For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief. Ecclesiastes 1, verse 18.
This is the last verse of the chapter. If you think back, Ecclesiastes chapter one is a pretty bleak picture. Everything you think, know, do, want, or conceive is meaningless. Humanism is a dead end; secularism is pointless. Even living just for the sake of living is pretty much a waste of time.
Without God, that is.
The capstone on it comes with this verse. All you could ever learn will only bring you sorrow. The more you learn, the worse off you will be.
And this from the most knowledgeable man who ever lived. Think your best college professor or best teacher on academic steroids, steeped in common sense and real wisdom the likes of which you or I can’t even touch. After all he had learned, after recognizing all the knowledge in the world and applying true wisdom to it, the Teacher (presumably King Solomon) found that it wasn’t worth crap. The more he looked into things, the more distraught he knew he would become. The more he tried to delve into the way of things the more hopeless he felt.
Without God, that is.
If you’ve ever felt the itch to want to know more, this has to be a downer for you. I mean, isn’t that one of man’s deepest yearnings, to know more? It’s very Star Trek: to boldly go where no man has gone before. That yearning goes way, way back in time. It was the basest of yearnings to which Satan appealed in the Garden. “Don’t you want to be like God?”
Isn’t that what such knowledge craving really boils down to? Simple idolatry? So would it be any wonder that the wisest man in history would contemplate being a man who knew all things and, knowing them, finding out that it wasn’t enough? What is there beyond knowing all things?
Being God, of course. Even a simpleton like me knows that.
Centuries later, what’s changed? A massive percentage of the US economy is tied to funding college education. I read a blog post this morning where the blogger played Paul Revere, warning of an impending financial collapse of the ponzi scheme that is the financing of higher education. If you spend too long in the ivy halls of academia, whether it’s in a secular university or even in the hallowed halls of theological seminary, you find that the quest for knowledge can be neverending. You can learn one thing and then another and another. it’s like looking forward through one of those pictures where the person in the picture is holding a picture of themselves holding a picture of themselves. Dig as deep as you want and every answer will pose another question.
Without God, that is. I bet you get the picture.
Granted (and we talked about this the other day) there’s nothing wrong with learning, or pursuing a degree, or getting multiple degrees. Learning is admirable and encouraged and even Godly. Check out Job 22, Psalm 107, Jeremiah 9, Luke 10, John 17, Colossians 1 and 2nd Peter 1. Learning is how we acquire knowledge of God through His creation of which we’re all a part. It’s when that learning takes the place of whom we’re learning about that trouble comes into play. “Apart from me you can do nothing,” said Christ and that’s one of the things He meant. God is the foundation of all knowledge. Learning apart from God results in nothing and nothingness. Or, as Solomon said, “for with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.”
I think we’ve heard that before. And since that’s the case, then this is a good place to end. Next stop: let’s talk about the ‘good stuff’ in life.