He had done life both ways–pursuing wisdom and going after folly. He was a thinker, knowing that life was meant to be lived and that there were different ways to live it. And he had the smarts to devise experiments that would maximize his experience. What’s more, he had the means to make the world his laboratory. And so, he said to himself, “Self, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself” (Eccl. 2:1).
And enjoy himself he did. He laid hold of folly (2:3). He drank hard. He worked hard. He made whatever he wanted to make. Accumulated whatever he wanted to accumulate. Enjoyed whatever he wanted to enjoy.
Whatever his eyes desired, he gave them. Whatever his brain could think for his hands to do, he did it. And his heart found pleasure in all his toil (2:4-10).
Eventually, he sat back and considered all that his hands had done. Noodled on all that he had to show for the energy and expense he had put out. Evaluated which way was better–the way of wisdom or the way of folly–and concluded:
. . . that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness.
(Ecclesiastes 2:13 ESV)
Wisdom is better than folly. He knew that. But, in the end, he was frustrated.
Though he added a ton of experiential knowledge to his already vast knowledge reserves, though he had grown in wisdom through what he had been a first-hand witness to, though he knew wisdom was the better way than folly, when all was said and done . . . he was done!
Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun . . . Then I said in my heart, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?” And I said in my heart that this also is vanity. For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool!
(Ecclesiastes 2:11, 15-16 ESV)
Under the sun. It’s the great equalizer.
Whether you go the way of wisdom or go the way of folly, if all there is is what’s under the sun, then there’s nothing to be gained. If life’s purpose is nothing more than to somehow get through life, then it really doesn’t matter how you go about it. If the wisest of the wise is eventually forgotten like the greatest of fools, then what’s it all for?
I’m reading Solomon’s thought processing and I realize afresh that if we are not living lives that are eternal, if we are not laying up treasures for a life beyond this life, if we are not anticipating that whatever happens and gets done during our earthbound years is just setting the stage for real life afterwards, then so what?!? What difference does it make if the entire game, set, and match are played and won, or lost, only under the sun?
Doesn’t matter what you do, how much you make, how many toys you acquire, or even how much you invest in, or give away to good causes, if it’s all contained to what’s under the sun, then it’s vanity, a striving after wind.
That’s why heavenly minded people can be of such earthly good, because they live life in the context of a future–a forever, glorious future. Knowing that what’s done today will have implications which last forever. Sure, some stuff will get burned up in the transition from this life to the next, but other stuff will come through the fire that tests our lives as “gold, sliver, precious stones” worthy of eternal reward (1Cor. 3:10-15). That’s why we choose wisdom.
Wisdom is better than folly.
Solomon verified that through his life experiments. But if life is only lived under the sun, then it doesn’t really matter. However, if life, true life, abundant life, extends beyond the sun, then the wisdom of God and the ways of God are not only better for this life, but for the life to come.
And the One who is Wisdom personified is worthy of our allegiance.
. . . but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
(1Corinthians 1:23-24 ESV)
. . . that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
(Colossians 2:2-3 ESV)
Wisdom is better, Christ is better. And life–our forever life–is better . . . when we live with our minds set beyond the sun.
That’s just smart thinking. Amen?
By His grace. For His glory.