Summary: This sermon offers steps for becoming wise
Ecclesiastes 7:1-5 – Becoming Wise
A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth.
It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools.
One morning the newly hired president of the bank made an appointment with his retiring predecessor to seek his advice. He began:
“Sir, as you know, I lack a great deal of the knowledge you already possess. You have been very successful as president of this bank, and I wondered if you would be so kind as to share with me some of the wisdom you have gained from your years here that have been key to your success?”
The older gentleman looked at him with a steely glare and replied:
“Young man, TWO WORDS: good decisions.”
“Thank you very much sir, but may I be so bold as to ask ‘how does one come to know which is the good decision?’”
“One word, young man – Experience.”
“Yes… but how does one gain this experience?”
“Two words, young man – Bad Decisions.”
Bad decisions… boy I've made my share. That’s why my NUMBER 1 prayer request these days is that God would grant me wisdom. Why? I need discernment. I need to see people the way God does. I need objectivity – stability - maturity. And those things come with wisdom.
According to the book of James, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it WILL be given him.”
So, how about you? Would you like to be wise???
The Bible is full of wisdom – particularly the writings of Solomon, whom the Bible describes as the wisest man to ever live. Solomon didn’t get there on his own… no. At the beginning of his reign, the Lord told Solomon He would give him whatever he wanted. His request??? ⇒ That God would make him wise.
Later, as a young father and king, we see that wisdom on display as he sat down to write the Book of Proverbs that would act as a guide for his young son and help him avoid the consequences of bad decisions.
But as we study his life, we learn that Solomon didn’t always act in wisdom. In FACT, He made many terrible decisions despite his incredible wisdom. And because of those years of foolishness, his last days were filled with bitterness.
You could say - the bitter thoughts of an elderly wise-man gave birth to the book of Ecclesiastes.
Ecclesiastes is a book that wrestles with the meaning of life. Its major theme is:
‘The emptiness of life WITHOUT God.’
After looking back at his reign as king and reflecting over all that he had accomplished and acquired – he came to THIS bitter conclusion:
“All of it is vanity.”
“My life has been wasted in pursuit of the wrong things!”
Can you imagine reaching the end of a privileged life FILLED with great opportunities, and coming to the terrible conclusion that it was all a waste??
I guess you could say - “After climbing the ladder of success, Solomon found it to be leaning on the wrong building.”
He doesn’t want his readers to make the same mistakes and end up bitter old people filled with regret. So in our text, Solomon offers four characteristics of wisdom.
If YOU would be wise, there are four things you must do:
1. First, you must value Character ABOVE temporary pleasure. True wisdom is more than knowing right from wrong – wisdom gives us the ability to see beyond what is good to what is best. Notice verse 1,
“A good name is better than precious ointment.”
Think about that. Precious ointment - costly perfume - is good, it is a mark of WEALTH - but its effects are only temporary. A good name - CHARACTER - is lasting.
As a younger man, I was so wrapped up in myself, my goals, my ambitions, that I really didn’t consider the importance of character. My pride made me short-sighted. Since I was so concerned with my own goals, I hurt the people close to me. I didn’t think about how my stress and my preoccupation with success might cause me to miss out on the joys of family life.
Now that I am more experienced, I see the value of character… that what a man IS when noone is watching IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN all the accolades I might receive from my peers. I realize that my opportunities to impact people for Christ are slipping away. If I damage my witness chasing after the temporal things of THIS life, I will not leave a positive legacy for those I love.