Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Value Of Wisdom

Ecclesiastes 7:11-29

“Wisdom is good with an inheritance: and by it there is profit to them that see the sun.  For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.” (Ecclesiastes 7:11-12)

Either wisdom or money provide a level of security in an unstable world.  When they are combined they provide a high level of protection from most of the world’s problems, almost ensuring success.  Knowledge is composed of the facts about a situation, for example knowing the different letters and the sounds the make.   Wisdom is the understanding of how to combine the facts to accomplish a goal, for example combining the sounds of the letters in order to read what is written.   Without the ability to combine the letters the person will never learn to read, but without the knowledge of the various letters, his reading ability will be severely restricted.  The more knowledge a person has the better they can use their wisdom to extend and improve their life. 

“Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?  In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.” (Ecclesiastes 7:13-14)

It is critical that we recognize our human limitations if we are to be happy or find meaning in our lives.  There are things mankind has little or no power to control.  Only god can control the weather or the motions of the planets for example.  Our efforts to control global warming are more likely to cause other, equally serious problems than they are to stop climate change.  If they can’t even fix our economy, how can they fix a far more complex system over which they have even less control?

Instead of getting frustrated over the lack of control, we need to enjoy the things that go well.  When things are out of our control we need to realize they are under God’s and that he has deliberately made them so that we can’t control the future, because, as Genesis 6:5 says, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”  If man could control the future, he would build it according to what he imagines and evil would grow in a never ending cycle.  Instead of being frustrated, we ought to be relieved that man can’t control everything. 

“All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness.

Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?  Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time?  It is good that thou shouldest take hold of this; yea, also from this withdraw not thine hand: for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all.
Wisdom strengtheneth the wise more than ten mighty men which are in the city.  For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.” (Ecclesiastes 7:15-20)

Life isn’t fair.  Sometimes people who do everything properly die young and sometimes evil people live long healthy lives.  If we can understand that, we can stop blaming ourselves for everything that goes wrong.  We can escape the treadmill of trying to be perfect.   Many times those who are trying to be perfect go to the other extreme when they can’t measure up to their idea of perfection.  Solomon says a middle course is more satisfactory, with no extremes of either good or evil.  Those extremes will eventually destroy us.

Learning to trust God will prevent us going to either extreme, protecting us from destruction.  There is no human on the earth who does not sin, whether Christian or not.  Understanding that It is God who saves us from our sin and keeps us saved does more to keep us on track and happy than the strength of ten men to do what is right could ever do for us.

“Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee: For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others.” (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22)

Learning not to pay attention to what others are talking about avoids a lot of emotional distress.  If we pay attention, we are likely to hear things, even from those who are close to us that hurt our feelings.  When we do, we need to think about how badly others would have been hurt had they heard things we said about them, even when we had no intention of hurting them.  Happiness is dependent on learning not to take offense over such things.

“All this have I proved by wisdom: I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me.  That which is far off, and exceeding deep, who can find it out?

I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness: And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her.” (Ecclesiastes 7:23-26)

Solomon set out to find answers to every problem, but found out that there was so much involved that he wasn’t able to understand the complexities of many of the things.    One thing he did learn was that even death was preferable to coming under the control of a selfish or greedy person.  Fortunately, the efforts to please God will enable one to escape such people’s power, both by their attitude and because God will help them.  Those who forget about God fall under such people’s influence. 

“Behold, this have I found, saith the preacher, counting one by one, to find out the account: Which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found.” (Ecclesiastes 7:27-28)

A proper attitude toward God is exceedingly rare.  In a survey of a Thousand man and a thousand women, Solomon found one man and no women who had a proper attitude toward God.  Humans are by nature selfish.   

“Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” (Ecclesiastes 7:29)

When God created mankind they were without sin, and every baby is born the same way, but it doesn’t take long for them to begin to adopt the selfish and sinful attitudes of those around them.  Socialism inevitably fails because it is based on the lie that selfishness is a learned reaction and not the underlying attitude of people.  Capitalism succeeds because it is based on greed.   Neither system is good, but capitalism works after a fashion.  Socialism soon becomes a perverted form of capitalism, benefiting only the leaders.

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