Ecclesiastes 7:1-14

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, April 20, 2020 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

This section of Ecclesiastes 7:1-14 is a little bit different from much of the rest of the book, in that it contains a series of proverbs. These proverbs provide wise advice for daily living, both for the people of the Teacher’s day and for us today.

“A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth” (verse 1). A “good name” here is not just the name people call you by, but it refers to a person’s reputation. A good reputation is very valuable, as it means people can trust you and count on you, and they will want to have work with you, whether in business dealings or for friendship. At birth, we have no idea what we will accomplish in life, but at our death, we will have accomplished everything we’re going to in this world. Make your day of death better than your day of birth by leaving the world a better place than when you came into it.

“It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart” (verse 2). As the Teacher has discussed previously, every person who lives is going to die. Because of this, we need to remember what’s really important in this life. It may seem counterintuitive to go to a house of mourning rather than feasting, but when we mourn we are more likely to pay attention to the eternal things. When we are feasting, we’re only focused on the short term things of eating, drinking, and being merry.

“Frustration is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart” (verse 3). This proverb continues the theme of verse 2, that it can be good for us to be frustrated and sad. Those are both emotions that we should experience and work through, rather than simply blowing them off with laughter for the sake of avoidance.

“The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure” (verse 4). Again, this proverb is continuing the theme of the previous two. We are wise if share our sorrows with others, but we are foolish if all we seek is pleasure in this life.

“It is better to heed the rebuke of a wise person than to listen to the song of fools” (verse 5). If we know what’s good for us, we’ll listen to those who have more life experience than us. If a wise person rebukes us and tells us we’re not doing something well, then we should take their advice because they know more than us. The song of fools may sound more pleasing to our ears than a rebuke, but in the long run, it’s more important to heed wise advice than foolish.

“Like the crackling of thorns under the pot, so is the laughter of fools. This too is meaningless” (verse 6). A foolish person may laugh at anything, and they gain no wisdom from it. All of this foolishness is meaningless and serves us no purpose. We do not gain any wisdom from it.

“Extortion turns a wise person into a fool, and a bribe corrupts the heart” (verse 7). This proverb clearly tells us not to extort money from others nor to give or receive bribes. This goes back to verse 1, where we saw how important a person’s reputation is. Extortion and bribery easily corrupt a person and can ruin your reputation in just one moment.

“The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride” (verse 8). This goes back to the idea of verse 2, where the day of death is better than the day of birth. It is important how we begin things, but it’s even more important how we complete them and see them through. Patience can be vitally important here, depending on what your task is. We often start things in the pride of thinking we can do it, and then we lose interest in them if we do not have the patience it takes to fully complete the task. Patience is essential so we don’t stop what we’re called to do because of some discouragements.

“Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools” (verse 9). This verse shows us what happens if we do not possess the patience recommended in verse 8 - we quickly get angry, whether with ourselves or with others. It is foolish to easily get angry when things go wrong.

“Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’ For it is not wise to ask such questions” (verse 10). Have you ever wished for “the good ol’ days”? Clearly, even the Teacher did, but he realized it is wise to not envy the past. Hindsight always makes things seem better than they really were, and if we did not live through a certain time period, we may not realize the full extent of the struggles that were experienced then. We do not gain wisdom from longing for the past.

“Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing and benefits those who see the sun” (verse 11). Wisdom is what’s important here, and if we act wisely then it will benefit not only us but others around us. But, like an inheritance, we need to use our wisdom properly.

“Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: Wisdom preserves those who have it” (verse 12). Having money can give us financial security, but having wisdom gives us even better security than that - wisdom is more of a guarantee of having a good life. Money can be fleeting, but if you continually seek and obtain wisdom, then you will be more secure than having large amounts of money.

“Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked? When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future” (verses 13-14). The first 12 verses of this chapter give advice for living, even if a person does not believe in God. But if you do follow God, the Teacher goes one step further than the aforementioned wise proverbs. God is in control over all things; no person can change what God has done.

It’s easy to blame God for bad things and neglect to thank Him for good things, but we need to remember that God is in control over it all. We need to have hardships and difficult times in life, both so we appreciate the good times more and so we learn from them. We need to accept both good times and bad times from God out of the faith that we have in Him. We won’t be able to explain everything, and that’s okay, because we trust the God who can.

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