Wisdom and Folly Contrasted
Verses 1-2 When the Truth is Unpleasant
A good ointment will hide the bad smell of something awful. But this only hides that which smells awful. Whatever it is that smells bad is still there.
A good name means an honest character. That is the character of the one who loves the truth. (John 1:47) This is a person that does not hide matters because the truth is what really matters. So this person is honest with himself and others. Most people agree that the truth is better than a lie but they do not wish to hear what is unpleasant.
They find themselves at places that are happy to give them opportunity to forget about their problems. This is their ointment to hide the unpleasantness of troubles. Solomon is saying that we would learn more going to funerals than to birthday parties. Our next destination is on the mind at funerals and our minds would be open to the lessons we can learn. There we would be reminded that we all must die and prepare ourselves for the next world to come. This is important wisdom to prepare for the day that we will meet our Creator and stand in His judgment.
Jesus teaches us that the truth will make us free. (John 8:32) Not every truth will have that effect. We cannot just think about when we will die we must think of the truth that God sent His Son to save us. We must invite Jesus into our lives. (John 3:16) Jesus is the path to our freedom. (John 8:36) Jesus is the way to eternal life. (John 8:51)
Verses 3-4 Serious Thoughts
Many people believe that happiness is the purpose of life. Solomon believes that such people are foolish that they let their emotions rule their lives. Wisdom requires a different attitude. Wisdom requires that we do the things that are right and proper. Life is not all fun and games but requires serious and sensible consideration. When we ponder our course in life we must be careful.
Happiness is not evil but the pursuit of happiness causes us to do many evil and stupid things. Nobody likes to be sad but until we are sorry for the evil things we do we will not ask for God’s forgiveness. Until we see the need for a complete change in our life we will not invite God into our life. Sadness will bring about serious thoughts and when these thoughts are right and proper they can achieve good results.
It is not the happy parties that are wrong but the attitudes that people have at these parties. Jesus choose to be at such events. Jesus ate with people who were guilty of many wrong deeds. Jesus did not go there to join in their foolish behavior but to help the people who needed God’s help. Jesus spoke many wise words of how God wanted to rule their lives. (Matthew 11:19; Mark 2:15-17) When we have sad feelings we can know the greatness of God’s comfort. (Matthew 5:4)
Verses 5-6 Foolish Songs and Laughter
The people of Israel loved to sing, and they sang at home and at work. They sang at weddings and at funerals. Solomon himself had a collection of 1005 songs. (1 Kings 4:32)
The foolish did not sing to praise God. When the foolish sing it is for their own pleasure. The foolish think only of themselves and care only about their own feelings. None of us like being told that we are wrong but that attitude is also foolish. This is not the attitude of the wise. The wise wants to know of the wrong that he is doing. He needs to learn of these things so he can change his behavior. (Proverbs 9:8-9) This is how the wise become wiser.
When the foolish finish their song they laugh even without purpose to laugh. But their laughter has no purpose, as it is just the sound that they make. Their laughter does not mean that they are happy, as when foolish people cannot laugh about something they will laugh at someone. The fools are as the thorns, they make a lot of noise but they have no useful purpose. Thorns are fit only for the fire and a fool is fit only for punishment.
Verse 7 The Danger of Money
Solomon wanted people to study so that they could become wise. Solomon constantly warned people of their foolish ways. But Solomon also warned the wise too.
People like to have wise rulers, wise officials, and wise judges. There are many opportunities for wise people. If a wise person uses these opportunities well he will become successful. That is where the danger lays. The purpose of wisdom is not to give one power, importance, or wealth. The purpose of wisdom is to show a person how to make good decisions that are right and proper.
It is not right, proper or wise to love money. (1 Timothy 6:9-10) The peoples love for money causes them to do many wrong and evil things. The love of money causes judges to accept bribes so they will issue judgments to benefit the giver. A judge like this cannot think that he is wise. His decision was not wise but foolish and evil. The love of money will cause an employer to cause his employees to work much harder. The love of money causes lenders to charge unfair rates. And the love of money causes rulers to use their power in evil and cruel ways.
These powerful people become important because of their wisdom but they have forsaken their wisdom for personal gain. The people may still see them clever and intelligent but they use their position only for their personal gain.
