Ecclesiastes 7:15-22

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, April 27, 2020 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

The idea of karma is that if you do good things and are a good person, good things will happen to you; on the flip side, if you do bad things and are a bad person, bad things will happen to you. The idea of the Prosperity Gospel goes along with that - if good things happen to you, then it must be because you did the right thing, but if bad things happen, well that’s because you just weren’t good enough. But, all of that goes against what the Teacher shares with us in today’s passage of Ecclesiastes 7:15-22.

The Teacher shares in verse 15 that he has seen righteous people perish while wicked people live long lives. That’s essentially the opposite of karma; the good die young while the wicked are blessed with long lives! What’s the deal with that? We live in a world that is subject to the problem of sin, and bad things seem to happen to good people. Things aren’t as clear-cut as karma may make them seem.

Verse 16 instructs us, “Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise—why destroy yourself?” The idea of being overrighteous was addressed by Jesus many times in His interactions with the Pharisees, for example in Matthew 23. They were trying to be overly spiritual to show their righteousness by doing and not doing certain things; Jesus warned them that no matter what their actions showed, they’re all sinners. Pretending to be righteous with outward actions is pointless if inwardly they are selfish and conceited.

Being overwise is the idea that knowledge is more important than wisdom. Knowledge is knowing a lot of facts, which is definitely a good thing. But wisdom is knowing the right way to use that knowledge. I’ve heard it said that knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, but wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad. Similarly, having knowledge of God is useless if we do not have the wisdom to have a relationship with Him as well. We can memorize every word of the Bible or be able to quote hundreds of theologians (knowledge), but if we do not have saving faith in the work of Jesus Christ that we live out in our lives(wisdom), all of that is pointless.

The Teacher cautions here that we will effectively be destroyed if we are either overrighteous or overwise in our lives. He builds on this in verse 17 by saying, “Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool—why die before your time?” Being overwicked is not the idea that a little wickedness is okay as long as you don’t overdo it; we should truly strive to not be wicked at all, nor should we be foolish in our actions. Either one could easily lead to an early death, and neither will lead to full and abundant life.

Verse 18 shows us what to do with all this advice: “It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.” We need to act on all of this advice, not just knowing it but actually doing it. If we fear and trust in God, then we will not go to any of these extremes - we will not be overrighteous, overwise, overwicked, or foolish. When we put our faith in God and the saving work of Jesus, we have freedom; but that does not mean we have the freedom to sin and live our lives however we want (see Romans 6).

We see how important wisdom is in verse 19: “Wisdom makes one wise person more powerful than ten rulers in a city.” Having wisdom that comes from God is more powerful than any civil authority you may have. Mere power is nothing when compared to the wisdom we get from fearing God with our lives.

It is important for us to remember that there never has been nor will there ever be a person who never sins (verse 20). Of course, we know Jesus never sinned, but He was also fully God. We may not see obvious sins in another person’s life, and thus when we compare ourselves to them we feel inferior. But, know that even that person who looks like they’re living the perfect life is still dealing with sin of some kind. Everyone is guilty of sin, no matter what their lives look like on the outside.

Verses 21-22 continue with this idea. A person may look perfect in their public appearances, but those closest to them (such as a servant) will likely see their dark side. The Teacher reminds the reader to think of the times that they themselves have sinned in private. Just because other people don’t see our sin doesn’t mean we don’t do it.

We all sin, and in the Teacher’s time before Jesus came to earth to live His perfect life to restore our relationship with God, there was only the hope that people could be good enough or have enough faith in the coming Messiah that God would accept them. Now, however, we know what Jesus has done for us. While we will still mess up, we know that when we truly repent of our sin, we will be forgiven because of Jesus’ sacrifice that paid the debt for our sins.

Our lives will not be perfect, but we trust in the God who is perfect and who is sovereign over everything. Whether we sin or not is our choice, but the length of our lives is in God’s control. Live your life in such a way that honors God, so that while you’re on this earth, more people around you can come to the saving faith of a restored relationship with Him.

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