Thoughts about Wisdom (2)
See full series: studies-in-ecclesiastes
Thoughts about Wisdom (2)
Sermon by Thomas Thornhill Jr
Passage: Ecclesiastes 7:11-28
STUDIES IN ECCLESIASTES (25)
Tonight, we continue our study of the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon’s pursuit for the meaning of life. Last week we began studying a particular section which addresses some qualities associated with wisdom. This is a portion of this book that looks like a set of proverbs, but many of these are linked together. Concerning this particular text, one author (Wilson Adams, Ecclesiastes, Courageous Living Series) noted five things about wisdom: 1) It Gives protection, 2) It Gives perspective; 3) It Gives balance; 4) It Gives strength; & 5) It Gives insight.
Last week we examined the first 2 of these noting how wisdom can be a defense much in the same way that money WISELY used can provide protection. We included a discussion about inheritance (wise and foolish); Then we noted that wisdom can give you perspective – that is, it can help you appreciate God by considering Him, in both prosperity and adversity. Tonight, we continue our examination of this section by noting the next points.
Wisdom gives balance (15-18)
- The inequity of life – sometimes the just suffer and the evil prosper. This is the age-old question we struggle with as we consider God and ourselves. It causes many to reject God.
BUT with such, remember as we have already noted, that God is in control and knows what is happening. There will be an accounting!
- Do not be overly righteous – a challenging statement. Is it really possible to be too righteous where God is concerned? When we consider God’s definition and demands – certainly not. The righteous man is the one who DOES all that he is commanded. We have addressed this in Mathew 5:20 where Jesus demanded a righteousness that exceeds that of the corrupt leaders. We have also addressed the pursuit of holiness. Can you really be too holy?
To be overly righteous could be – self-righteousness – arrogance as we find with the scribes and Pharisees who looked down upon others (cf. Luke 18:9-14).
Or it could be one whose demands are so exact that he leaves no room for those who differ with him to be righteous. He binds where God has not bound and believes his way is the ONLY way (in areas where God’s word does give leeway). NOTE: This is not a criticism of those demanding authority for all that we do (cf. Ephesians 5:11).
Or it could be one whose righteous pursuits cloud his wisdom concerning life. For example: One who contributes to a godly cause to the neglect of his family and other responsibilities.
Or perhaps one who totally isolates himself from the world, and as a result he removes opportunities to teach and influence others.
The point is we need to be useful to God, not only to save ourselves, but also strive to win others.
I once heard someone say that “Some people are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good.” The point being we put ourselves in a situation where we cannot be light or salt (proper examples – Matthew 5:13-16) to others. Just as it is possible for too much salt to spoil a meal, and too much light to make it useful (blinding), so we must weigh our actions so that we will be EFFECTIVE both in strengthening our lives as Christians and winning others to Him!
- Do not be overly wise – again, we wonder how such is possible. Can you really be too wise?
There is worldly wisdom that seeks to explain away God – which is what so many do today. Far too many have no place for faith where God is concerned.
There is one who is wise who becomes arrogant with his understanding. One who thinks he knows it all (cf. Romans 2:18-21).
He could set a standard of wisdom for himself that is so high it is impossible to achieve. How many won’t do anything because “I don’t know enough yet”? HOW LONG is that excuse acceptable?
Solomon’s wisdom was greater than all others, AND a gift from God – but look where he ended up. He let his wives turn him away from God and in the end, he lost so much.
- Do not be overly wicked – following our text, this is NOT saying that its ok to be a little wicked.
The truth is, we ALL fall short from time to time (Romans 3:23). We are going to sin and we need to deal with those sins (1 John 1:8-10, 2:1-2)
BUT, we know there are so many who are outright evil and wicked in their behavior and thoughts. They are destroyers and have no intent of repenting.
Do NOT use that as an excuse to give up or continue in sinful practices, or to say, “I can’t help it”. There are some brethren now who are advocating that we HAVE TO sin every day.
Furthermore, do not view yourself worse than you really are – some people see themselves as so worthless they give up on themselves and believe they are irredeemable. As LONG as we have breath, we will NEVER reach that point. The question is if we are willing to do something about it.
- Do not be foolish – in context, this is the only phrase of these 4 that doesn’t use the word “overly”. And that might be because you are either foolish or you are not. There is no middle ground.
The fool is the one devoid of sense – he acts carelessly and without thought – whether a single act or a way of life. He goes to extremes to his own hurt. He might even put his own life in danger: “Why should you die before your time?” (17) or “Why should you destroy yourself?” (16)
We have addressed the fool throughout this letter and will continue to do so as we contrast wise and foolish living.
- Consider ALL of these (18) – Solomon concludes this observation by noting that it is good to grasp balance in our lives. Do NOT ignore any of these things.
It is he who fears God that will escape them all – he will be humble and content as he seeks to be righteous and he will act with wisdom in all the decisions he makes. He will abstain from every form of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22) and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11); but realizing who he is, when he DOES stumble, he repents and seeks to repair whatever has happened. He is NOT foolish in his dealing with this life AND as he prepares to stand before God. It is that simple!
