This is part 12 of a many-part blog series on the book of Ecclesiastes.
So many people fail to find hope in this life and throw their hands in the air as if nothing matters. They would then take the wrong message from Ecclesiastes: nothing is ultimately true, nothing is better than anything else. Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we will die. Wrong. He will address this yet again in chapter 11.
Wisdom > Folly
Solomon has already told us that wisdom is better than folly, even though we ultimately have no control over when and how our lives end—and even though because of hebel, the bad guys often win.
He says it like this: “Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor” (10:1). It only takes a little bad to spoil a lot of good. Hebel!
The fact that you can do so much good and one mistake can undo it all is a major blow to life under the sun functioning correctly. We see this all the time in the modern world. A celebrated person makes one major mistake and loses all credibility with no possible redemption.
A further blow to a world that seems not to be able to function correctly is that the wrong thing is often exalted.
Foolish & Backward
Foolishness has made it to the highest of positions in society, and those who would normally be successful have switched places with those under them (10:6). Solomon sees that so many things seem backwards.
Yet there is a slight edge to wisdom. Wisdom applied to strength can help one succeed over strength alone (10:10). The words of the wise can win him favor (10:12). Knowledge and hard work also display an edge over ignorance and laziness (10:15-19).
Life is unpredictable. You can be strong to dig a pit (10:8a), break down an old wall (10:8b), quarry stones (10:9a), or split logs (10:9b); but despite your strength, you could fall into the pit (10:8a), be bitten by a snake in the wall (10:8b), get hurt by the stones (10:9a), or be endangered by flying wood chunks (10:9b).
Of course, wisdom can lever up your strength and assist against the hebel (10:10), but ultimately events outside your control will determine your fate (the wisdom of the snake charmer is overcome by the snake biting him prematurely – 10:11).
We are intended to feel Qoheleth’s (Solomon’s) frustration as things under the sun don’t work right. Nothing happens perfectly according to plan, and some invisible force always seems to be working against us as we apply our strength or even our wisdom. Unpredictability is hebel. Qoheleth will continue the discussion on the hebel of unpredictability in chapter 11.
With so many things stacked against a B4Ter starting a business amongst the least reached, now more than ever we need to make launching them well into a team sport and help them over those bumps in the road. Like a child needing help to get started on her bike, that brand new business is going to need some help from good coaches and investors to get product or service to market. Knowing what we know from Ecclesiastes 10, it should not surprise us that so many things go wrong, and budgets and timelines are often blown. We need good coaches to help us see when we need to pivot quickly and good investors who are in it for the long haul.
A lot of good work can be thrown down by one mistake, so have help lined up before going!
Greg is the President of OPEN USA. He used his education to work as a tentmaker in the Middle East for 8.5 years seeking to plant a church amongst a least-reached people group. Currently back in the USA with his wife and children, they aim to return to finish what the LORD used them to start.
To learn more about B4T, read Business for Transformation by Patrick Lai.