5It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools. 6For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fools; this also is vanity. 7Surely oppression drives the wise into madness, and a bribe corrupts the heart. 8Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. 9Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools. 10Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
(Ecclesiastes 7:5-10 ESV)
In today’s passage King Solomon continues his previous thought, that the unpleasant things in life are better for us than we might think and he gives us some examples.
It is not pleasant to be confronted about our faults. But we all love to be praised. However, the truth is it is better to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools. Wise people want to see their own errors. And in so doing become even wiser [Proverbs 9:9]. Reproofs are the way to improve life [Proverbs 6:23].
Only by examining ourselves can one improve. The admonishment from those who know more than we do is beneficial. Hanging around with those who don’t self-examine is not [Proverbs 13:1, 27:6; Amos 6:4-6].
The lifestyle (laughter) of the fools is like the crackling of thorns under a pot. This is an analogy that was culturally relevant in Solomon’s day but people today don’t understand it without explanation. Branches from a thorn bush will flame up rapidly when thrown onto a fire, providing a quick and intense heat. Burning such branches provides virtually no value for its heat is gone as quickly as it came.
Similarly, praise and flattery come quickly and don’t last long. Nor do they do anything to improve our lives. Alternatively, the advice of a wise person lasts forever.
One wise way to live is to not act impulsively. Often times a new venture in life doesn’t start out the way we envisioned. We may suffer oppression. Or we may be tempted to take a short-cut to success by taking a bribe.
Rather than making a rash decision to quit or do something immoral, we need to be patient. Things get better. We need to keep a long-term view. The end of a thing is better than its beginning.
Yesterday we saw that suffering is a great teacher. So is patience. God is interested in building our character. So He will frequently test our patience in order to build perseverance because He Himself is patient and He wants His children to be like Him [Exodus 34:6; 2 Peter 3:9; Genesis 1:26].
Related to patience is being able to control our anger. We all face difficult and trying times. Only fools allow anger to lodge in their heart. The wise, faced with the same situations, don’t allow their spirit to become angry.
We must control our passions. Everyone gets angry. The test is whether he/she controls that anger or whether that anger controls him/her. Wise people control it. Fools are controlled by it [Proverbs 14:17; 16:32; James 1:19].
Finally, wise living is characterized by living in the present, not in the past. The former days may appear to be better than the current ones, but often that is the result of current impatience and selective memory.
This was the case with the Israelites when they were wandering in the desert for 40 years. They wanted to go back to Egypt because they remembered the good food they enjoyed there [Numbers 11:5-6]. But they somehow forgot that they were slaves in Egypt and were harshly treated.
Life wasn’t better yesterday. In fact, if we complain about today we probably also complained about yesterday when yesterday was today. And tomorrow we’ll look back on today and recall it as better.
Life is what it is. And as we’ve been studying in Ecclesiastes, much of it is not pleasant. That is to be expected. But times are no worse now than they’ve ever been.
Rather than complaining about our current lives we should take steps to improve them, such as seeking advice from others, and developing patience. We make life better by building our character and living wisely instead of living like fools.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.