“I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. 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. I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.
What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted.
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.” 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.
For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow. (Ecclesiastes 1:12-18 ESV)”
In the not too distant past, I was the “fixer” type. Jobs, friends, boyfriends, even societal norms… I was convinced that I could make a difference. Plus, having tons of energy, I knew *I* could make everything better!
Once upon a time, I was a new instructor at a moderate-sized University. I wasn’t even on the tenure-track, but I thought I could help the department improve many of their problems! I was naive to say the least, and all my “great ideas” managed to accomplish was to alienate the tenured professors. A year later, another new faculty member traveled down that same path and enjoyed the same outcome.
When I became a Christian, I chose to ignore the scripture regarding the importance of being “equally yoked”. My only new dating requirement was that the guy be open to the possibility of God. I was convinced that dating me would encourage him to pursue God. Unfortunately, it didn’t take me long to figure out that all this accomplished was to pull me back into the flesh!
I’ve had to learn (the hard way), that not all problems can be completely resolved. And even when they can, the result isn’t always the warm and fuzzy feeling you expect…
In these verses, the Qohelet describes how pursuing wisdom regarding the burden God has given us, as well as wisdom in general, is meaningless, a chasing after wind. I don’t believe the author is implying that wisdom is bad, only that it illuminates the true nature of the world, and is thus disheartening. “Ignorance is bliss,” or so I understand….
Wisdom is not pointless, and is definitely better than folly, but if one seeks wisdom with the goal of “saving the world”, they may be missing the point. Have you ever noticed that the more society tries to solve some problems, the worse they become?
Sometimes I feel that the more laws we have to “protect” people, the more foolish society, as a whole, becomes. It’s almost like increased legislation seems to decrease personal responsibility. Telling someone they can’t or shouldn’t do something makes them want to do it more! Censorship is a good example….
Does this mean we should stop trying to make a difference? Not at all! I just think we should remember that we live in a fallen world and that we cannot save everyone and everything completely on our own. You cannot fight spiritual battles with worldly weapons! Trusting God for wisdom and looking to Him for intervention in solving our problems is our best opportunity for a joyful, meaningful life!