Ecclesiastes 7:23-8:1

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, May 4, 2020 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

Have you ever had an experience where you feel like you’re surrounded by people who aren’t as smart as you are? Perhaps you feel like you’re the only one who can do the job well and your coworkers keep messing up. Or perhaps you feel like you’re the only person who is holding your household together. In today’s passage to finish up Ecclesiastes 7, we see that the Teacher clearly feels that way.

If the Teacher is King Solomon as many believe, this is somewhat true. In 1 Kings 3:1-15, God appears to Solomon in a dream and says he can ask for whatever he wants. Solomon asks for great wisdom to govern God’s people well, and because of that wise and unselfish answer, God grants his request and gives him so much more. God tells Solomon, “I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be” (1 Kings 3:12). So in Solomon’s case, he really was always surrounded by people not as wise as him.

In today’s section of Ecclesiastes, the Teacher is frustrated with people in general. In verses 23-24, he implies that people really do want to be wise, but wisdom appears to be hard for them to come by. People often do not act in wisdom, and that makes it appear that they are not wise at all.

Verse 25 says, “So I turned my mind to understand, to investigate and to search out wisdom and the scheme of things and to understand the stupidity of wickedness and the madness of folly.” If he is the wisest man to ever live, surely he can figure out this problem, right? He’s trying to seek wisdom, which he can do in part by trying to understand the opposite of that. If he can understand why people are wicked and foolish, perhaps he can help guide them toward wisdom.

In verse 26, he turns toward the lack of wisdom in relationships. He specifically calls out women who are not truthful and try to ensnare or trap men. He states that men who are seeking God will escape women like that, but sinful men will be caught in their traps. While our culture today is definitely different than in Solomon’s day when women were treated more like property, this is still true of both genders - our sinfulness and lack of wisdom does cause people to try and ensnare each other in traps, and to play games with relationships rather than being honest and loving.

In verses 27-28, the Teacher seems to say that wisdom among men is quite rare (1 in 1000) but he has yet to find a wise woman. Again we see a cultural difference between today and back then. Women were not permitted to be educated back then, and they were considered “less than” men. Their thoughts, feelings, and opinions were not often taken into consideration in any situation, so of course, women would not generally be considered as wise. While our culture may still be somewhat male-dominated, as an educated woman I am personally thankful that we women have basically the same opportunities today for wisdom as men do.

But why is humankind so lacking in wisdom? In verse 29, the Teacher does not blame this on God who created us but on humankind for making foolish choices. He writes, “This only have I found: God created mankind upright, but they have gone in search of many schemes.” We know from Genesis 1:26-27 that God created us in His own image and likeness, which would include a measure of wisdom. But humans desired to have more wisdom (Genesis 3:6) and thus fell into sin. Since then, we have all proven that we’re great at making choices that are foolish and do not honor God. It’s our fault that we lack wisdom, not God’s.

This section ends in Ecclesiastes 8:1 which says, “Who is like the wise? Who knows the explanation of things? A person’s wisdom brightens their face and changes its hard appearance.” After the pessimism about the lack of wisdom at the end of chapter 7, this verse starts to give some hope. There are some people who are wise! While we need to be realistic that true wisdom can be hard to come by, this thought does not need to make us depressed, but we can have joy when we do find it.

We may easily get frustrated with those around us when they don’t act with the wisdom we feel they should have. But take a look at yourself; I’m sure every one of us can call out times when we didn’t act wisely either, and other people would be frustrated with us. We cannot change others and make them wiser, but we can seek out more wisdom for ourselves to live out in our own lives.

How do we do that? Go to the source of all wisdom: God. He has given us His Word that includes much “wisdom literature,” including Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. All of the Bible is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We have the Bible and it is so accessible; we just need to use it by reading it, studying it, and applying it to our lives.

We don’t need to be the person who frustrates others with our foolishness; instead, strive to be the one who lives out wisdom and shares that wisdom with others for the benefit of humankind and for the glory of God.

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