Recently, I watched the documentary Our Planet on Netflix. It’s a beautiful documentary. There is one scene, though, about walruses dying due in large part to climate change. It drove home the gravity of environmental issues affecting us today, and sent me into a fit of tears. I could only ask God for forgiveness for the mess we’ve made in stewarding His creation.
I’ve come across many articles and shows covering environmental problems and proposing various solutions. But whether the problem is plastics, meat, rare earth mining, or even avocado distribution, there is no magic bullet. Almost everything about modern life has degrees of negative impact on the environment; it seems nearly pointless to try to save the earth.
Dwell too long on the subject, and it can get depressing real quick.
The author of Ecclesiastes found himself in a similar situation. In Ecclesiastes 1:12-18, he described his study of all things “under the sun,” where he sought wisdom in hopes of making sense of everything.
At the end of it, he had this to say: “For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief” (v. 18). All that knowledge and wisdom, yet all he had to show for it was sorrow. Why?
The clue lies in verse 15, “What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted.” Simply put, because of sin, we live in a temporal world with broken systems, where questions lead to incomplete answers, which lead to more questions, and the cycle continues. It’s not surprising then, that the conclusion is frustration and grief.
Often times, this happens even when we have good intentions to try to solve problems, because we seek wisdom apart from the One who has all the answers. When we do that, our efforts only lead to defeat and sorrow.
But as we see in the final conclusion of Ecclesiastes, as well as in other parts of the Bible such as Proverbs 9:10 and James 1:5, there is great value in the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom. That is, when we seek it with God and for Him.
With this approach, pursuing wisdom doesn’t lead to despair, but to a healthy understanding of what we’re capable of, and what’s not within our capacity. The things beyond our influence, we surrender to God, trusting Him to do what only He can do. We’re able to do this because God has promised to set things right again—a promise set in motion by the death and resurrection of Christ. We can look ahead then to that resolution with joyful hope (Romans 8:19-21).
So what does seeking knowledge and wisdom with God look like practically? With the environmental issues, it would mean that I’m to wisely steward His creation that is under my care and within my capacity. For example, I can continue to read up on the issues, while making simple but informed choices—like using biodegradable baby wipes and refraining from using plastic cutlery. As for the things that cannot be changed overnight, I entrust them to Him in prayer.
Let us thank God for all the knowledge accessible today. But let us also remember that knowledge and earthly wisdom are not the be all and end all. God is the true be all and and all. And on that truth, every single thing we do—including the pursuit and application of wisdom—should be carried out with Him.
—By Charmain Sim, Malaysia
Questions for reflection
Return to YMI Reading Ecclesiastes Homepage