The Vanity of Wisdom and Knowledge

Reading the Word

Ecclesiastes 1:12–18 (ESV)
12 I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem.
13 And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.
14 I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.
15 What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted.
16 I said in my heart, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.”
17 And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.
18 For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Solomon was king in Israel after taking the place of David, his father. Solomon was known for his great wisdom (1 Kings 3:1-28). In today’s reading, Solomon tells us that he set forth to make sense of life through the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge. He concluded that such pursuit only resulted in vexation and sorrow.

Why would the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge be a dead end road? Because wisdom and knowledge does not change reality. This is Solomon’s point in verse 15 when he says, “What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted.” When we gain wisdom and knowledge we only become more aware of the pain and sorrow of living in this world marred by sin and death. It leads only to greater sorrow.

Of course, there is wisdom and knowledge that does free us. It is the wisdom and knowledge of Jesus Christ and the salvation he gives all who believe in him. Do you know Christ? Make knowing him your highest pursuit.


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