When I took my last formal math class in high school, I sighed with relief. Little did I imagine that my wife and I would later be trying to help our own children with their math classes! Part of the problem is that they perceive math as meaningless to their future goals (in fact, so did I!). This undercuts their motivation to learn and do well.
The writer of Ecclesiastes, probably Solomon, judged all human knowledge and everything we try to accomplish “under the sun” as “meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (v. 14). He concluded this after a long research project involving both science (v. 13) and philosophy (v. 17). Why would one of the wisest people, the recipient of a special gift of wisdom from the Lord (2 Chronicles 1), say such a thing?
He said this because everything that is earthbound and temporal ends in death, so all merely human knowledge and activities are ultimately futile. Trying to find meaning or purpose “under the sun” is thus a “heavy burden” (v. 13), also translated “unhappy business” and “miserable task.” One Bible version puts it this way: “God has dealt a tragic existence to the human race” (NLT). In modern terms, we call it the “rat race.” We know this is a consequence of sin and death entering the world at the Fall (Genesis 3).
Solomon’s first summary proverb essentially means “it is what it is” or “this truth cannot be changed” (v. 15). No inspirational poster or meme can overcome the emptiness of earthly life. His second summary proverb ironically suggests that ignorance is bliss (v. 18). In other words: “Whoever increases his knowledge merely increases his heartache.” But we shouldn’t despair. What’s missing from this “under the sun” evaluation is God, our sovereign and gracious Creator. The exploration continues tomorrow.
>> Take stock of your life today. Which parts feel “meaningless, a chasing after the wind”? Is it because your expectations are unrealistic? Remember that no earthly learning or activity can ever truly satisfy us.
Lord God, examine our hearts today. Are we seeking meaning and fulfillment outside of You? Do our motives need to be realigned? Are we pursuing the right things for the right reasons? Lead us in righteousness.