Thursday, May 18, 2017

Ecclesiastes: Does Anything Really Matter? Day 21, Foolishness Puts Us In Harm's Way

Solomon continues on with his proverbs regarding foolishness and the consequences of it.

"Whoever digs a pit may fall into it; whoever breaks through a wall may be bitten by a snake." (Ecclesiastes 10:8) Solomon's father David believed judgment would come upon anyone who dug a pit for someone else, "Whoever digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit they have made. The trouble they cause recoils on them; their violence comes down on their own heads." (Psalm 7:15-16) Solomon will repeat this belief in poetic justice when he says, "Whoever digs a pit will fall into it; if someone rolls a stone, it will roll back on them." (Proverbs 26:27) Purposely causing trouble for others has a tendency to backfire.

The king is a man who can't help looking at both sides of the coin, though. We've already taken note in our study of Ecclesiastes that he's distressed by the fact that bad things still sometimes happen even when we are innocently minding our own business and living in a godly way. So now he points out the need to be careful even when we are going about our normal lives. He doesn't want us to commit the foolishness of being careless while doing potentially dangerous jobs. "Whoever quarries stones may be injured by them; whoever splits logs may be endangered by them." (Ecclesiastes 10:9) The king is a man who believes in fate to a certain extent, so he warns us not to tempt fate by not taking the proper precautions. He's supervised many large construction projects in the kingdom and he's likely seen some accidents, many of them due to carelessness. If he lived in our times and was the foreman of a construction crew he would say, "Wear your hard hats, your steel-toed boots, and your safety glasses! Don't take a chance."

It's important to take care of our tools and to hone our skills and talents. This is wise and will help us be more productive at work, plus it has a spiritual application as well. "If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed, but skill will bring success." (Ecclesiastes 10:10) A person Solomon considers foolish might keep on chopping with a dull ax, not ever thinking to sharpen it. A wise person will sharpen it but, if no sharpening tool is available, the wise person will think about it for a while and then come up with a clever solution. Spiritually speaking, we are wise if we don't allow ourselves to become dull like an uncared-for ax blade. We are to daily sharpen our knowledge of God by spending time with Him in prayer and by studying the Scriptures. Like an ax that works better when it's sharp, we will work better for the kingdom of our Lord if we keep ourselves sharp.

"If a snake bites before it is charmed, the charmer receives no fee." (Ecclesiastes 10:11) The NIV translation varies here from the KJV translation. The KJV says, "Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler is no better." In this case I feel the KJV translation makes more sense in light of the fact that Solomon feels (in both Ecclesiastes and Proverbs) that babbling is a side effect of being a foolish (morally and spiritually corrupt) person. The suggestion here is that the foolish person speaks before thinking about it, causing harm to the person he's speaking to. His words are like a snake that suddenly strikes. It's so important to think before we speak, especially when speaking to a person who is going through a difficult time. Words can wound in ways nothing else can.

In contrast to the words of a fool, the words of a wise person are like a medicine. "Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips. At the beginning their words are folly; at the end they are wicked madness---and fools multiply words." (Ecclesiastes 10:12-14a) Solomon observes, "As soon as the foolish man starts talking, his advice is very bad. And it doesn't get any better from there. By the end of his speech his advice is so bad that to follow it would be madness."

"No one knows what is coming---who can tell someone else what will happen after them?" (Ecclesiastes 10:14b) He says, "Beware of the person who talks as if he knows everything! No matter what subject comes up, he speaks on it as if he's an authority. That kind of person is always telling you what you should do and what the outcome will be if you follow their bad and ungodly advice. Don't fall for it!"

This next verse makes me laugh a little bit every time I read it. "The toil of fools wearies them; they do not know the way to town." (Ecclesiastes 10:15) I find this darkly humorous and I believe that's how Solomon intends his words to be taken. He counsels, "That person who is always telling you what you should do and how you should do it, that person who finds a good honest day's work too hard but instead goes about being a busybody.....why, he can't even give you directions to town, much less moral and spiritual advice! He hardly has sense enough to get in out of the rain. Don't waste your time listening to him. He is lacking in spiritual discernment and will lead you in the wrong direction." The Lord Jesus would agree with Solomon's words, for He said, "If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit." (Matthew 15:14) We must be wise when we choose which examples to follow. We need to be led by the Holy Spirit when choosing our close friends and our mentors. A person who is spiritually blind is not going to be able to lead us anyplace good; they will eventually fall into a hole and will take us down with them.

The best example we can ever fellow is set by the Lord Jesus Christ. If we honor and obey Him, we will never fall blindly into the ditch. We live in a fallen world and hardships may come even while we're living godly lives, but at least we will be living close to our Lord who gives us strength and comfort. Far better to endure hard times with Jesus than to endure them without Him, for as men like Solomon and Job said, sometimes bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. Life on this earth is unpredictable, but we are to build our lives on the solid rock that is Jesus Christ. Then we will be like the wise builder of Matthew 7:24-25 of whom the Lord said, "Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who build his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock."

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