8He who digs a pit will fall into it, and a serpent will bite him who breaks through a wall. 9He who quarries stones is hurt by them, and he who splits logs is endangered by them. 10If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed.
(Ecclesiastes 10:8-10 ESV)
In today’s passage and the ones that follow King Solomon offers up some examples of wisdom that people can use to make their lives easier and better. These examples are given in the form of proverbs.
Like most proverbs, these are not meant to be taken literally. Rather King Solomon uses what were then culturally-relevant illustrations to teach lessons about living a wise life.
Today’s verses identify how we can mitigate danger in our lives and thereby protect ourselves from unnecessary harm. The wise man identifies danger ahead of time and takes necessary precautions.
Obviously the one who digs a pit will need to take precautions so he won’t fall into it himself. In ancient times walls were used as boundary markers between property. But it was common for snakes to hide in these walls (which often didn’t use mortar). Thinking about this ahead of time and protecting oneself is the wise thing to do.
The point here is to think before acting. Don’t just charge ahead in life without considering the possible consequences of your actions. There may be hidden dangers.
Likewise, dangerous jobs such as quarrying stones or splitting logs can endanger and hurt someone. Proper precautions should be taken.
Good preparation will make life easier, safer, and more enjoyable. As the modern-day proverb states: “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.
Thinking things through before we start and having a proper plan will result in more efficient work with less rework. But too many times in life we just charge ahead without proper preparation (how many of us read user manuals?). As a result we experience frustration and delay.
This is why Solomon says if the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength. Today our tools are made from steel and other high quality metals. But in Solomon’s day they were made from iron. During use they would lose their sharpness (e.g. an axe) and would need to be sharpened (e.g. in a forge) in order to work effectively.
But if those tools are not sharpened they will not work properly and more time and effort will have to be expended to achieve results. Not to mention there was increased probability of harming oneself. Obviously, the wise thing to do is to keep one’s tools sharp.
Wisdom is like a sharpened tool. It helps us get through life will less effort and danger and with more success. When we approach life in a wise way – instituting the actions and attitudes that we’ve been reading about in Ecclesiastes – life will go much better for us.
The wise person thinks things through before taking action. He has a plan that accounts for what could go wrong and takes the necessary precautions. Wisdom helps one to succeed.
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