Ecclesiastes and Wisdom

"Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.
'For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.'"
Ecclesiastes 1:17-18

I think the writer of Ecclesiastes is wrong in this section. The pursuit of wisdom is not chasing after the wind. Wisdom does not bring sorrow. That's not to say that I don't believe the book of Ecclesiastes is inspired. It's just that it is a whole book, and it, along with Job, are two of the most dangerous books to just take a section out of and act like those few verses are the truth. They are great to study and wrestle with as they show the common thoughts of the time. Thoughts that have morphed but retain their material in today's age.

The wayward journey of a life apart from God is what most of Ecclesiastes is expressing. His words connect because we can relate to the feeling in moments of despair. But the truth is that fearing God and keeping His commandments is what will make you whole. It brings meaning to the knowledge. It brings insight to the path of the Lord (true wisdom).God brings meaning to the meaningless. God brings hope to despair. God brings life to folly. While the writer of Ecclesiastes states that everything is vain, God and His people are in the business of bringing beauty into this world of messes. And this is the conclusion of the book. Throughout the book, we see the ramblings of a lost man. The ending, which many argue was tacked on by another writer, states the true purpose of life: Fearing God and keeping His commandments will make you whole.

Solomon was lost. Not because of his wisdom but because of ignoring his wisdom. He desired women, wealth, and power over doing what he knew was the right thing to do. Wisdom is knowing what is right or wrong (1 Kings 3:9). How can knowing the right way to go be a bad thing? It only is a bad thing in the mind of the depressed and despairing author of Ecclesiastes, and us when we share in the depression and despair. We love to wallow in our hopelessness. It's even better when we can share the mud with others. Not being accusatory toward anyone else; I know this from experience. But God offers hope to the despairing if we will just fear God and keep his commandments. In that place we will be whole despite our temporary feelings of brokenness.

If the writings discarding wisdom throughout Ecclesiastes is an inspired conclusion, then it contradicts with other non-poetic/non-artistic passages of Scripture. Wisdom is a thing to be desired (Proverbs 1-2,16:16, 8:11). God promises to give us wisdom (James 1:5). God was pleased with Solomon when he asked for it (1 Kings 3:10). Wisdom is just knowing how to discern right from wrong and discovering what God wants us to do with our life. It is a frustrating thing to not have; it is a beautiful thing to discover. Like the writer of Proverbs describes it, wisdom is like the prominent, powerful lady of the city. Something we should desire to be part of our lives.
"Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace" (James 3:13-18 ESV).
Ignorance might seem like bliss at times. Seeing the brokenness around us does cause us grief, as the writer expressed. But knowledge is what opens our eyes to bringing about the necessary change in this world, a world that we would like to shield from our eyes at times. Wisdom lets us know how to go about bringing that change into reality. The lack of knowledge allows us to be deceived and manipulated. It also allows us to pretend like everything is fine, which leads to us not living a life passionately pursuing God's kingdom. The lack of wisdom causes us to go in the wrong direction. Knowledge and wisdom are both good things in their proper place, but we must always remember that the greatest is love.

Ecclesiastes and Job are minefields when not read in their entirety. They are not to be read like other books. They are there to keep us from worshiping wisdom itself rather than the God who gives us wisdom.