Pursuit of Wisdom

The pursuit of wisdom for wisdom’s sake is in itself futility.

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.

Ecclesiastes 1:2 (ESV)

“Vanity” is the same word as futility and the name, Abel, which is the first recorded death in the Bible.

All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.

Ecclesiastes 3:20 (ESV)

The highest value is God. Do not eliminate the highest value, because God is what gives us meaning.

It’s important to learn these cycles to have wisdom, but without God there isn’t meaning to these cycles. They’re just cycles.

Knowledge does breed more difficulty and pain in the world, but this isn’t without an upside if you have God as your highest value. In other words, there’s pain/angst/worry/fear that comes with knowing more about this broken world, which can then draw you closer to your walk with God and grow your faith.

What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted.

Ecclesiastes 1:15 (ESV)

The mysterious can’t be figured out. Questions always lead to more questions!

For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.

Ecclesiastes 1:18 (ESV)

It’s not that ignorance is bliss, but that the pursuit of wisdom itself is unending and ultimately pointless. Aristotle states it fairly well, “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.”

O Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
    Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
    to still the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
    and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
    and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
    you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
    and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
    whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalm 8 (ESV)

We are to still pursue knowledge and wisdom, but to always keep God at the center of it all.

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it.

Psalm 139:1-6 (ESV)

God grants us knowledge and wisdom as we have need of it, and never all of it. God knows things about me that I don’t know about myself. God even gives us knowledge of Him, but there’s lots of room for mystery. True knowledge of God is too much for us to grasp!

19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Romans 1:19-23 (ESV)

When we try to understand everything about God, we inevitably make him smaller and negate faith. (Pastor’s book recommendation on the perspective of trying to know God: The Domestication of Transcendence by William Placher.)

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (ESV)

If we could understand God, then He’s not big enough. We’re not supposed to understand the mysteries of God.

19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

Romans 8:19-21 (ESV)

It’s interesting to note that “futility” here is the same word that’s used for “vanity” in Ecclesiastes 1:2.