shifts tone at this point – he begins to give advice in the positive, telling
us just what we should do. It’s not that “vanity, vanity” has vanished, but
rather the introduction of “fear God” has put the world in order. On that
order Solomon now gives wisdom.
Ecclesiastes 7:1-14 NASB
(1) A good name is better than a good ointment, And
the day of one's death is better than the
day of one's birth. (2) It is better to go to
a house of mourning Than to go to a house of feasting, Because that is the end
of every man, And the living takes it to
heart. (3) Sorrow is better than laughter,
For when a face is sad a heart may be happy. (4)
The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, While the mind of fools is in
the house of pleasure. (5) It is better to
listen to the rebuke of a wise man Than for one to listen to the song of
fools. (6) For as the crackling of thorn bushes
under a pot, So is the laughter of the fool; And this too is futility. (7) For oppression makes a wise man mad, And a bribe
corrupts the heart. (8) The end of a matter
is better than its beginning; Patience of spirit is better than haughtiness of
spirit. (9) Do not be eager in your heart to
be angry, For anger resides in the bosom of fools. (10)
Do not say, "Why is it that the former days were better than these?"
For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this. (11)
Wisdom along with an inheritance is good And an advantage to those who see the
sun. (12) For wisdom is protection just as money is protection, But the advantage of
knowledge is that wisdom preserves the lives of its possessors. (13) Consider the work of God, For who is able to
straighten what He has bent? (14) In the day
of prosperity be happy, But in the day of adversity consider-- God has made the
one as well as the other So that man will not discover anything that will be after him.
may break this down into three sections: money, time and attitude.
Bible has a lot to say about money. Here, Solomon makes two points which are
first is simply this: if you have to choose between a lifestyle of luxury
based on dishonor (for example, a Mafia don) and an honorable life as a poor
man, you’re better off with the honor. That’s wisdom. That’s a truth that
holds water. One way to know it? It’s a truism that the Mafioso wants his
kids to go into legitimate work.
It’s normal to want your kids to have it better than you do.
relationship between wisdom and money is a bit more complicated. Solomon makes
is good (especially if it’s an inheritance you didn’t have to work for) if
you couple it with wisdom. Money is a tool. We don’t let toddlers play
with the power saw; fools shouldn’t have money. They usually lose it
like money, is a defense against life’s troubles. But it’s better: money
can defend you, but wisdom not only defends but enhances your life.
I put the matter simply? Even in making money wisdom is required. As my
stockbroker puts it, “Bulls make money, bears make money – but pigs get
sees life as a journey, starting at birth and ending in death. Foreseeing the
Christian position, he tells us that the end of the journey is best. To be
absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. The best is yet to come –
and most of us moan about lost youth and dread the future. Fear God – and see
things as they really are.
then changes your view. Many of us are anxious to “fix things right now.”
Solomon tells us the opposite: patience is better than pride. For when you
approach problems in pride, you give Satan a handle with which to hold you.
You also see defeat if victory is not rapid. But the man of patience endures.
Even if he is overmatched by his problem, by endurance he may triumph. If you
see life as the world sees it, this is difficult to do. But if you see the
world in God’s hands, and the victory his, then patience comes more easily.
attitude applies to the future. It also applies to the past. Many of us worry
about what has already happened. “Oh, if I only…” Permit me some wisdom from
that great Russian philosopher, Josef Stalin: “The past is history, and
history belongs to God.”
deals with two ideas concerning our attitude. The first is our reaction to a
rebuke. If someone comes to you (preferably privately) and points out your
faults, wisdom tells you to LISTEN!
second idea is well expressed in this prayer: “God grant me the serenity to
accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can, and
the wisdom to know the difference.”
The argument is simple: there are things that God does which you cannot
change. He is the source of your prosperity as well as your adversity. You
can’t change that. So what should you do?
prosperity, enjoy it.
adversity, learn from it.
