Solomon compares wisdom and folly with MANY _____ is better than _____ comparisons. In the end, he says that “God made man upright” but we have left that path.
Some of Solomon’s choices for what is better leave me scratching my head. “Really? In my mind it is the other way around.” I think is all goes back to the sadness I heard in his earlier words. It spills over into his choices for what is best. I’m going to see if I can visualize it his way because I fully believe the WHOLE bible is written under the hand of the Holy Spirit. If He let Solomon pen these words then there must be a reason.
A good name being precious is something I can get behind. Many a person has ruined his/her future life by doing something that will stick with them forever. And the internet has made that even easier. Potential collages look at applicant’s Facebook pages and tweets. What you say and do is now out for everyone to see and judge.
Here we come to the first “isn’t that backwards” comparisons. The day of death being better than the day of birth. As a mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, etc., I MUCH prefer the days of living for my family over the day of their death. I’ll even take the hard days over the gone days. But Solomon seemed to focus on the struggles that lay ahead instead of focusing on the possibilities for joy. He saw death as a release from all the trials of life. I have to agree on that point, in regards to the person who has died but not for his/her family that is left behind. We mourn their passing, hopefully remembering the good things about their life.
Which brings us to the next ‘isn’t it backwards’ one, for me anyway. Being in the house of mourning is better than being in the house of feasting. I have never lost anyone I was close with to death, but I have family members who have. I witness their pain. But, given time, I witness their return to joy. No. The loss NEVER fully leaves but we learn to live with it and it begins to hurt less. There are seasons that bring it back in full force but they come less often as time passes. If I am staying in the “house of mourning”, how am I to go on with my life? I want to carry the memories, especially the good ones, out of that place of mourning and find joy once again. I want to enjoy the “house of feasting” in celebrations with those of my family who also remain. Yes, ALL people die but there is a lot of living in between.
Is Solomon maybe referring to mourning someone who was good verses celebrating the demise of someone who was awful? If so, I will agree with Solomon. I would prefer mourning the death of someone I love over celebrating the death of someone I despise. Personally, I have found that I can’t rejoice over the death of even those who have been the MOST difficult to deal with. That would probably put me in the house of mourning and Solomon speaks wisdom here too.
I looked to my bible helps here to see what it had for me. It agrees that we are talking about the death of another individual and how we who remain deal with it. “Bereavement, while painful, is a more effective prod to growth in spiritual wisdom and maturity than the elation one feels over a newborn child” (ESV study note). This makes sense to me and helps me understand Solomon’s point of view. If verses 1-5 ALL relate to death, then this is the wise rebuke I’m hearing. If they are NOT all dealing with death, then I want what Solomon is say that laughter is better than mourning.
The laughter of fools isn’t desirable. This makes me think of people laughing at you or at your adversity. This is definitely hurtful for anyone. Mean ‘practical jokes’ is another laughter that I never want to hear.
My bible helps tells me that “oppression” here refers to “extortion or blackmail.” Those can drive anyone to madness but first you have to be guilty of something fitting for blackmail. The wise man should be avoiding such actions, including accepting bribes. Thinking about this verse though, I see where the extortion, blackmail or bribes used against those I have to do business with will certainly affect me. If I have to be under a corrupt judge, being wise may not be enough to keep me out of trouble. And this world has plenty of people dealing with these issues.
As for Solomon’s comparison to the beginning of things verses the ending of them, I would say it depends on the thing. It is true that you gain wisdom while moving towards the ending, but I still like seeing the possibilities that the beginnings offer. At the ending, there is the final product to enjoy but the possibilities and thrill of working things out are over. If it is my child’s life, I want to treasure ALL the steps in between. I don’t want to look to the end for my final joy. Although, looking forward to the days without diapers was wonderful and kept me pushing for success in potty training.
