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June 17, 1997

The Foolishness of Wisdom

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Like the fool, the wise man too must die! ECCLESIASTES 2:16
If nothing else brings satisfaction, then let’s consider something truly ridiculous.
You would think that if wisdom is good and foolishness is bad, then the person who pursues wisdom has at least some measure of satisfaction in his life, while the person who pursues foolishness lives nothing but a life of grief. That seems logical. That only seems right. It certainly seems fair.
But according to Solomon, it makes no difference whether you pursue wisdom or foolishness. Why? Because the same fate overtakes the one who pursues wisdom and the one who pursues foolishness. Even though the wise man walks in some degree of light and the fool walks in complete darkness, both eventually will die. To add insult to that unfair common fate, neither the wise man nor the fool will be remembered for very long after he is gone. As Solomon says, “[I]n days to come both will be forgotten” (Ecclesiastes 2:16).
So does Solomon suggest that we all take the easier route and just live like fools? No. But like everything else he has said up to this point, he wants us to remember something very important: If we think that devoting a lifetime to acquiring wisdom will leave us better off than the person who lives his life as an undisciplined fool, then we are seriously mistaken.
Wisdom by itself yields no more satisfaction and meaning than its lack does. Sound depressing? It is, especially if you give up on Solomon at this point. Hang in there; he has much more to say about finding fulfillment in life.

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