Ecclesiastes 7 (New Living Translation)
Wisdom for Life
1 A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume.
One of my favorite poems:
The Courage That My Mother Had
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
The courage that my mother had
Went with her, and is with her still:
Rock from New England quarried;
Now granite in a granite hill.
The golden brooch my mother wore
She left behind for me to wear;
I have no thing I treasure more:
Yet, it is something I could spare.
Oh, if instead she’d left to me
The thing she took into the grave!—
That courage like a rock, which she
Has no more need of, and I have.
And the day you die is better than the day you are born.
2 Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties.
After all, everyone dies—
so the living should take this to heart.
3 Sorrow is better than laughter,
for sadness has a refining influence on us.
HERE is the cry of our hearts for a worthwhile life —
Holiness is what I long for,
Holiness is what I need;
Holiness is what You want from me.
Righteousness . . .
Brokenness . . .
4 A wise person thinks a lot about death,
while a fool thinks only about having a good time.
5 Better to be criticized by a wise person
than to be praised by a fool.
6 A fool’s laughter is quickly gone,
like thorns crackling in a fire.
This also is meaningless.
7 Extortion turns wise people into fools,
and bribes corrupt the heart.
8 Finishing is better than starting.
Patience is better than pride.
from Morning and Evening,
by Charles Haddon Spurgeon
“Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.”
Look at David’s Lord and Master; see His beginning. He was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Would you see the end? He sits at His Father’s right hand, expecting until His enemies be made his footstool. “As He is, so are we also in this world.” You must bear the cross, or you shall never wear the crown; you must wade through the mire, or you shall never walk the golden pavement. Cheer up, then, poor Christian. “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.”
See that creeping worm, how contemptible its appearance! It is the beginning of a thing. Mark that insect with gorgeous wings, playing in the sunbeams, sipping at the flower bells, full of happiness and life; that is the end thereof. That caterpillar is yourself, until you are wrapped up in the chrysalis of death; but when Christ shall appear you shall be like Him, for you shall see Him as He is. Be content to be like Him, a worm and no man, that like Him you may be satisfied when you wake up in His likeness.
That rough-looking diamond is put upon the wheel of the lapidary. He cuts it on all sides. It loses much–much that seemed costly to itself. The king is crowned; the diadem is put upon the monarch’s head with trumpet’s joyful sound. A glittering ray flashes from that coronet, and it beams from that very diamond which was just now so sorely vexed by the lapidary. You may venture to compare yourself to such a diamond, for you are one of God’s people; and this is the time of the cutting process. Let faith and patience have their perfect work, for in the day when the crown shall be set upon the head of the King, Eternal, Immortal, Invisible, one ray of glory shall stream from you. “They shall be Mine,” saith the Lord, “in the day when I make up My jewels.” “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.”
9 Control your temper,
for anger labels you a fool.
10 Don’t long for “the good old days.”
This is not wise.
11 Wisdom is even better when you have money.
Both are a benefit as you go through life.
12 Wisdom and money can get you almost anything,
but only wisdom can save your life.
13 Accept the way God does things,
for who can straighten what he has made crooked?
14 Enjoy prosperity while you can,
but when hard times strike, realize that both come from God.
Remember that nothing is certain in this life.
Philippians 4:11-12 (Good News Translation)
And I am not saying this because I feel neglected, for I have learned to be satisfied with what I have. I know what it is to be in need and what it is to have more than enough. I have learned this secret, so that anywhere, at any time, I am content, whether I am full or hungry, whether I have too much or too little.
The Limits of Human Wisdom
15 I have seen everything in this meaningless life, including the death of good young people and the long life of wicked people. 16 So don’t be too good or too wise! Why destroy yourself? 17 On the other hand, don’t be too wicked either. Don’t be a fool! Why die before your time? 18Pay attention to these instructions, for anyone who fears God will avoid both extremes. 19 One wise person is stronger than ten leading citizens of a town!
20 Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins.
21 Don’t eavesdrop on others—you may hear your servant curse you. 22 For you know how often you yourself have cursed others.
The ESV translates verse 21 as: “Do not take to heart all the things that people say . . .” My mother was a high school teacher; she re-phrased this verse and said that a good teacher does not see all she sees, or hear all she hears.
It is simply another way of giving grace.
23 I have always tried my best to let wisdom guide my thoughts and actions. I said to myself, “I am determined to be wise.” But it didn’t work. 24 Wisdom is always distant and difficult to find. 25 I searched everywhere, determined to find wisdom and to understand the reason for things. I was determined to prove to myself that wickedness is stupid and that foolishness is madness.
26 I discovered that a seductive woman is a trap more bitter than death. Her passion is a snare, and her soft hands are chains. Those who are pleasing to God will escape her, but sinners will be caught in her snare.
27 “This is my conclusion,” says the Teacher. “I discovered this after looking at the matter from every possible angle. 28 Though I have searched repeatedly, I have not found what I was looking for. Only one out of a thousand men is virtuous, but not one woman!
This speaks more about Solomon’s choice of female companionship than it does about the relative wisdom of men and women. See what various commentators say:
“His fruitless search for a woman he could trust may tell us as much about him and his approach, as about any of his acquaintances.” (Kidner)
“Such as he knew her to be in Oriental courts and homes, denied her proper position, degraded, uneducated, all natural affections crushed or underdeveloped, the plaything of her lord, to be flung aside at any moment. It is not surprising that Koheleth’s impression of the female sex should be unfavorable.” (Deane)
“He found that a harem did not provide the appropriate companion for man. How much better he would have been with one good wife, such as he speaks of in Ecclesiastes 9:9 and Proverbs 31!” (Wright)
29 But I did find this: God created people to be virtuous, but they have each turned to follow their own downward path.”
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.