Ecclesiastes 7:1-14: Wisdom
October 9, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
This section about wisdom really needs to be read in context of some of the verses that immediately follow it. Consider verse 15, “In this meaningless life of mine…” and then verse 16, “Do not be over-righteous neither be over-wise…” Or verse 22, “’I am determined to be wise’—but this was beyond me.” He is “searching” but not “finding” (verse 28).
In other words, while the first fourteen verses are full of much practical wisdom from which we can learn, the reason why they are here is to show us that even this kind of practical, pious wisdom is ultimately meaningless. Why? Because no one can really attain to the necessary wisdom that is required to experience the benefits of wisdom. And even if you could, there is a danger: the dour, “wise,” but sad scholar; the prudent but unexciting sensible person who never experiences the thrill of risk. The “over-wise,” in the “teacher’s” phrase, is not itself a life of meaning either.
So, by all means, “wisdom…is a good thing and benefits those who see the sun” (verse 11)—“seeing the sun” being a synonymous idea with “under the sun.” Even, “under the sun,” wisdom is a good thing. And it is better than money: “Wisdom is a shelter, as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: wisdom preserves those who have it” (verse 12). So it is better to be wise than not-wise; that is for sure! But wisdom, without a relationship with God that shows you the certainty of an eternal future, that kind of wisdom (even a sort-of “pious” wisdom) is ultimately meaningless. “No one can discover anything about their future.”
In other words, this is not the wisdom of Proverbs, which tells us that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. That kind of wisdom leaves no bitter taste in your mouth, for it is governed by a personal relationship and honoring of God in intimacy and awe. This kind of wisdom here, even with an element of religious piety to it, will in the end be deeply disappointing. I could show you people who have bought into this kind of wisdom, even churchgoers on occasion, who are learned and sensible—but have experienced the bitter fruit of worshipping wisdom rather than worshipping God.
Do not be like them! Do not love books more than you love The Book! Do not love knowledge more than you love to know God! Do not love to be wise more than you love the Giver of wisdom! In short, live your life “above the sun,” and find in God, and the fear of God, the life that is truly life and that is fulfilled in Christ and faith in him.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
To receive God Centered Life devotionals directly in your inbox, as well as other resources, enter your email address in the form at the bottom of this page and click "subscribe."