Verses 8-10) The Reward for Patience
“The end of a matter is better than its beginning.” Solomon would have done well to remember these words that he wrote. He began his rule well (1 Kings 3:4-14) but ended it in a terrible manner. (1 Kings 11:4-9)
Patience is important for tasks that we cannot finish immediately. Only the person who completes his work is successful. No task is greater than the way one lives his life. When we began a task well we often feel a sense of pride, but the beginning is often the easiest part. But then troubles come and if the task is great the troubles will be great too. We need the same patience that Job had during the troubles that he had. (Job 5:7-11) Job’s troubles were severe and many but he kept his patience with trust in God. If we are impatient, then we will become angry. We may even complain against God and that is a foolish and wrong thing for us to do. God is good, holy, and perfect and we must not blame Him for our troubles.
No matter how hard the task becomes, how many troubles come along side of the task, we seek God’s help in whatever the trouble may be. We want to complete are God given task in a manner that pleases God. If this is our desire, then that will give us the patience to continue our work through the difficulties. When our task is to serve God our patience will bring great reward. (Hebrews 10:35-36)
Verses 11-12 The Best Gift For Your Children
The parent wants to provide for their children. The hope that you have is the inherence will benefit your children long after you have departed. For this reason people save their money but then they worry about it. They worry that their children will not use the money wisely. If the children use it wisely, then it will protect them from many troubles. It will support them when difficult times come and it will offer them real benefits.
A gift of money can actually cause many problems for the children. They may waste the money or someone may take it from them. Then the gift has failed to achieve the purpose in which it was given.
There is a wiser gift that the parent can give to their children. It is a gift that even the poorest parent can give. It is a gift that will always benefit the children. That gift is the gift of wisdom. (Proverbs 8:10-11) The parent gives this gift by teaching the child to be wise. A parent must teach his children to make the right decisions and how to behave in the right manner. The most important lesson a parent can give is to teach the child to respect and serve God. (Proverbs 3:5-6) All true wisdom comes from God. (Job 28:28; Proverbs 2:5-6)
Love of God’s wisdom will give life to the possessor. It will be the best kind of life. (Proverbs 3:17-18) The wisdom of the Lord can protect them better than the money of the world and wisdom from God can do much greater things. God’s wisdom gives a man a right relationship with God and with other people. There is contentment in their lives and their life is worthwhile.
Verses 13-14 Why We Need Troubles
It was not the original intent of God that the lives of people should be hard. In man’s first home was a place where life would always be pleasant. (Genesis 2:8-9) Because of man’s disobedience God changed the arrangements. Thus man would have a life of many troubles and they would have to work hard for the things that they needed. (Genesis 3:16-19)
Because it was God who made these changes there is nothing that man can do to change them. God will allow some to have wealth, health, and happiness but when these things do not continue they should not complain to God. God is not evil and does not cause evil things to happen. But God does allow troubles to come into our life that we can learn important lessons.
This is the lesson that God wants people to serve Him and only Him as their God. (Deuteronomy 5:7-10) People who do not chose to serve God choose money, success, and happiness as their gods. But these are false gods and they will always fail in the end.
This is a hard lesson to learn but it is for a good purpose. If people were happy without God, then they would never trust Him. If money, possession, and happiness satisfied them, then they would never see reason to obey God.
God has prepared a home where people’s lives will always be pleasant. (Revelation 21:1-5) This home is not for all but those who have chosen to worship God and only God. (Revelation 22:12-15)
Verses 15-18 Wrong Attitudes About Goodness and Wicked Behavior
We believe that a good person should have a long life and the wicked should have a short life. This seems fair to us but that is not the way that it happens in the world. Sometimes good people die at a young age as a person’s goodness cannot save him. It is also true that a wicked man can live a long time in this world but that does not mean that we should be wicked. There is no benefit for a man to live a wicked life. During the long life of the wicked they add many more deeds that God will judge them for.
Solomon warns people that they can have wrong attitudes towards goodness and wicked behavior too. People should always do what is right and wise. Some people trust their own goodness so much that they will accuse God. (Romans 3:3-7; 1 John 1:10) But they are wrong in their thinking that their own goodness will save them. (Romans 3:20; Luke 18:9-14) Our own goodness will not save us. None of us can live a life in prefect righteousness, which is the standard to enter into the Kingdom of God. Only by the righteousness of Jesus Christ can we hope to enter in. When we judge others against ourselves we are passing judgment upon ourselves. (Romans 2:1-5)
We all work deeds of wickedness and we cannot truthfully deny that fact. (Romans 3:9-19) The fact that we all fall short of the glory of God is not an excuse to continue in our wicked behavior. (Romans 3:7-8) People who continue in blatant wicked behavior can have their life time shortened by God’s judgment. (Numbers 16:28-35)
When we have a reverent respect for God we will avoid these wrong attitudes. The person that respects God will confess and repent on a daily bases. (1 John 1:9) He allows God and His Word to teach him how to live. (1 John 1:7) And his trust is in God’s goodness to save Him. (Romans 3:21-24) It is easier for us to trust God than to depend upon our own goodness for our salvation.
