What Did the Wise Man Mean?
KING Solomon was one of the wisest men that ever lived. Speaking truthfully, he could say: “I myself have greatly increased in wisdom more than anyone that happened to be before me in Jerusalem, and my own heart saw a great deal of wisdom and knowledge.” (Eccl. 1:16) In saying that his “own heart saw a great deal of wisdom and knowledge,” Solomon evidently meant that he had more than just a brain filled with much information. Wisdom and knowledge had affected his heart, becoming a part of him. He appreciated their value and was motivated to use his knowledge and wisdom.
Solomon left no avenue unexplored in getting to know wisdom. He comments: “I set my heart to seek and explore wisdom in relation to everything that has been done under the heavens. . . . I proceeded to give my heart to knowing wisdom and to knowing madness, and I have come to know folly.” (Eccl. 1:13, 17) Solomon was stirred to be diligent, wholehearted, in his efforts to become intimately acquainted with wisdom. He did not limit himself to investigating the commands and dictates of wisdom but also explored madness and folly. He observed carefully how other men followed a course of madness and foolishness. Based on what he saw, Solomon drew sound conclusions as to how to avoid problems.
What did he learn from his thorough investigation of all aspects of mundane knowledge and wisdom? “This too is a striving after wind. For in the abundance of wisdom there is an abundance of vexation, so that he that increases knowledge increases pain.”—Eccl. 1:17, 18.
As Solomon pointed out, a basic reason for this is: “That which is made crooked cannot be made straight, and that which is wanting cannot possibly be counted.” (Eccl. 1:15) The person who increases in worldly knowledge becomes painfully aware of the fact that many “crooked” things in this imperfect system cannot be straightened out. Neither time nor circumstances allow it to be corrected. In fact, so many things in human affairs are defective that they cannot even be numbered. The greater a person’s knowledge and wisdom, therefore, the keener his awareness of how limited his opportunities are to change things for the better. A short life-span and unfavorable conditions in an imperfect human society work against him. This gives rise to vexation and frustration.
Godly wisdom, however, does not produce such negative effects, but builds hope, faith and confidence. Such wisdom is described in the Scriptures as follows: “The wisdom from above is first of all chaste, then peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey, full of mercy and good fruits, not making partial distinctions, not hypocritical.” (Jas. 3:17) To which kind of wisdom are you giving the greatest attention—to the kind that brings frustration or to godly wisdom, the kind that can help you to get the best from life even now?