Repeat the following prayer at least three to five times. Longer if you wish.
Wisdom, make Your home in the fabric of my being. Amen.
So I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly. For what can the man do who comes after the king? Only what has already been done. Then I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness. The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I perceived that the same event happens to all of them. Then I said in my heart, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?” And I said in my heart that this also is vanity. For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool! So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind. (Ecclesiastes 2:12-17 ESV)
“What’s the point?”
I think all of us can relate to Solomon at one time or another. Discouraged, depressed, and bone-wearied by the injustices of the world, we throw up our hands in disgust, despising life and hopeless that anything we do will have any lasting merit. Have you felt that way, perhaps even during these past three months we’ve spent trying to grow in godly wisdom? We read, pray, and do our best, yet we feel like either we’re never going to be the person we’re trying to be, or we feel like it doesn’t really matter anyway. Who cares? we might say. What’s the point?
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I have read the book of Ecclesiastes many times over the years, but this time I noticed something that I had never considered before now: Solomon was wrong about something. And that has really encouraged me today.
Take a moment to go back and read the text again.
Then I said in my heart, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?” And I said in my heart that this also is vanity. For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten.
Do you see the irony in that statement? Wisdom is the very reason Solomon is remembered thousands of years after his body has turned to dust.
There he was, meandering around his gardens, pondering all he had accomplished and ultimately concluding that it was all meaningless. Yet here we are, total strangers living many millennia after him, studying his words and learning from his example.
You know what, guys? The pursuit of wisdom is never a vain pursuit. Like Solomon, we may not be able to see the fruit of our efforts in the day-to-day. We may feel at times like we are merely chasing after the wind. But seeking to grow in wisdom is time well spent. He had it right earlier: “…there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness. The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness.”
When we walk in wisdom, we leave a meaningful mark on the world. We may not be able to see the fullness of what that looks like in each of our unique journeys, but we may be sure that it is true. When I seek to be a wiser spouse, parent, child, and friend, it matters. Same goes for you.
Solomon ultimately knew this to be true as well. Despite his dismissal of wisdom as a vain pursuit, he reiterates several times throughout this collection of writings that wisdom is better than folly:
Wisdom gives strength to the wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city. Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins. Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others. All this I have tested by wisdom. I said, “I will be wise,” but it was far from me. That which has been is far off, and deep, very deep; who can find it out? I turned my heart to know and to search out and to seek wisdom and the scheme of things, and to know the wickedness of folly and the foolishness that is madness. (Ecclesiastes 7:19-25 ESV)
The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good. (Ecclesiastes 9:17-18 ESV)
I think today’s application is to stay encouraged! All of us face days when we feel down, fruitless, and like all of our efforts and good intentions are in vain. They’re not. God was at work in and through Solomon even when he couldn’t see or appreciate it. The very thing he dismissed as vanity was the thing that endured as his lasting legacy. The same can be true for each of us. Let’s trust that, as we seek to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (Col 1:10),” we are building a lasting legacy for our children and our children’s children. Let’s not give in to the despair of thinking any holy pursuit is a waste of time.