Summary: It’s not an accident that this book has been classified as "Wisdom Literature." In my opinion, it’s probably the most philosophical books of the entire Bible. But, it also contains more than just philosophical debate. It contains some very practical and down-to-earth wisdom.
Text: Ecclesiastes 7:15-29
Last week, I began my sermon talking about wisdom. This week I want to expand on that thought as we come to the seventh chapter of Ecclesiastes. It’s not an accident that this book has been classified as "Wisdom Literature." In my opinion, it’s probably the most philosophical books of the entire Bible. But, it also contains more than just philosophical debate. It contains some very practical and down-to-earth wisdom.
I. The BALANCE of Wisdom (Vv. 15-18)
Ecclesiastes is a book that gives us a harsh dose of reality. The good guys don’t always win; the hero doesn’t ride off into the sunset. The message of this book is quite the opposite. Solomon makes it known to us that he has seen situations where bad things happened to good people and good things happened to bad people.
The prosperity gospel teaches that good things only happen to good people. When disaster strikes a Christian, the Prosperity preacher says, “Well, he must not have been good enough," or, "He must not have prayed hard enough." And so the followers of these teachings think, “Well, if God only blesses good people and I’m not being blessed, then I’m going to try harder, pray harder and give more until I’m good enough to deserve God’s blessings."
Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with trying to be good. But there IS a problem with spiritual imbalance. And in Vv. 16-17, Solomon warns against imbalance in both of its extremes.
What does he mean? That you shouldn’t be too good? That it’s okay to be a "little bad?" No. He doesn’t say, "Be a little good and be a little bad." Actually, he doesn’t say to be wicked at all. What he DOES say is don’t be excessive. Don’t try to be excessively righteous or excessively wise.
So again, what does this mean? Well, in order to find out we have to look at the CONTEXT. Solomon has just described in v. 15 how he has seen a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness…and a wicked man who prolongs his life in his wickedness.
Now you might be thinking, “Well, that’s not fair!" And by coming to that conclusion, you are passing judgment on the righteousness and fairness of God.
You hear people say all the time, "I can’t believe in a God who would allow war and suffering and injustice to take place in the world. If I were God, then I would do it differently." People who make statements like this are attempting to be excessively righteous and excessively wise. They are placing their own righteousness and wisdom above God’s, and that is the way of ruin.
We also need to be careful not to go to the other extreme of saying, “Well God’s righteousness and wisdom are so far removed from me that they don’t relate to me so I’m just going to live my life in sin. After all, if I’ve broken one commandment I’ve broken them all so I might as well have fun doing it." This also is the attitude of a fool; it’s a path in which you have a good chance of dying well before your time.
So the question is, where is the balance between these two extremes? The answer is found in v. 18. It is in the fear of the Lord. We don’t talk that much these days of fearing God. But we should. After all, that’s where real wisdom begins.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Ps. 111:10).
II. The STRENGTH of Wisdom (Vv. 19-20)
Now in the first verses we looked at, Solomon says not to be overly wise. But that doesn’t mean that wisdom doesn’t work. In these verse, he compares it to the value of having ten rulers in one city. Think about the kind of power a king would have over a city if he teamed up with nine other kings. As powerful as that might be, wisdom is much more powerful.
But a part of being wise is understanding the reality of sin. Solomon says,there is not a just man on earth who does good And does not sin (v.20). The apostle Paul says the same thing in the NT:
“There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.” “Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit”; “The poison of asps is under their lips”; “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Rom. 3:10-18)