Lord, endow me with the wisdom from above.
Read ECCLESIASTES 1:12–18
Wisdom Is Meaningless
12 I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind! 14 I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
15 What is crooked cannot be straightened;
what is lacking cannot be counted.
16 I said to myself, “Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.
18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
the more knowledge, the more grief.
New International Version (NIV)
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“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (Jas. 1:5).
As Paul cautions the Corinthian Christians, “knowledge puffs up.” Twelve times in seven verses the Teacher makes reference to “I,” “me” or “myself.” He relies on his own “wisdom” to provide answers to the perennial question about life’s meaning—and he ends up disappointed, dissatisfied and disgruntled, and, if he’s not careful, disillusioned.
Donald Rumsfeld, a former US Secretary of Defense, observed, “There are known knowns. These are the things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.” The Teacher’s claim to have seen and studied “all” things doesn’t admit to any “known unknowns,” let alone “unknown unknowns”! His sweeping conclusion (14) is based on incomplete data. Moreover, his investigation is limited to what can be known “under the sun” (14), which excludes the whole realm of reality above and beyond the sun. This is akin to the modern idea that “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be,” effectively factoring God out of the equation. The result is a “chasing after the wind” (17)—aspiring towards what is unattainable. Moreover, life with its many twists (“what is crooked,” 15) and gaps (“what is lacking,” 15) throws him a curve ball. The speculative wisdom of Ecclesiastes thus offers a necessary balance to the distilled wisdom of Proverbs.
Saturday’s reading prompted reflection on the “hole” deep within, which aches because we can’t fill it. Today’s passage demonstrates that there are some questions of life that neither science nor Google can resolve! Without wisdom from above, increased knowledge only intensifies individual frustration (18); the more you understand, the more you might ache.
Prayerfully consider how you will creatively and consistently build God into the equation of every part of everyday living.
Lord, keep me from becoming disillusioned as I work through all that life throws at me, and help me to keep my eyes steadfast upon You.