

    Joe’s didn’t fall down because Joe had checked with other people. He had asked for help to get his house right and had learnt all about foundations.

    So, you can see that being clever doesn’t necessarily make you wise. Sometimes, we all need to ask for help and listen to other people.

  11. Well, that was a fun story, wasn’t it? It’s finished now, so you don’t need to continue with the actions. That bit at the end about the foundations was interesting, though: what are you building your lives on?

Time for reflection

What are we building our lives on? Are we being good friends? Are we helping other people?

Another proverb states, ‘All that glitters is not gold.’ Sometimes, we get a toy and the packaging makes it look amazing, but when we open it, we are disappointed by the contents. This proverb is telling us that just because something looks amazing on the outside, it isn’t necessarily great on the inside.

This saying applies to people as well as toys: it doesn’t matter what people look like, what they are like is far more important. Are they patient, kind, generous, loving, joyful . . .?

Spend a moment thinking about this proverb.

Dear Lord,
Help us to be wise.
Help us to ask other people for help when we need it.
Help us to be good on the inside, not just on the outside.

Publication date: June 2018   (Vol.20 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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