Verses 19-20 Wisdom and Goodness
Wisdom is very rare and perfect wisdom is impossible to find from anyone or anything in this world. Solomon considered wisdom and righteousness to be the same thing, as real wisdom is always good and goodness is always wise.
When we reach chapter 9 of Ecclesiastes Solomon tells a story that proves a wise man is stronger than a whole army. From Solomon’s story we will see that a city is defended by one wise man. In these verses we see a wise man defeats an enemy city. The cities of ancient times built strong walls for their defenses. In this enemy city there were ten strong captains but the wise man was the stronger.
This is the strength of one who is perfect in wisdom and the world desires to find such a person. In all effort to find perfect wisdom in the world we find only disappointment. There is none that is completely good. All have done evil and wrong things against God’s law. “All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.” (Isaiah 53:6) We are all guilty and God’s judgment is against us. None can stand before God and pretend to be wise and good. The standard of God is perfect wisdom and perfect righteousness.
People have powerful enemies that are far worse than their fellowmen. These are the enemies of Satan and the power of death. (Ephesians 6:12; 1 Corinthians 15:26) We are also held in bondage to our own evil deeds. (Romans 7:17-22) To defeat these enemies in our life we need real wisdom and goodness.
Ourselves we do not have that wisdom and goodness, and we cannot find it in this world. All our carful study and good works will not bring us to perfect wisdom and goodness. Perfect wisdom and goodness can only come from God. (Job 28:28) Only God can save us from our terrible enemies.
The Apostle Paul proclaims that Jesus is the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:24) Therefore, Paul did not trust in his own righteousness but had received righteousness from God when he trusted Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:9)
Through Jesus God give His people wisdom and righteousness. God makes us holy and frees us from our enemies. (1 Corinthians 1:30) We have no need of self-pride except in the pride of what God has done for us. (1 Corinthians 1:31) So we cannot save ourselves but God can, so we must trust Him.
Verses 21-22 Am I Good Enough
We may view ourselves as a good person but the best of us are guilty before a just God. (7:20) We do not need to wait till the final judgment of God to know this. We already know that we have done many wrong and evil things. Our own hearts and conscience declares us guilty.
Solomon uses a story of a master and his servant to explain this point. When the Scriptures were written many people worked as servants. The wealthy would have many servants in their house. Even the less wealthy would have servants to carry out tasks for them. A servant would usually behave well when before his master, as if he did not the master would punish him. Often times the servant would feel anger towards his master and say unpleasant things about him when the master could not hear.
In Solomon’s story the servant thought that the master would not hear what he had said. But the master did hear and punished his servant. The master would not allow such behavior as it was a question of honor.
Everyone at times will say bad things about other people. Masters also will say terrible things of other people. The master himself was guilty of the same offence that he was punishing his servant for. By doing this the master was showing that God would have to punish him also. In the master’s conscience he knew that he deserved God’s punishment.
There are times we accuse other people in order to make us feel innocent, but this does not make us innocent. It only increases the reason that God will punish us. (Romans 2:1-6) We may even consider ourselves better than some people but still this is not good enough. All of us deserve punishment for the evil things that we have done in our life. God in His love for you and me sent His Son Jesus to save us from that punishment. (Romans 6:23; John 3:16) We must confess and repent of our evil deeds and invite Jesus into our lives. God will forgive those people who will trust Him.
Verses 23-24 What is Wisdom
Solomon proved all that he had written by careful study and thought. This is what people will call proper wisdom. In Solomon’s studies of wisdom he only proved that he had not hardly begun to understand the wisdom of the Lord. The wisdom of God is far more perfect and wonderful than our finite minds can comprehend. In this world there seems to be no limit and variety to things, but this world is only a small part of God’s creation.
Man cannot even understand his own thoughts and actions so the wisest of men should know that they are not really that wise. They have studied enough to make good sense and give others good advice, but their decisions are not always right and their advice is not always wise.
