The Limitations of Wisdom
Open Your Bible
Ecclesiastes 1:12-18, Genesis 2:15-17, Genesis 3:1-7, James 3:13-17
BY Ellen Taylor
I’ve always loved school. I was never the kid who held up the thermometer to a lamp so I could stay home, and the only time I ever cried about having to go to school was when it was the last day before summer. Even in high school, when getting up at 6:30 in the morning seemed like the worst thing in the world, I was still so happy to be at school once I got there (as long as I got there with some coffee).
Because of my love for school, my family and I have often joked that being a life-long student would be my dream job. And it’s true, really, most of my current career aspirations involve school, school, and then more school. It’s even better that my subject of choice is theology; I get to learn about God every day.
When I was in divinity school, I had a bit of a crisis of faith. I found myself asking, “What is the point of paying all this money to learn about a God who is so beyond our comprehension that we could never learn all there is to know?” The learning began to feel ominous, daunting, and scary, rather than invigorating and inviting.
The author of Ecclesiastes is asking a similar question in today’s reading. Many scholars believe that King Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, and he is known as one of the wisest men in the Bible. He has spent all of this time learning and seeking out wisdom, but for what? He writes, “I applied my mind to know wisdom and knowledge, madness and folly; I learned that this too is a pursuit of the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:17). He has come to the realization that not even the greatest knowledge will satisfy his deepest desire. Nothing compares to a relationship with God.
I found this out the hard way in grad school. One of the hardest things for me was that I couldn’t seem to find colleagues who talked about God like God is real. For so many, God is something to be studied, rather than someone to know. In my life as a writer and editor now, I make every effort to both study and know God, because there is always more to learn, but He already knows it all.
There is a vast difference in knowledge about God and knowledge of God. Even though I love learning more than any other earthly thing, knowledge about God can never compare to the contentment of knowing of God—having a personal relationship with the Creator of knowledge Himself.