Not as Smart as we Think!

Eccl. 11:5. As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God Who maketh all.

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Solomon picks two things to use as examples of the ignorance of mankind: The wind, (the word spirit is also translated as wind in many versions), and the development of a child in utero.

“Oh,” you may say, “We DO understand the wind. It’s the result of cold and hot air colliding.” Yes, that’s true. But it’s not predictable (consider how many times you’ve complained that the weather forecast was completely wrong). It can turn on a dime, and all we can do is make an effort to be ready for whatever may happen.

Or, you may be thinking that with our incredible knowledge of conception and childbirth, we know all about that, too. It’s true that we know more than our ancestors did. We know, for instance, that it is the father’s contribution that determines the gender of the baby. That was a hard one for men to accept, after centuries of blaming it all on the woman 🙂

What we don’t know is the miraculous way the soul and spirit of the child develops, along with the intricacies of the human body. I’ve maintained for a long time that babies have their inherent temperament long before they are born. Any observant parent knows within just a few days if her precious newborn is hot-tempered, fussy, easy-going, strong-willed.

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Happy
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Fussy
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strong-willed
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calm

We may even wonder where on earth a child got a certain personality trait, because it doesn’t seem to come from either parent 🙂 If you could go back, probably not very far, into the generations, though, you’d soon find a match.

We will never plumb the depths of God’s incredible creative power, of His imaginative mind, of His ability to create such beauty for us to enjoy. We can be thankful, though, and we should be.

Practical Matters

Eccl. 11:3-4

If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.

 He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.

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These verses emphasize the idea of cause and effect. In elementary school, we studied the water cycle. God’s perfect plan is in effect all the time. It differs from one place to another, depending on the amount of water in or near the land mass, but the process has continued since God promised there would never again be a flood that covered the entire world.

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So it is that our lives here on earth will have an appropriate effect on how we spend our eternity. The root of sin is inescapable, but the blood of Jesus Christ delivers us from sin and cleanses us to a right standing with God. Cause and effect: Sin, repent, trust God for salvation.

The fallen tree has been interpreted by some as meaning the death of a human being whose eternity is determined by where he falls. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Further search tied that fallen tree to natural causes over which man has no control, just as he has no control over the sun, wind, or rain. Another commentator declared the fallen tree to be a sort of “bloom where you’re planted” simile. Fallen trees, left alone, gradually decompose and become a source of food and shelter and, perhaps, of new trees that arise from whatever seeds become rooted in the ground from the dead tree.

Verse 4 addresses man’s tendency to wait for perfect conditions before moving forward. Farmers learn to read the sky, the air, the earth of their fields; they are wise in the ways of planting and harvesting. But they will not succeed if they over-analyze. The time for planting will not wait for them to resolve every worry about things not being perfect.

We aren’t all farmers, but we all share that desire for circumstances to all be just right before we venture forward. A bride hopes for perfect weather on her wedding day. A family hopes that it won’t rain on their vacation plans. So we choose as wisely as we can, but it’s a good idea to have a Plan B in case things go sideways 🙂

Cast Your Bread

Eccl. 11:1-2.

Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.

 Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.

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I found two interpretations of verse one that have the same general principle. First, in Solomon’s day, if you invested money in shipping commodities from one place to another (casting your bread upon the waters) it could be a long time before you reaped the reward of your investment. Usually, though, there was a return on the investment.

Second, if you give generously to those in need, you may not see an immediate result of your gift. Again, you are “casting you bread upon the waters: (is this why a slang word for money these days is bread?) hoping that both you and the receiver of the gift will see a rewarding result from your investment.

Louisa May Alcott paraphrased the verse this way: “Cast your bread upon the waters, and someday it will return to you buttered.”

Either interpretation or application of this verse requires faith, and, one would hope, a careful scrutiny of the person or commodity in which one is investing. Many a scam artist has robbed people of their wealth because those people trusted too quickly and easily. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Verse 2 is simply an admonishment to generosity, an investment toward the future, because we simply do not know what evil, misfortune, or dire circumstance may be in our future. It is better to provide ahead of time, when we can, for the possible need of the future.

Three Closing Thoughts

Eccl. 10: 18-20

By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through.

 A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things.

 Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.