Ecclesiastes 7:15-22 NASB
(15) I have seen everything during my lifetime of
futility; there is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness and there
is a wicked man who prolongs his life in
his wickedness. (16) Do not be excessively
righteous and do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself? (17) Do not be excessively wicked and do not be a
fool. Why should you die before your time? (18)
It is good that you grasp one thing and also not let go of the other; for the
one who fears God comes forth with both of them. (19)
Wisdom strengthens a wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city. (20) Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth
who continually does good and who never
sins. (21) Also, do not take seriously all
words which are spoken, so that you will not hear your servant cursing you. (22) For you also have realized that you likewise
have many times cursed others.
should be a no-brainer. Wickedness can kill you, not to mention the judgment
to come. And you should know this by chapter 7.
the rub. Any Bible teacher will tell you not to be wicked – but excessive righteousness???
It can be seen that way – especially in light of the fact that we depend upon
Christ’s righteousness, not our own. To be specific:
is such a thing as perfectionism. If you are obsessed with being
righteous (or worse, being right) you can drive yourself crazy. One
result is that you might tend to deny that you have sinned. With no
confession, there is no repentance; with no repentance there is no
too that in Solomon’s time righteousness meant keeping the Mosaic Law. If
you do this to excess you become like the Pharisees. Don’t slip from
righteousness into legalism.
course, righteousness can also be done for show.
If you are careful about appearances but not the heart, it is worse than
listen to everything you hear
father was sent to Japan at the beginning of the Korean War. He was scheduled
to land at Inchon, but they pulled him off the boat when they found he was a
finance officer. Reason? There were huge quantities of supplies in Japan,
left over from World War II – and they needed them for the war. Dad and two
other officers were given the task, dividing Japan into three regions.
– a mustang officer, wise in the ways of the enlisted man – simply formed teams
to inventory what was there. The other two officers tried to reconcile all
paper transactions in the office. Dad delivered his material; the rest of it
is probably still in Japan.
Don’t believe the paperwork is infallible. Don’t believe that a chance remark
is the whole truth.
know this; you’ve made those remarks too. Wisdom sometimes must look inward to
discover the truth about things outward.
Alone not the Answer
Ecclesiastes 7:23-29 NASB
(23) I tested all this with wisdom, and I said, "I will be wise," but it
was far from me. (24) What has been is remote
and exceedingly mysterious. Who can discover it? (25)
I directed my mind to know, to investigate and to seek wisdom and an
explanation, and to know the evil of folly and the foolishness of madness. (26) And I discovered more bitter than death the
woman whose heart is snares and nets, whose hands are chains. One who is
pleasing to God will escape from her, but the sinner will be captured by her. (27) "Behold, I have discovered this,"
says the Preacher, "adding one
thing to another to find an explanation, (28)
which I am still seeking but have not found. I have found one man among a
thousand, but I have not found a woman among all these. (29) "Behold, I have found only this, that God
made men upright, but they have sought out many devices."
Solomon gives a bit more on wisdom itself.
questions wisdom can’t answer
I can give you a parallel. There are some questions that science will never
answer, no matter how much we know. Miracles are by definition contrary to
scientific understanding. You can either say they can’t happen – despite all
the evidence – or you can say that this is beyond the limits of science.
(Think about it: science deals with the repeatable.) Wisdom has its limits
is another example. Historians constantly struggle with the problem that
different participants tell different stories. That’s particularly true of
war. Reasonable assumptions may be made, but ultimately there is no real way
to determine exactly what did happen.
just accept it. Some things are beyond you. As George Washington Carver had
"When I was young, I said
to God, god, tell me the mystery of the universe. But God answered, that
knowledge is for me alone. So I said, god, tell me the mystery of the peanut.
Then God said, well, George, that's more nearly your size."
probably knew this quite well:
are women out there who are cold-hearted, money-grubbing souls who will
destroy a man for his money.
righteous man escapes this trap – because such a trap depends upon sly and
devious contact. It’s somewhat like Barnum; you cannot cheat an honest
do you suppose Solomon came to feel this way? The richest king in history, 300
wives, 700 concubines – do you suppose that not one was a gold-digger?
good man is hard to find
is there a limit to wisdom? It’s simple: God made man “very good.” In that
man should have wisdom. But man is fallen, and in that there is folly. Thus
it is that wisdom has its limits.