Ten Ways Of Wisdom

The book of Ecclesiastes is King Solomon’s own account of his life’s pursuits. Gifted by God with wisdom exceeding any living man, innumerable possessions, and more wealth than he could spend in several lifetimes, he had set out to “seek and explore by wisdom concerning all that has been done under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 1:13). He was a man of extremes, testing both folly and madness as well as God-given wisdom. Ecclesiastes gives us insight into how he thought, what he did to explore and experience life, and what he ultimately concluded.

Ecclesiastes 7 is partially written in the prose style of the book of Proverbs, also authored by Solomon. Matthew Henry’s Commentary introduces this chapter by stating, “Solomon had given many proofs and instances of the vanity of this world and the things of it; now, in this chapter, he recommends to us some good means proper to be used for the redress of these grievances and the arming of ourselves against the mischief we are in danger of from them, that we may make the best of the bad.”

In other words, because life offers many temptations to follow the vanity of our hearts as Solomon did, there are some things we can take care to address to avoid the pitfalls into which he fell in his pursuit of life experiences.

Here are ten things Ecclesiastes 7 teaches us about wisdom, and the way a wise person conducts himself.

#1 – A wise person knows the value of a good reputation.

Ecclesiastes 7:1 – A good name is better than a good ointment, and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.

The Hebrew word translated “good name” is šēm. Strong’s defines it as “a mark or memorial of individuality; by implication honor, authority, character.” It is your reputation – what comes into the minds of those who know you, when your name is mentioned. It’s also how the world remembers you when you’re gone.

Solomon had experienced both – a reputation for wisdom and all the money his heart could desire. He knew which one had the greater value. Money lost can be earned again, but a tarnished reputation is almost impossible to recover. The wise person guards his reputation carefully.

Proverbs 22:1 – A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, favor is better than silver and gold.

#2 – A wise person views life through the lens of eternity.

Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 – It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for when a face is sad a heart may be happy. The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, while the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure.

These verses depict two contrasting images. First, I imagine a “house of pleasure” as a college party house. Young adults believe they are invincible, that death is far off, and that life is made up of whatever fun can be had in the moment. The atmosphere is rowdy and loud and little thought is given to eternal things. The house of mourning is quite the opposite. The mood is somber and serious, even in the death of a child of God. The thin veil between this life and the next has been crossed, and no matter how old one is, a place of mourning brings thoughts of our own eternal destiny.

In experiencing both the house of pleasure and the house of mourning, Solomon had learned that much wisdom is gained by stopping to think about what awaits us on the other side of death. The fool lives only for the pleasure of the moment.

Colossians 3:2 – Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.

#3 – A wise person is discerning about the advice they take.

Ecclesiastes 7:5-6 – It is better to listen to the rebuke of a wise man that for one to listen to the song of fools. For as the crackling of thorn bushes under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool; and this too is futility.

Solomon mentions two influences that foolish people have on us. First, the “song of fools” reminds us of the peer pressure we can face at any age. How many of us have “gone along with” something that we knew was foolish, whether we were taunted or dared into it, or simply encouraged by others who wanted us to join in their folly. Second, the “laughter of the fool” that mocks us for choosing not to participate.

A wise person knows that both the song and the laughter of the fool is simply noise, like the crackling of thorn bushes under a pot. We can ignore it, and instead choose to pay attention to the wiser counsel that rebukes our foolish inclinations and keeps us from making mistakes.

Proverbs 12:15 – The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.

#4 – A wise person seeks justice for himself and others.

Ecclesiastes 7:7 – For oppression makes a wise man mad, and a bribe corrupts the heart.

The wise person desires integrity in his own life and justice for those who are oppressed. He feels compassion for those who suffer; and is righteously angry at the sin which causes pain or hardship for the weak or poor. Wisdom teaches us to avoid the corrupting influences that keeps our focus on ourselves and our well-being to the detriment of others in need.

James 1:27 – Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

#5 – A wise person waits on God before acting.

Ecclesiastes 7:8-9 – The end of a matter is better than its beginning; patience of spirit is better than haughtiness of spirit. Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, for anger resides in the bosom of fools.

We’ve all opened our mouths to address a situation before learning the whole story. We tend to let our emotions rule, rather than our reason. Rushing to respond in anger is the habit of fools. Wise people learn to wait, giving God time to reveal truth and act in His wisdom. Patience is the hallmark of wisdom.

Ecclesiastes 5:2 – Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few.

#6 – A wise person trusts God’s sovereignty.

Ecclesiastes 7:10,13-14 – Do not say, “Why is it that the former days were better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this. … Consider the work of God, for who is able to straighten what He has bent? In the day of prosperity be happy, but in the day of adversity consider – God has made the one as well as the other so that man will not discover anything that will be after him.

It’s easy to look at difficult circumstances and believe that it was better in “the good old days.” The wise person knows how useless it is to complain, trusting that in His sovereignty, God has a purpose and a plan for when we were born, where we live, and how we can impact His eternal kingdom. All people in all times have enjoyed both adversity and prosperity. The fool dwells on what “could be” or what “might have been.” The wise person trusts in a sovereign God and thanks Him for what “is.”

Acts 17:26 – And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation.

#7 – A wise person lives practically and prudently.

Ecclesiastes 7:11-12 – Wisdom along with an inheritance is good and an advantage to those who see the sun. For wisdom is protection just as money is protection, but the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of its possessors.

Solomon knew the emptiness of pursuing wealth and success for its own rewards. God gives blessings for two reasons – to meet needs (both ours and those who have less than enough), and to advance His kingdom by spreading the message of the gospel. The wise person understands the lure of the love of money and seeks to be content.

1 Timothy 6:7-9 – For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.

#8 – A wise person lives a balanced life in the fear of God.

Ecclesiastes 7:15-18 – I have seen everything during my lifetime of futility; there is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his wickedness. Do not be excessively righteous and do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself? Do not be excessively wicked and do not be a fool. Why should you die before your time? It is good that you grasp one thing and also not let go of the other; for the one who fears God comes forth with both of them.

Solomon is not teaching that we can be a “little” wicked as long as we are at least a “little” righteous. He is speaking about the extremes of lawlessness and legalism. Neither are how God intended His people to live, and neither determines how long we live. A wicked person may live to reach a very old age, while a godly young person may die unexpectedly. The wise person understands the proper perspective of living in the fear of the Lord, obeying His commands out of love, not duty, and trusting that God will protect and sustain our physical lives according to His own sovereign timing.

Psalm 139:16 – Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.

Matthew 6:27 – And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?

#9 – A wise person lives with grace and humility.

Ecclesiastes 7:19-22 – Wisdom strengthens a wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city. Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins. Also, do not take seriously all words which are spoken, so that you will not hear your servant cursing you. For you also have realized that you likewise have many times cursed others.

The wise person understands that no one is perfect, most especially oneself. The humility of seeing our own sin helps us live with grace toward others, even when they act or speak wrongfully about us.

Ephesians 4:32 – Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

#10 – A wise person acknowledges his fallen nature.

Ecclesiastes 7:29 – Behold, I have found only this, that God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices.

Acknowledging our own sin is the first step towards repentance and salvation. The wise person recognizes that he is made of flesh, easily tempted, and held captive by sin until God steps in and frees us through the power of the Holy Spirit and the redemptive, sanctifying blood of the cross. A fool will never come to God because he will not acknowledge his sin. The wise person gives up the false idea that he has anything to offer God, and casts himself on God’s mercy and grace.

Ephesians 2:8-9 – For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.


This article first appeared on the BibleStudyTools website. You can find the original article here.

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