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Three different thoughts close out this chapter.

One. Sloth (laziness) ends in disaster. Any homeowner knows that to neglect the upkeep of a home ends in the utter ruin of the home. This verse pictures the fall of a nation through the neglect and laziness of the rulers as well as the people.

Two. In verse 19, Solomon’s unhappy, dissatisfied heart breaks through again. Money, he says, is the answer to everything. We know that is not the truth. Many wealthy people have been miserably unhappy, and die unhappy. Money is NOT the answer to everything. In fact, without wisdom and godliness, it is not the answer to anything at all.

Three. I immediately thought of the saying, “A little birdie told me.” Words unwisely spoken have a way of getting back to the person who is criticized. Kings have eyes and ears everywhere, and those who speak against him could be in danger of their lives if he is a wicked king.

I believe we Christians, true believers, need to apply this thought to the way we speak of our pastors, deacons, and other church members. As well, it needs to be applied to the way we speak of government.

“Oh, be careful little tongue, what you say!”

Woes and Blessings

Eccl. 10:16-17

Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning!

 Blessed art thou, O land, when thy king is the son of nobles, and thy princes eat in due season, for strength, and not for drunkenness!

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Solomon felt that he had been just a child when he became king. It seems to me that he is looking back over his behavior, realizing that he had spent more time, starting in the mornings, feasting, banqueting, and drinking, than he did ruling. Child does not pertain to age here, but to experience.

Due to his inexperience and foolish behavior, the kingdom suffered.

A wise ruler is a blessing to the land. He eats for strength, not for the festivity of it. He is not a glutton. He comes from those who have shown wisdom and strength, and again, it seems to me that Solomon recognized that his own father had not always been wise.

Such simple truths in these few words, but they certainly speak to having a disciplined, orderly life, no matter how much wealth may be at our disposal.

Full of Words

Eccl. 10: 14-15

A fool also is full of words: a man cannot tell what shall be; and what shall be after him, who can tell him?

The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the city.

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Again, Solomon emphasizes the verbosity of the foolish person. Simply put, he never runs out of words but most of his words are useless. He speaks as if he knows everything, when in actuality he can’t find his way out of his own house.

Fools are so busy being foolish that they are worn out with it; and they can’t find their way from one point to another. Even if the road is straight and well-marked, they tend to be illogical in their thinking and will look for a better way than the one that is clearly marked. You know, the proverbial short-cut that ends up taking twice as long as the original way.

Endless Speaking

Eccl. 10:11-13.

Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler is no better.

 The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.

 The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness: and the end of his talk is mischievous madness.

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I don’t know how so-called snake charmers manage the creepy creatures. I really don’t much care. But from what v. 11 says, it would seem that without that “charm” being practiced, the snake would certainly bite. Likewise, in v. 12, the words of a fool are endless, and harmful. There is, as we would say today, no filter on a fool’s mouth.

Often, working as a therapist, I would encourage people to talk less to their long-suffering spouses. “Say it once, and then stop!” I would tell them. Instead, they would continue to explain, enlighten, enlarge, until you really just wanted to put a bag over their heads. It’s as if they believe that if they can just keep talking long enough, somehow their words will magically fall together and the spouse will understand and change his ways. Rarely does that happen. More often, the spouse finally breaks under the torrent of words and eventually leaves the marriage.

A fool is sometimes a source of endless words, repeated words, senseless words. The more he speaks, the less he says. The longer he continues to babble, the less likely he will be heard. He is like that uncharmed serpent–he will surely bite with his words and end up in an even worse place than before.

That person is wise whose words bring grace to the hearer. Mind you, that doesn’t mean that a wise person never speaks words of rebuke, of correction. Sometimes that’s exactly what is needed. But even then, his words are to build up, not to tear down.

The word for fool here is sakai, a dense, confused thinker.

I think it’s interesting that Solomon says he talks in such a way as to indicate he knows the future, when no man can be sure what will happen in one hour, one day, week, month, or year. The future is not known to us, yet a fool who “multiplies his words” speaks as if he knows what no one else knows.

He ends his talking in mischievous madness, sometimes creating a following of other foolish people who are drawn in by his endless speaking. One of the earmarks of a fool is that he speaks with authority when he has no authority at all.