top of page
  • Joe Norton

In Much Wisdom (4/28/2024)

For in much wisdom is much grief,

And he who increases in knowledge increases sorrow” (Ecclesiastes 1:18).


By reversing customary literary style, the preacher Solomon opens this book with a dramatic conclusion—"all (meaning everything) is vanity” (verse 2). In doing so, he introduces a masterly-crafted storehouse of insight into life—that is, he teaches his readers what is important in life.


Solomon is a worthy teacher because he has lived a life filled with experiences of all kinds, some good and some bad. We stand like those men of old: we are still happy today to stand “continually before him (Solomon) to hear his wisdom.”


After providing detailed descriptions of what he means by “all is vanity,” he inserts verse 18 (a bookend to verse 2), causing us to question our own understanding: if “wisdom” is good, how can it be the source of “grief”? And how can “knowledge” cause more “sorrow”?


The “wisdom” of men can indeed be good, but with such “wisdom” comes an understanding of how much we do that is unwise. “Knowledge,” too, is good, but it brings with it a deeper awareness of how much more there is to be known—we never seem to know enough to feel satisfied.


The preacher is not disparaging wisdom or knowledge. His point is that we need to put these attributes in perspective, not allowing them to turn us aside from what is most important and that is God—our knowledge of Him and our relationship with Him. With this understanding, we are truly wise and knowledgeable in ways that will count for eternity (see Ecclesiastes 12:13).



bottom of page