Friday, November 5, 2010

Don't Be a Fool!



Part 13 of a series through the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes

Text: 9:13-10:20


PURSUE WISDOM

Twice in Ecclesiastes, the Preacher says that life is crooked (1:15; 7:13). And we need wisdom to navigate through the twists and turns of life. Where can we get this wisdom? From the Bible, God’s book of wisdom. If you’re traveling to New York City, you won’t find a straight road that goes directly there. If you’ve never been there before, you will need a map. The Bible is like a map. It might not give us exact instructions for every personal decision, but it does offer principles of wisdom for daily living. The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “From childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). The wisest decision we can make is to follow the Bible’s way to eternal life through faith in Christ.

In this passage, the Preacher talks about wisdom and folly.
  • Wisdom and folly are not measured by one’s IQ. There are many smart, stupid people in this world. You might know someone who is considered a genius, but lacks common sense. You don’t have to have a high IQ to be considered wise by God’s standards.
  • Wisdom and folly are measured by one’s obedience to God’s Word. The Bible says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). If a person respects God, he or she will want to obey God’s Word, and obedience to God’s Word is the wise way to live. On the other hand, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1; 53:1). The fool says no to God’s wisdom. Is your mind filled with God’s wisdom? Is your heart determined to obey God’s wisdom?
  • Wisdom is valuable, but often unappreciated. "But I say that wisdom is better than might, though the poor man’s wisdom is despised and his words are not heard" (9:16). In 9:13-16 we see an example of wisdom: a poor man’s wisdom was able to save his city against a powerful king. It’s sometimes said that “brains are better than brawn.” However, his wisdom was soon forgotten. Recently, there was a story of a group of nuns who were given an old Honus Wagner baseball card. It was badly damaged, and they assumed that it wasn’t worth much. They were surprised to find out that the card could be worth $200,000! Similarly, godly wisdom is valuable yet unappreciated.
  • The loudest voices are often the voices of fools. "The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools" (9:17). For example, the loudest voices in our culture mock the idea of sexual abstinence before marriage. But imagine all of the problems that could be avoided if people just followed this one piece of wisdom from Scripture.

A LITTLE FOLLY, A LOT OF HARM

A little bit of folly can cause a lot of harm. A reputation can be ruined in an instant. A few examples are (1) former President Bill Clinton, (2) actor Tom Cruise, (3) NHLer Patrick Kane.

A moment of folly can tarnish a lifetime of wisdom.

Wisdom is often forgotten, but folly is usually remembered. (Of course, with God there is forgiveness.)

Always be on guard against folly:
  • One foolish person. "Wisdom is better than the weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good" (9:18). It's often said, “One rotten apple spoils the whole bushel.” A foolish person in a group of young people can lead the whole group astray. One foolish person in a church can cause that church to split. First, don’t be that foolish person. Second, avoid that foolish person.
  • One foolish action. "Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor" (10:1). We are all prone to foolishness. We are all sinners by nature. In 10:8-9, the hunter, farmer, stonecutter, and woodcutter are injured due to their own carelessness. Don’t be proud and think that you will never fall into sin, or you will be like the hunter who falls into his own pit.
  • One foolish neglect. "Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks" (10:18). There are sins of commission (bad things we do) and sins of omission (good things we don’t do). James writes, “Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17). Are you neglecting to share an encouraging word with someone? Are you neglecting to share the gospel with a friend? Are you neglecting to spend time with your family? Don’t be guilty of foolish neglect.
  • One foolish word. "Even 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" (10:20). We still use the expression, “A little bird told me.” Often when we say something foolish (especially in today’s world of email, twitter, and Facebook), people will end up hearing it somehow. Be careful what you say. “The walls have ears.” The Bible contains much wisdom about our words. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). If we need to begin a sentence with the phrase, “I probably shouldn’t say this but…”, then you probably shouldn’t say it! James, writing about our speech, says, “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!” (James 3:5). One foolish word can do great damage.

A HEART OF WISDOM

"A wise man’s heart inclines him to the right, but a fool’s to the left" (10:2).

No, this verse has nothing to do with right-wing or left-wing politics. It’s talking about the source of wisdom and foolishness. The source is the heart. Our heart leads us either in the right direction (“the right”) or in the wrong direction (“the left”). Jesus once said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). He also declared, “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:19). Again, we need to consult and follow the map, God’s Word. Fill you mind with God’s Word and determine in your heart to follow its wisdom.