“Wisdom Under the Sun”

Scripture: Ecclesiastes 1:12-18

Sermon Summary

The main point of our passage is summed up in this verse, “For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow” (1:18). This is an interesting sentiment the Preacher introduces because it stands so opposed to what the book of Proverbs tells us. There we are told, “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding” (3:13). How are we supposed to reconcile this seeming contradiction in the Bible?

Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are both books belonging to the genre of wisdom. Together they offer a balanced view of life. Proverbs tells us how the world is supposed to be and how God designed it to be good. Ecclesiastes tells us what the world is actually like now that it’s under the curse of sin. If Proverbs tells us all the rules of the world, Ecclesiastes tells us all the exceptions to the rules and the exceptions to the exceptions. Both perspectives together remind us that we live in a time between the world as it presently is and the world as God is making it. This is life under the sun. 

When it comes to pursuing wisdom and gaining understanding, we should not reject it but recognize its limitations. There are so many things to be informed about and new things to learn and it seems so unending. But will wisdom and understanding really make our lives better? Does it give meaning to our suffering? Does it fix the problem of sin in our hearts? Despite all the wisdom, learning and discoveries of man, we cannot reverse the curse of sin in the world. Wisdom derived from under the sun can never adequately address the problems of life under the sun. Earthly wisdom must give way to eternal wisdom, wisdom that comes from beyond the sun. And this is where the gospel holds forth the good news for us.

1 Corinthians 1:24 tells us that Christ is the wisdom of God. Jesus does not just have wisdom but he is wisdom itself. Therefore the wisdom that can fix the world is not a possession to have but a person to trust in. God’s wisdom came from beyond the sun to us in the Son. And he looked like foolishness to the world when he died on the cross. But his death was how Jesus broke the power of sin over the world. He endured the weight of sin’s curse in order to lift the curse off the world and begin to fix it. Since only Jesus can heal the world, we should not strive after the earthly wisdom but pursue eternal wisdom in Christ. We must look to the wisdom of the Son and not to wisdom under the sun. 

Group Discussion Questions

  1. Share something you found either interesting, memorable, convicting, confusing or challenging about the passage/sermon.  
  2. Are you drawn more to the message of Proverbs or Ecclesiastes? How does the message of both wisdom books give you the most balanced, honest view of the world?
  3. About what kind of things do you feel the pressure to be up to date and informed about? Have you ever pursued wisdom, knowledge and understanding  only to conclude that it led to vexation and sorrow? 
  4. What are some things about which people hope the wisdom under the sun is the answer for? Share some examples where the eternal wisdom of Christ is the answer and the earthly wisdom of man is not.  

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