Wisdom gives strength (19-22)
- Wisdom strengthens the wise more than ten rulers of the city – force can only get you so far. You may have a superior army or strength over others, but a wise man can answer, and perhaps even overcome their strength.
Proverbs 21:22, A wise man scales the city of the mighty, And brings down the trusted stronghold.
We also know that there are many who are powerful who are evil and careless in the decisions they make. In time, their empires will fall. We have seen it over and over – godless leaders who never really cared for their people and were either toppled, or their fall was not grieved.
There are things wisdom can accomplish that strength simply cannot. Examples will be found in the coming chapters of Ecclesiastes (e.g. 8:2-6, 9:13-16, etc.)
Spiritually this is especially true – all the military might or wealth or power in the world will NOT save you when you stand before God to give an accounting (Romans 14:10-12 – we will each give an account of ourselves to God).
NOR can it resolve the moral lapse that is so prevalent even today. Only TRUE wisdom that fears God will lead to a more decent society.
- There is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin – this is a Biblical teaching we must always remember. Romans 3:10-11ff, 23 tells us we are all sinners and thus we fall short of the glory of God. The one who thinks he is perfect BETTER consider 1 John 1:8 – 10 again.
In CONTEXT, the point here is we all have flaws and weaknesses. The wise man will humbly acknowledge his and seek to improve to the best of his ability.
The fool, on the other hand keeps on his reckless path and has no desire to change or even hear that he needs to change.
Proverbs 15:12, A scoffer does not love one who corrects him, Nor will he go to the wise.
Proverbs 20:9 – Who can say, “I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin”?
Ecclesiastes 4:13 also, Better a poor and wise youth Than an old and foolish king who will be admonished no more.
- Do not take to heart everything people say – This verse is SO timely today. I am convinced that ONE OF THE PROBLEMS at the root of our division as a country is our unwillingness to openly and honestly talk about our differences and disagreements. Pick the issue (homosexuality, racism, government spending, covid-19, etc. – NOTE: I’m not discussing here who is right and who is wrong, but the attitude we have – TT ), and both sides have dug in so deeply that they won’t even CONSIDER what those disagree with them have to say. They have divined themselves (act as if their word is from God) to be SO RIGHT that if you disagree with them they will label you as evil and insert whatever mean and hateful description they come up with. They will treat you with hatred and contempt and do whatever they want to do to you and think they are justified. They will try to bully, guilt and blackmail you into submission.
When people are afraid to openly express their concerns for fear of being labeled or attacked, we will NEVER find the whole truth on a given subject.
FRIENDS, as long as this mentality exists we will continue to disintegrate as a nation and within our communities.
Spiritually, I fear that at times, brethren do not act any better. I have seen some VERY UGLY behavior on social media between so-called brethren that does not honor Christ in any way. This attitude is SINFUL on so many levels and it MUST be repented of or people may lose their souls because of it!
Proverbs 18:17 says, The first one to plead his cause seems right, Until his neighbor comes and examines him. OH, if only we would allow this examination!
- Lest you hear your servant cursing you – this is the point.
ARE we LOOKING for fault in what another says or are we willing to give the benefit of the doubt? Do we automatically assume the worst in what someone says? Is it possible that we misunderstood them? Is there ANY validity to what they say (even if it is uncomfortable)?
1 Corinthians 13:5-7 in describing Christian love notes that we are to “think no evil” and we are to “bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things.” That means we give the benefit of the doubt! We assume the best until proven otherwise. It ALSO mean we are willing to ENDURE some perceived injustice if it means bringing glory to God. Solomon was saying, “Maybe he didn’t mean it the way you heard it” OR “Are you looking to find fault in what he said – in word, action and motive?”
- In times past, often, you even you have cursed others –
Let’s be honest about this – is there ANYONE who has NOT said something about someone else that they regretted? Anyone who has not uttered words or even name calling in anger? Anyone who said something in times past that they THOUGHT was ok, but now they know better and have changed their thoughts about that? Or maybe they have said something in confidence in LIMITED company that should not have been said? (And hopefully they regretted it) OR maybe they have said something that was MISUNDERSTOOD by those they were speaking to – they didn’t mean to “curse” anyone, but it was perceived that way – either innocently or hyper-critically? Etc.
James 3:2 warns us that we ALL stumble in many things – especially in our words. He proceeds to warn about how poisonous words can be!
Jesus in Matthew 7:1-5 warned about the way we judge others, including their words.
Matthew 7:12 is the golden rule – do we apply that in our judgment of what others say?
James 1:19 tells us let EVERY MAN be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. Oh how we need to apply this.
And thus, we see some of Solomon expositions about wisdom. May we desire to be both righteous and wise as God desires of us, and not what we want or the path that this world thinks we should be on. Next week, we will conclude our study of this section. So where is your wisdom leading you? Think about it.