We have just gone through the book of Ecclesiastes. This is a sermon that instructs us on how to live by wisdom. We might be tempted to think that these are just words that have no meaning or consequence for our lives today. I guess we can try to make that claim about all of Scripture, but what about this Ecclesiastes? There are people who claim that this is just a cynic who is not really trying to work out the Lord’s wisdom anyway. Is this piece of literature about the Lord’s wisdom? Can we find life in these words?
The preacher is wrapping up his sermon on Solomonic wisdom. The preacher is honest that we go through life and we experience the trials under the sun. The preacher makes no mystery of the reality that we will experience many trials under the sun. So, if we do suffer and experience pain under the sun then why do we continue to press forward?
If you read the book of Ecclesiastes you might be tempted not to do anything in this world. The reason that we might be tempted not to do anything is because you will probably lose or experience frustration so why press forward? Or we might think that we work hard and then we die so what is the point? However, the preacher wants us to see that there is a value and there is something that is worthwhile in our working. So, why press forward in life? Why manage our money? Why do anything under the sun if this world is in a curse?
The preacher in Ecclesiastes as been accused of being a cynic. It is easy to pick a few passages and claim that the preacher is undermining wisdom. We can see that the preacher does not believe you can put God in a box, but does the preacher esteem wisdom? Is there a benefit to pursuing and desiring wisdom? Or is the preacher one who really believes that wisdom is just a waste of time?
One would think that if they were saved from a dire consequence the amount of gratitude would be overwhelming. Now, if our house was in danger of being destroyed you would think that we would be consumed with joy if someone saved it. What if we liked our town and someone saved it? We would probably want to have a parade and name a day after the individual who saved it all. However, there is in instance where that did not happen. Why was someone so significant forgotten? What does such forgetting have to do with wisdom?
There is the temptation to read Ecclesiastes and think that maybe there is not much of a reason to live. The preacher seems rather cynical when he talks about life under sun. Such negative talk could leave someone with the impression that there is no reason to live nor are there any benefits to life. Is this really what the preacher is saying? Should we really think that there are no blessings of life under the sun?
When we go through this life it might look like it is wise to please man because then one will receive more in return. If man is pleased with you then it seems you will go far because people will promote you, remember you, and help you advance through life to greater amounts of success. So, it seems that there is a great advantage to keeping up appearances. So, is there a downside of trying to keep up an appearance before man? Why would the preacher in Ecclesiastes say that such a view of life is short sighted? What is a a view of life that is much wiser?
Rulers and superiors are people who have authority. This is an authority that can make things rather stressful for us if we try to enter into their presence because they have power to hire, fire, and even sentence. How will they receive us? How will they receive criticism if we have to give some? What will be the potential consequence for appearing to challenge their authority? These are the sorts of things that the preacher in Ecclesiastes teaches us about in his sermon. So, how do we approach the leaders of our day?
We know that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. If we are consistent it would seem that it is better to go through life being wise rather than being a fool. So, why does the preacher warn us not to make ourselves too wise? Is he contradicting the wisdom tradition or is he communicating something that is essential for us to remember as we pursue wisdom?
The saying in this age is that “laughter is the best medicine.” I grant that no one likes an Eeyore crashing the party. We all know that such a pessimist is not someone very fun to be around or listen to complain all the time. So, if this is true then why does the preacher tell us that it is better to be in the funeral parlor rather than wedding feast? Are we not to enjoy the fruits of our labors? How can we go through life with such a pessimistic outlook? Where is the joy and wisdom in such pessimism?