Wisdom And Foolishness

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“A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth.  It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart….The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.  Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the laps of fools.  Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’  For it is not wise to ask such questions.  Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing and benefits those who see the sun.  Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: that wisdom preserves the life of its possessor.  Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what was made crooked?  When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other.”

-Ecclesiastes 7:1-2, 8-14, NIV

This was the passage of Scripture we studied today at church. Did you notice some of the things it said? It almost seems backwards to think we should prefer weeping to partying. It seems strange to say that we should not wish for the good ol’ days. Even stranger, it says that we should eagerly accept bad times in the same way we do good times. None of this made sense to me at first, but after studying it, I think I am beginning to understand where Solomon was going with this madness, which is not madness at all.

Think about it. “The day of death [is] better than the day of birth.” For us, we celebrate the day a baby comes into this world and mourn the day a loved one leaves this world. However, Solomon, the wisest man known to walk the face of the earth besides Jesus Christ, said that this should be the other way around. Think of it this way: when we enter the world as a baby, we automatically begin accumulating “stuff” (temporal objects and wealth). These things are meaningless. Yes, they give us some measure of pleasure in this life and make our lives easier, but when we die, we cannot take our wealth with us. Therefore, in the long run, what is important in life is to pursue long-term, eternal “wealth.” For example, a relationship with Jesus and living a life pleasing to Him would be considered eternal wealth. “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21, NIV).

The passage says, “The end of a matter is better than its beginning.” This makes sense too when life experiences are applied to it. Which is better? The extravagant wedding or the mark of a couple’s 50th wedding anniversary? The first conversation between friends or the friendship developed after 10 or 20 years? The preliminary promises made by a politician, spouse, or employee or the dedication of that same person to actually follow through with their promises?

I thought the part where it said, “Do not say, ‘why were the old days better than these?’ For it is not wise to ask such questions.” was interesting. I say this all the time. I hear people say this all the time. I think back to the simpler times of my childhood, growing up in the 80’s and 90’s and think that those were the good ol’ days. It is unwise for me to think that? Why? I do not remember “those good ol’ days” correctly. The 80’s and 90’s were not perfect. We experienced the Gulf War and the Red Scare. My great grandmother, who I was very close to, passed away. My grandmother almost died. My half brother was taken away from my family to live with his mom. My dad lost his job, my grandparents disowned us, and we were forced to move in with friends since we were “homeless.” So, as you can see, this time of my life does not add up to “the good ol’ days” nostalgia. This brings me to another point in the sermon.

“When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other.” In Job 2:9-10, after Job became afflicted with painful sores, “His wife said to him, ‘Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!’ He replied, ‘You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?'” Regarding trials and suffering, Paul writes that Jesus says, “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight is weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NIV).

According to these verses, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21, NIV). I have found, personally, that God does abide by His promise that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28, NIV). In all those events I mentioned above and in every situation since then, God has always taken a bad event and used it for good. Did that make experiencing those trials any easier? No, not really. I did not despair. I had hope, but I still experienced heart-wrenching grief and sadness. I had faith, but I still cried. My belief in God did not prevent me from experiencing heartache, nor did it make it easier to cope with my grief and pain. It did, however, give me an opportunity to grow closer to God and to my family. It has given me the ability to sympathize with others who have experienced the same trials. It did keep me from growing bitter to the many injustices of this world.

When you have the time, try to go back and read those verses again; I was not able to cover them all and there are still so many incredible things to learn! Consider all that God has done. Well, my fingers are out of breath from all this typing and they are ready to get some shut eye. I think I am, too, so I bid you all adieu and good night. Until next time!

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