Verse 9 I can FULLY get behind! I have seen, and experienced, anger that gets stuck and becomes toxic. I have memories of times when my brother and I would come to blows or when I was mistreated by someone. Getting angry in these instances when I was a child would put a knot in my heart and the “I hate you” measure would rise. It kept rising with each offense until there was nothing but anger towards the other. I have learned that turning loose of those memories is the ONLY way I could bring the ‘temperature’ down. I consciously change my thoughts when I start to recall unhappy memories. Yes, they are there, but I refuse to dwell on them.
I’ve tried to teach my husband to do this but am having no success. It is quite regular for him to bring up bad memories from his childhood and stew over them. I can see his anger grow every time he does. I believe it is a big part of what feeds his animosity with his younger brother. That, and the fact that that particular brother adds fuel to the fire with his current actions too. I’m working on my own frustration with that brother too.
Verse 10 brings to mind the “new normal” that has settled in since the global health crisis of Covid 19. It also makes me think of how our society has changed over the last 50+ years. There are a LOT of people who wish to go back to the ‘simpler days’ in time. But there are also a lot of good things that have happened along the way. I, for one, enjoy being able to find nearly anything I need online and have it delivered to my door. I especially like being able to print our sewing patterns on my own computer. And recently, hopefully coming soon to my life, is being able to project/”cast” patterns directly onto my fabric without the need of paper patterns.
Solomon tells us that wisdom is better than money. It can protect you and keep you out of trouble. It can guide your life and help you make the best use of what you have, including how to deal with an inheritance. I would call it an inheritance when you spend time in God’s word. Wisdom comes from God and He gives it to His children. He is in control of all things.
“Who can make straight what He has made crooked?” (verse 13b). My advice is to not even try. It truly is “vanity” and “chasing after the wind.” Strive to be as Paul was, finding contentment in whatever situation you are in and leave the rest in God’s hands. He cares for His children and knows what it will take to bring us to where we need to be.
Let’s skip to the end because it really encompasses the rest of this chapter. “God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes” (verse 29). When God created man, He made him perfect and without sin. Man took it from there. There is not a scheme man has not tried at some point. There is not a sin he has not engaged in. And there is not a path that he has not taken to try and repair the damage he has done. There is nothing new under the sun.
Solomon says “Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself? Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time?” (verses 16-17). In other words, “Don’t be so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good.” Live a life that honors God in the best way you can but don’t be so caught up in being perfect that you miss the sights along the way. “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins” (verse 20). If there were, we wouldn’t have needed Jesus.
The final point Solomon made makes me think he is talking directly about his own downfall. He says that he tried to be wise but he failed. It was “far off, and deep, very deep” (verse 24b). And what he was most unwise with was women. “And I find something more bitter than death: the woman whose heart is snares and nets, and whose hands are fetters. He who pleases God escapes her, but the sinner is taken by her” (verse 26). Solomon’s downfall was listening to his wives; all 700 of them and 300 concubines! That’s a LOT of snares and fetters. Yet he says “One man among a thousand I found, but a woman among all these I have not found” (verse 28b). I’m thinking that ONE he is looking for is described in the last chapter of Proverbs. SHE would not have led him away from God.
Father God, I need Your wisdom in my life. Not for some grand thing I’m trying to do but for how I interact with those around me every day. I want to show them Your love. I want to be a help to them and I know of no better way to do this than to use Your wisdom to direct me. I KNOW I will not always get it right. I KNOW there will be times when You hand me wisdom and I turn away from it, thinking I have a better plan. Keep knocking on my heart and my thick skull until I stop and really listen.
Thank You for the hard times as well as the good times. They both have much to teach me. Help me learn with as little pain as possible. PLEASE don’t let me have to go back to the hardest lessons again. Remind me of our time there when needed so that I don’t fall back into those places. Remind me of the pain there but also Your hand reaching out and saving me from my own failings.
Father God, I also do NOT want to deal with “the house of mourning” with ANY of my family members now, or in the near future. I know we will all pass away at some point, but PLEASE protect my dad as he deals with health issues. Give the doctors wisdom and hold their hands in Yours to the point that it is Yours doing the work directly. Re-knit him together with perfection. Whatever else I can do, I leave Him in YOUR hands. You got this God!