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Wise men

To consider the meaning of wisdom.

by Janice Ross

Suitable for Key Stage 3


To consider the meaning of wisdom.

Preparation and materials

  • Display the following definitions of wisdom on a whiteboard:
    (a)  ‘scholarly knowledge or learning’
    (b)  ‘knowledge of what is true and right coupled with just judgement as to action, discernment, insight’.
  • For Christians the wisdom described in (b) may be defined as ‘insight into spiritual realities leading to Christlike words and actions’. Jesus spoke of this wisdom, contrasting it with the first definition, when he said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will’ (Matthew 11.25–26).
  • Display one of the images found on the Web for ‘Wise men still seek him’.


  1. We are going to be considering the word ‘wisdom’. Who do you consider to be a wise person? (Ask for suggestions and reasons for the choice.)

    These people are certainly clever, but are they wise?

    It depends on what we mean by ‘wise’.
  2. (Display the first definition.)

    Stephen Hawking, for example, certainly has that kind of wisdom.

    (Add any names the students have suggested.)

    There might even be some teachers here who you would put in that category!
  3. The Christmas story includes ‘wise men from the East’. These were certainly scholarly and learned men. They were probably astrologers who had studied the many ancient writings of Persia (now known as Iraq).

    An unusual star in the sky heralded a very important birth. The wise men (the Greek word is magi) had probably travelled a great distance over mountains and deserts to arrive in the little country of Palestine. They went first to the palace of the king in Jerusalem. After all, that’s where you would expect to find a king. But they soon realized they were looking in the wrong place.

    When the wise men left the king’s palace, they were thrilled when they saw the star again, moving in the sky ahead of them. When the star stopped, it was over a stable in the small town of Bethlehem, six miles south of Jerusalem.

    The wise men went into the stable. (They may perhaps have hoisted up their rich garments and picked where to tread extremely carefully. It was a stable!)

    The Bible tells us that when they saw Mary and Joseph and the baby, ‘they knelt down and worshipped’.
  4. (Display definition (b).)

    Perhaps we might say that the wise men were wise because at that moment they had ‘knowledge of what is true and right’.
    We know that they also had discernment and insight into the truth because they recognized that this newly born infant was somehow significant – Christians claim that he was the Son of God – and that a new era had been ushered in by his birth.

    These wise men could kneel in a stable, humbly worship a baby, and offer the finest of gifts – gold, frankincense and myrrh.
  5. This same baby, when he grew up, became a great teacher. He told his followers to be wise in the way they lived their lives. He encouraged them to build their lives on a good, solid foundation of truth and faith so that when life threw its many storms at them, they would remain firm.

Time for reflection

Consider what you have heard about Jesus, in school, at home, in church, through books.

(Show the image ‘Wise men still seek him’, and allow a time for silent reflection.)

Dear God,
thank you for people around us
who are clever and intelligent
and have much knowledge and learning to pass on to us.
Thank you for the gift of a free education.
Thank you that your wisdom goes far beyond any human knowledge.
Thank you that you are willing to share your wisdom with us,
that your wisdom is available even to young people.
Teach us your ways.


‘We three Kings’

Publication date: December 2012   (Vol.14 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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