The wise man’s eyes are in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I know that one fate befalls them both.
If Solomon could not find joy in living, maybe he could find it on the second stop of his quest for meaning in life: learning, or wisdom. When he became king of Israel, God told him, in essence, “Solomon, I will give you anything you ask for.” And unlike most nineteen-year-old guys, who would want a flashy girlfriend or the latest model chariot, Solomon asked God for wisdom. So later he thought, “If I accumulate enough knowledge, maybe I can find purpose in living.”
Is there any advantage to wisdom? Look at Ecclesiastes 2:14: “The wise man’s eyes are in his head, but the fool walks in darkness.” Of course there is a great advantage to learning, but there are limitations as well. In his commentary on Ecclesiastes, Iain Provan wrote, “One of my earliest memories as a university student is of standing at a party watching an extremely bright philosophy major, a bottle of vodka in one hand, sitting against a wall while banging his head rhythmically against it.” That is the futility of knowledge. No matter how much of the world’s philosophy you understand, you will never find the reason for your existence.
Not only that, but whatever knowledge you accumulate, you are going to leave it behind. Verse 14 says, “I know that one fate befalls them both.” The wise and the foolish have the same fate, and it is the grave. Solomon continued, “‘Why then have I been extremely wise?’ So I said to myself, ‘This too is vanity’” (v. 15). If everybody is going to die, what is the point of building your life around acquiring knowledge? Commentator Derek Kidner put it this way: “[If] every card in our hand will be trumped, does it matter how we play?” God holds the trump card for every person, and its name is death. That is the futility of building your life around knowledge.
In the late 1980s, scientists started building a massive particle accelerator in a town just south of Dallas. They thought if they could determine how the universe began, it would somehow bring meaning to our existence. They managed to dig a giant tunnel, but after a few years and a few billion dollars, the project was canceled.
Let me tell you something: you are not going to find the meaning of life in a billion-dollar hole in Waxahachie, Texas. If you want to know how the universe began, all you have to do is turn to Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Building your life around that fact is the key to true wisdom in life.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Three Ls of an Empty Life” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2009.
Iain Provan, “Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs,” The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 83; Derek Kidner, “The Message of Ecclesiastes,” The Bible Speaks Today, ed. J. A. Motyer (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1984), 34.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.