There, you see! Don’t waste your time reading and pursuing knowledge! King Solomon himself said that seeking wisdom is burdensome (“evil business”) and vanity! Actually, Solomon said everything under the sun is vanity, striving after wind so if we follow the logic, we should stand perfectly still with our hands by our sides, eyes closed and holding our breath. Solomon states a conclusion from a lesson learned: wisdom pursued apart from God is vanity. Learning is hard work and has a reward in the end--but learning must be done correctly. Solomon only increased in wisdom by learning in context, by learning “under heaven.”
Look again at those who followed Jesus--they were learners! This is what is meant by “disciple.” They received instruction from the Master, the dispenser of wisdom, and they were to apply what they learned to their lives, which in turn, touched others. Learning was not easy as their discipleship hinged on change, starting with that which constituted their very lives. They had to stop what they were doing and start doing something new. They had to leave something behind in order to take up what lay ahead. The moment they did that, their first lesson was learned. They got dirty, wet, hungry, scared, confused, were intimidated--but they learned. Let us not miss the fact that Jesus’ disciples spent most of their entire lives in the shadow of Solomon’s temple.
Solomon was faced with a choice: learn about life the way God intends life to be, or learn about life apart from God. Wisdom literature plainly distinguishes the disciple as the wise and the non-disciple as the fool. In other words, we can learn in the school of hard knocks (where all is vanity) or we can learn by submitting to “right” and glorify God by all we do and say.
Follow Solomon’s thought and watch how he entertained the diversions. How much wisdom did he maintain when righteousness was set aside? What did he learn by removing himself from wisdom but that apart from God all is vanity? Solomon accomplished much in his lifetime (the “golden age” of the kingdom), but he slipped. He lost focus. He stopped following the Master.
We glorify God by “learning under the heavens” and glorify ourselves by “learning under the sun.” Wisdom is found “under the heavens” and foolishness is found “under the sun.”