Monday, October 20, 2014

Better Things

Ecclesiastes 7:1-10

“A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth.   It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.” (Ecclesiastes 7:1-2)

We live in a world where appearance is considered more important than substance.  We are often reminded you never get a second chance at making a first impression.  As a result, vast amounts are spent of designer clothing, makeup and hair styling products and deodorants and colognes to produce the desired impression.  Solomon makes the point that what a person is really like is far more important than how he looks or smells.  His reputation based on what people who know him believe him to be rather than on the first impression, and is far more important in determining a person’s worth.

Understanding that reality is more important than illusion, he says the day of death is better than the day of birth because when a child is born, no one knows how he will turn out but at death they know what he really is.  Going to a funeral or home where someone has died is better than going to a party, because the party is based on an illusion that everything is wonderful while the family that is grieving has to face reality, that everyman will die one day and will have to give an account one day.

“Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.  The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” (Ecclesiastes 7:3-4)

People seldom think seriously about things when they are laughing and joking about them.   Jokes and comedy are designed to get our minds off serious matters.  Only fools ignore reality and pretend it is all a joke.  Intelligent people face reality and try to make it better.  By facing the reality, he is able to to change his attitude and actions to make things better.  The popularity of comedy in our society is a disturbing commentary on the lack of maturity and

“It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.  For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 7:5-6)

No one likes to have be corrected, but it is better to have a man who knows what he is talking about tell you that you are wrong than to have lots of people who don’t have a clue saying you are right, even though is its pleasant to hear them.  All the laughing and encouragement from people who know nothing about the subject is as worthless as the exploding of trapped pockets of moisture in weeds when they are thrown in the fire.  All they accomplish is making some noise.

“Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad; and a gift destroyeth the heart.” (Ecclesiastes 7:7)

Forcing people who have plans and ideas of their own to do things somebody else’s way always creates resentment and frustration, implying they are too stupid to make their own decisions.  Although nobody likes being told they are stupid, most politicians and bosses never seem to understand that it is their approach that has caused revolution throughout history.   

People who took care of their own health would resent the Obama care program simply because it takes away their ability to make the choices they felt were best, even if it provided better care than they could get for themselves.   If it had been presented as a possible alternative, people would have examined it and if it seemed like a better deal would have flocked to it, but because they were forced to accept it with no chance to compare it to other alternatives they have rebelled.   The entire conflict is the result of politicians who are more concerned with demonstrating their power than with what the people need or want.   The same principle applies at every level of life.  A reputation for disregarding other people’s opinions makes life a lot harder.
For most people a gift causes a sense of moral obligation to the giver, and some people play on that sense of obligation.  A salesman may offer a gift to get you to listen to his spiel, or a fund raising organization may send a free pen or some mailing labels to make you feel obligated to donate.    Lobbyists donate vast amounts of money to political candidates in hopes of gaining their support for some desired legislation.  Solomon warns that that gift, even if not specified as a bribe, interferes with one’s objectivity and moral standard.   Accepting gifts destroys one’s reputation.

“Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.   Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.” (Ecclesiastes 7:8-9)

Nearly everyone realizes how much better the completion of a highway construction project is than the beginning.  Finally one can use the new road instead of having to deal with the orange barrels and traffic delays.   In the same way, when a stage of life is completed, we no longer have to constantly deal with the same problems. 

People who rush into a decision without finding out the facts make poor decisions.  Pride leads them to believe they know more than other people s don’t need the information.  Anger distorts one’s judgment, leading to bad decisions.  Unfortunately foolish people depend on their anger to get their way rather than on logical solutions. 
“Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this.” (Ecclesiastes 7:10)

A lot of people go through life complaining that things were better in the past.  Solomon says it is not wise to focus on the past.  We can learn from the past, but we can’t change it.   Since then other things have happened and we have to deal with the results.  Much as my grandfather resented automobiles and machinery, it had been invented, and if he was to successfully compete, he had to adapt to using those machines.  Horses simply could not pull a wagon as fast as a truck could go.  

Every technological advance has both positive and negative aspects.  The trucks created more dust and pollution, required better roads, and cost more to operate, but they also hauled more for longer distances, greatly expanding the available markets and potential profit.    While technology has eliminated a lot of job opportunities, it has also made life easier in many ways.  We no longer have to carry water or cut firewood to heat our homes.     While some aspects of modern life are worse, others are better.   Instead of fighting it try to make the best of it.

No comments:

Post a Comment