Summary: A good thing done at the wrong time can be a bad thing. That is, it can actually do more harm than good.
Art Linkletter tells of the young woman who married a wealthy old man. She was
apparently quite fond of him in the beginning, but then she started to focus on the demands
of maintaining a home. She told her husband that the garden looked shabby. All right
he said spend some money to take care of it. So she brought in the gardening crew,
and soon the grounds looked wonderful. Then she noticed that the cutting away of the
shrubs and hedges left the house looking shabby. So she called in the painters, and soon
the house looked just wonderful. But when she walked into the house, from this beautiful
exterior, it made the inside of the house look shabby. So her husband told her to get an
interior decorator, and she did. Finally, the entire estate sparkled and looked gorgeous.
But in the midst of all this splendor her husband looked shabby, so she got rid of him.
Linkletter did not say if this story was based on fact, but it could very well be. Here
was a woman who wanted a place for everything, and everything in its place. What did
not fit, she got rid of. All of us may like to follow such a plan, and keep in our lives only
those things which are pleasant, and which our design for the ideal life. Solomon is telling
us this is fairy tale dreaming, and does not face up to the reality that life is a mixture of
negative and positive. You don't get to pick and choose, and select only the good things
of life. You must also experience the bad things.
You cannot just be born, and skip the dying part. You cannot just go out and harvest
a crop, and skip the work of planting. You cannot just go through life laughing and dancing,
and bypass the weeping and mourning that comes with the package called life. As the
cliché goes, "We must learn to take the bad with the good." The key to being able to do
this, and still be happy and successful, is timing. Timing plays a major role in life. Part of
what it means to be wise is in recognizing the importance of timing.
Amusing is the story of the Russian philosopher Nicolas Berdyaev who was pleading
passionately about the insignificance and unreality of time, when suddenly he stopped,
and looked at his watch with genuine anxiety, for he noticed he was late for taking his
Solomon was right, there is a time for every matter under heaven. A time for taking
medicine, and a time for refraining medicine. This is not one of his 14 couplets, but it is
just as true, and we could all come up with other couplets equally valid. These are just
key examples of his main point, there is a time for everything. If this is the case, then
it naturally follows that whether life goes smooth, or is rough, often will depend upon the
timing. We cannot choose when to be born, and often have little choice as to when we
die, but there is much of life where we do have choices, and wisdom is determined, not
just by the right choice, but by the right timing.
A good thing done at the wrong time can be a bad thing. That is, it can actually do
more harm than good. For example, take Lucy, who is playing out the field, and a ball
drops right beside her, and she makes no attempt to catch it. Charlie Brown, the manager
rushes out to her in anger demanding an answer for why she didn't hold out her glove.
Her reply was simply, "I was having my quiet time." Not even God could be pleased
with such timing for devotions. Spirituality of any kind can get a bad reputation if it is used
as an excuse for neglecting responsibility, or avoiding obligations. The student who fails
his history exam with the excuse that he was reading his Bible, will not impress God or
the teacher. Life demands balance. There is a time for devotions, and a time to refrain
from devotions. Peter wanted to stay on the Mt. of Transfiguration, but Jesus said, in
effect, there is a time to be on the mountain, and a time to be in the valley meeting the
urgent needs of men. Escape is good only when it is a means to prepare for more effective
It is good to go through an intersection, for if one does not he will never get anywhere.
All progress depends on doing it, so it is good and right, but if you do this good and right
thing at the wrong time it can be the worst thing you do. There is a time to go, and a time to stop.