16Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child, and your princes feast in the morning! 17Happy are you, O land, when your king is the son of the nobility, and your princes feast at the proper time, for strength, and not for drunkenness! 18Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks. 19Bread is made for laughter, and wine gladdens life, and money answers everything. 20Even in your thoughts, do not curse the king, nor in your bedroom curse the rich, for a bird of the air will carry your voice, or some winged creature tell the matter.
(Ecclesiastes 10:16-20 ESV)
It is not a good thing when a land is ruled by someone (king) who is immature (a child) and who is more interested in having a good time than taking care of business.
The daytime is the time for working. Feasts, in Israel, never took place in the mornings. They took place in the afternoon/evenings. So a leader (prince) who was attending or throwing a feast in the morning is demonstrating irresponsibility.
It is a sad time when a country’s leader(s) lack experience to handle their important positions and use those positions to satisfy their own pleasures. Unfortunately we have many leaders in America at all levels of government who are thusly immature and irresponsible.
On the other hand, a land is happy when its leader (king) does the right things at the proper time and does them not self-indulgently but for the sake of others.
When a leader is well educated and practices self-control (as would be the son of nobility) the people are better off. Such a leader may still feast but he does so for the purpose of gaining strength so he can continue to do his job rather than doing so for selfish reasons (drunkeness, gluttony). In other words, a good leader does not use his/her position to indulge himself. He uses it to serve others.
When a leader fails to do his job the roof sinks in and the house leaks. Small problems become big problems and big problems become disasters when they are neglected through the inactivity (sloth) and laziness (indolence) of those in leadership.
Verse 18 seems to be a sarcastic barb at lazy and incompetent leaders. They think that they are in power to enjoy the products of people’s labor such as bread and wine. Then they cover up their abuses by throwing money around in an attempt to silence their critics.
But nevertheless, when we have bad and corrupt leaders – as we currently have in America – we are not to curse them, not even in our thoughts or in the privacy of our own home.
God created leadership. Everyone who is in a leadership position was placed there by God [Romans 13:1]. And we are not to undermine His authority with gossip and complaining. If we do we are only making the problem worse by escalating dissatisfaction.
Such thoughts will be carried on air like a bird or winged creature who will then tell the matter to someone else. This, by the way, is the origin of the phrase “a little birdie told me”. And pretty soon our discontentment has spread to others, including those we don’t know.
Instead, God wants us to take our problems to Him, as only He can solve them. No other human being can solve the problem a poor leader is doing. It’s best to hand the problem over to God and not make the problem worse by complaining.
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