Wisdom Gained from Grief and Pain is Better than Prosperity

Ecclesiastes 7:1-14

Jerry A Collins



® Why is it wise to reflect on the brevity of life?

How does adversity and prosperity tempt us?

Is it important to figure out what it is God is doing?

Because I am recognised as a pastor, I have often been asked and/or expected to perform weddings and funerals. I have performed many weddings over the years and have enjoyed each of them. However, I prefer to do funerals. That may sound strange, but it is the one time in life when people are forced to get real. It is often the first time in years that friends and family have had to come to terms with the brevity of life. Solomon tells us of the wisdom of death. While we may try to ignore death, Solomon teaches us to embrace it and find life. But how can we find life this way?


This chapter brings a major transition in the book from illustrations about the futility of life and work under the sun, to the advice to enjoy your life and work while fearing God. The first bit of advice he gives us is that the further you look into the future the better life will be.

Look as far as your death if you really want to enjoy life.

A. It will teach you that a good reputation at the end of your life is better than a good beginning to your life 1. We think that a persons name is determined at birth not at death. It is death not life that is the measure of all things. The good ointment may refer to a mother rubbing it on her baby to suppossedly get it off to a good start in life. It is not a good start though that we should be inetrested in but a good ending. As we stay aware of death, we will also remember that we are accountable to God for our lives and that awareness is the basis for a life well lived. A life that has a much better ending to it because God was never forgotten. Life is a gift from God to each of us. My greatest fear is that I will waste my life. But when I keep my death in the rear-view mirror, I am making better choices that not only make my life better but pleases God to whom I must give an account. Jesus did the same thing. He always had his death in the rearview mirror.

B. It will orient yourself toward authentic rather than artificial living 2. Death must be fully accepted in order to live the good life. Otherwise life will be a sham, a perpetual state of denial before the inevitable. Death leads to realism. You are no longer dealing with side issues. So the house of mourning, that is, sober reflection about your life with the end in view, is to be preferred to the house of feasting, that is, to indulge ourselves in foolish pleasures. After all he reminds us that death is inescapable. So while you have life, live it in lite of your death. That will make your life better. Jesus taught us blessed are those who mourn (Matt 5:4). There is an authenticity that comes with the presence of deep grief, the type associated in death.

C. It will bring joy into your life resilient enough to withstand the difficultites and hardships in your life 3-4. Real gladness can emerge from sorrows in life. Tjhis is not the case for those only preoccupied with the house of pleasure seeking of vs 4. They have no way to make it thru the hardships in their lives with any sense of gladness. Their preoccupation with the house of pleaseure is to keep them from having to face any of that. Their house is a facade to perpetuate the illusion that pleasure is eternal. This house attempts to shield itself against lifeís one reality, death. They are unprepared and incapable. Only those with death in the rearview mirror can have joy in sorrow. The house of mourning, holds the key to life, like a hospice where joy and despair are knit together.

D. It will teach you that the rebuke of the wise is better than the praise of fools 5-6. Here is another dichotomy between the wise and the fool. The rebuke of the wiswe is condidered constructive and instructive despite its harshness. It penetraytes to the real issues. So we must listen to it. However, the song of fools by contrast is like babble without any instructive value. Flattering, ignoring real issues like drinking songs from saloons designed to drown out therealities of life. Their mirth is likened to the sound of brittle thorns being crushed under the weight of a pot. The Ďcrackling of these thornsí is loike Ďthe cackling of fools and it is all futile, meaningless. So more beneficial to heed the warning of the wise.


Even though our lives are being lived wisely, we can still be tempted to live like fools.

A. We can be tempted to make moral compromises 7. It can be motivated by the pressures of adversity. For instance, so needy that tempted to steal. Wisdom is not the product of desperate measures. It can also be motivated by by greed. A bribe can open doors, bring prosperity and get you ahead but it also perverts the heart when accepted.

B. We can be tempted to express foolish character 8-10. While suffering hardships here under the sun, the formerly wise person, loiving with death in the rearview mirror, can become so absorbed with relief from discomfort that he will live (1) impatiently and impulsively 8 (2) provoked to anger 9 and (3) complaining by longing for good old days. We lose perspective and live for the here and now. Instead of sublitting to God we make demands of him. Many believers have fallen away because they have gotten mad at God!


A. Living for the end in the now is living wisely 11-12. Wisdom like this is comparable to an inheritance. Wisdom has its use on this siden of the grave, as does money, by enhancing the quality of oneís life in the face of mounting hardship and absurdity. Itís knowledge will preseve your life and protect you from the consequences of foolish living. One comes to possess wisdom as one acquires wealth, both require cultivation. Like money, a person can use wisdom to his benefit and like wealth it can be lost in a bad investment.

B. Submitting to Godís plan for your life every day is wise 13-14. With the end in mind, we can coinfidently face the plan of God for our lives as it unfolds moment by moment. While we consider what god is doing we often find ourselves asking questions like why me God? Why now? Why this? What are you doing with me? Why am I having this problem? God is working and it includes prosperity and adversity in our lives. The temptation will be to find relief or engage a sinful strategy to cope. Jesus says lose your life. Paul says become a living sacrifice. Live with the rearview mirror. Besides, Godís purposes are beyond our comprehension vs 14b. We cannot know what Godís plan is until it happens. So while we are submitting to him and His sovereignty, we are to remember that He is at work in both prosperity and pain!