Lord, grant that we may perceive and embrace true wisdom.
Read ECCLESIASTES 9:13—10:9
Wisdom Better Than Folly
13 I also saw under the sun this example of wisdom that greatly impressed me: 14 There was once a small city with only a few people in it. And a powerful king came against it, surrounded it and built huge siege works against it. 15 Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom. But nobody remembered that poor man. 16 So I said, “Wisdom is better than strength.” But the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are no longer heeded.
17 The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded
than the shouts of a ruler of fools.
18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war,
but one sinner destroys much good.
10 As dead flies give perfume a bad smell,
so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.
2 The heart of the wise inclines to the right,
but the heart of the fool to the left.
3 Even as fools walk along the road,
they lack sense
and show everyone how stupid they are.
4 If a ruler’s anger rises against you,
do not leave your post;
calmness can lay great offenses to rest.
5 There is an evil I have seen under the sun,
the sort of error that arises from a ruler:
6 Fools are put in many high positions,
while the rich occupy the low ones.
7 I have seen slaves on horseback,
while princes go on foot like slaves.
8 Whoever digs a pit may fall into it;
whoever breaks through a wall may be bitten by a snake.
9 Whoever quarries stones may be injured by them;
whoever splits logs may be endangered by them.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings” (Jas. 3:17, The Message).
Consider the psalmist’s deﬁnition of fools: “Fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good” (Psa. 14:1). The Hebrew word translated as “fool” denotes moral deﬁciency, not intellectual inadequacy: “wisdom” and “folly” are “categories with moral overtones in Israel’s wisdom literature, particularly in Ecclesiastes” (Michael Eaton, TOTC: Ecclesiastes, 132).
This passage underlines the value of “wisdom” (9:13–17) as well as the gravity of “folly” (9:18—10:9). In this postmodern age, we tend to embrace a casual, dismissive attitude towards sin, especially what we consider “little” or “occasional” sins, but the Teacher stresses the gravity of any sin, recognizing that it “destroys much good” (9:18) and can even “outweigh” wisdom (10:1). In the New Testament, Jesus, James and Paul concur with this thought (cf. Matt. 5:17–30; Jas. 2:10; 1 Cor. 5:6). Any sin is always serious, because our God is wholly holy.
Biblical wisdom is workaday wisdom. We are accustomed to think in categories of “sacred” and “secular,” but in the Hebrew understanding all of life was sacred: God’s laws covered concerns from sacriﬁces to sexuality, crops to cleanliness, building a house to taking a bath, religious rituals to raising children, sowing a ﬁeld to sewing a garment. Wisdom is no ethereal, other-worldly quality, but rather down-to-earth and pragmatic, with something to say about mundane details of everyday living, even walking along the road (10:3). Wisdom is viewing life from its Creator’s perspective and living life according to its Designer’s principles. The outcome isn’t simply righteous living but a smoother, safer and more-successful navigation of life’s uncertainties.
The more fully and deeply we comprehend God’s holiness, the more conscious we are of our own sinfulness.
Lord, we understand that, as the Teacher emphasizes, life is not fair. Teach us to rely more heavily on You as we confront all the imperfections of life.