Job tried to understand from where wisdom came from. He knew that wisdom did not come from the world. (Job 28:1-19) He knew that something so perfect could only come from the Creator of the world, from God. (Job 28:23) Wisdom is a good and perfect gift that God desires to give us. (James 1:17; James 3:17)
All the thoughts of men fall short of what God wants to teach us. God wants people to be content in their relationship with Him far greater than their minds can understand. (Philippians 4:7) The wisdom from God begins when we respect Him. (Proverbs 9:10) Wisdom continues to grow in our lives as we continue to trust God. (Provers 3:5-6) God’s wisdom is far better than the wisdom the world can offer and what people call wisdom. (Proverbs 3:7; Isaiah 55:9; 1 Corinthians 1:25) Man cannot understand God’s wisdom but He teaches wisdom to us through the power of His Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:7-10)
Verses 25-26 Why People Constantly do Foolish Things
Solomon explores the nature of foolish behavior. Foolish behavior is wicked behavior. People will do things that they believe to be stupid, wrong, and dangerous. It is puzzling that anyone would choose to behave in that manner but many are doing these things constantly.
Satan tempts us with evil behavior that he may control us. It is as a woman that has chosen not to be loyal to her husband. She will trap a man in the same way that evil behavior tempts us all. The man that falls into this behavior knows that his actions are foolish and dangerous. But he seeks the pleasure knowing that his happiness will last only the moment. This feeling of pleasure causes him to forget the trouble that he will be causing his family.
Solomon spoke about this in Proverbs 5 and 9:13-18. These passages are not only about wrong sex but all kinds of wrong behavior. We do these things because we fall to the lust of the eye and the lust of the flesh and allow these evil desires to control us. (James 1:14-15)
Only the person whose heart is set on pleasing the Lord can avoid this behavior. It is important to understand how we can please God. It is not by our own good deeds or efforts. (Romans 4:1-8) We must believe and trust in God. (Galatians 3:6-9) We must walk in the power of the Holy Spirit and these desires will not control us. (Galatians 5:16-23) God will free us form the power of evil because Jesus died for us. (1 John 1:7)
Verses 27-28 Is Anyone Completely Good
Even as in these verses Solomon said that nobody is completely good still Solomon searched for such a person. His search was in vain as in a thousand men he could not find one good. Neither did he find one good women. To find a person, man or woman, in this world who is completely good I believe has never been found except in Jesus Christ.
Solomon knew that there was not to be found a perfect man. The only perfect person that Solomon found was in the Bible. In the book of Psalm there are descriptions of a man who is perfectly good, for example. Psalm 1, Psalm 15, and Psalm 24:3-5. There are many stories of good people in the Bible but none of them were completely good. We read of the wrong deeds of Noah, (Genesis 9:21) Abraham, (Genesis 12:10-13) Moses, (Numbers 20:7-12) and David. (2 Samuel 11) The Bible also describes Jesus Christ who was completely good. (Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 1:19; John 2:1) Jesus is the only man God considers perfect.
In the end God will make all His people perfect. (Hebrews 11:40; Hebrews 12:23) This is possible by the death of Jesus, the Lamb of God. This process has already started by the work of the Holy Spirit which dwells in the lives of God’s people. (Romans 8:1-2; Romans 8:9-11; Galatians 5:5)
Verse 29 Why We do Wrong Things
Everyone does wrong and evil things. (Ecclesiastes) God the Creator never does anything wrong or evil things. It was not the intention of God for people to live as they now do. After the fall of man in the Garden of Eden man has chosen to do evil things. God is not responsible for this as men are evil by their choice.
This is what Solomon had learned by his careful study of the world and the people in it. This is what the Bible teaches us as a matter of history. All that God created was completely good. (Genesis 1:31) At first man lived in a completely good world and they were completely good. (Genesis 2:8-25) Man chose to not be loyal to God and obey His word and they made that decision on purpose. (Genesis 3:1-12)
Man fell to the temptation of Satan because they wanted to be as God. (Genesis 3:5) Man wanted to know what it was to be evil and they allowed their desires to tempt them. (Genesis 3:6) As a result they disobeyed God and sin entered into the world.
People do wrong things for the similar reasons. People make plans in their hearts to satisfy their evil desires. They feel that they do not need God to rule their lives. Instead they want to be like God and rule their own lives. Their desires for the things of the world rule their actions. They do things that they know are wrong and evil knowing that they deserve God’s punishment. (Romans 1:28-32)
Carnal man lives in a hopeless state and still God’s mercy is available to him. God sent His Son Jesus to die for the wage of sin in our place. Because Jesus paid the debt of sin for us God can forgive us. (John 3:16) To receive His free gift we must confess our sin and repent and allow Jesus to come into our life.