“For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
What a depressing start to a book! Ecclesiastes is one of the most interesting and intriguing documents in all of the Old Testament. Interpreters have struggled for centuries to understand what exactly is the perspective of the Teacher (whom tradition has long held to be Solomon). Is he positive on life? Is he negative? Is he confused?
I tend to think of him as fundamentally honest. After reflecting long and wide on the nature of life and the world, he has come to see that there is much that is futile and meaningless in this life. There is a certain cynical tone to his writings as he reflects on the fact that mistakes that have been made before will be made again. Ideas that were bad and rejected will eventually make another appearance only to be rejected again. People run themselves into the ground to make a life for themselves only to die and have nothing more to do with it. They may leave an inheritance, but they have no control over how this is used. A person’s legacy can be utterly wiped away in a single generation.
There are better ways to get through life than others, to be sure, but what’s the point? This is the question that will drive the Teacher’s thoughts and ponderings. It’s one that should drive our own as well. We may not have all the resources to allow us the amount of time to reflect on life as Solomon did, but every now and then we should all take stock of why we are doing the things we are doing in the way we are doing them. We should all reflect on the purpose and goal of our life. Are we pursuing things that will add meaning and value, or are we wasting our time with utterly fruitless pursuits? This short journey with Solomon is one worth taking.