Remember to seek both wisdom and righteousness-not just one or the other

Ecclesiastes 7:15-29


Jerry A Collins


® What will self-righteousness do to us?

Can wisdom deliver us from all of our problems?

How can a person be pleasing to God?

Two of us were traveling together overseas. We were nearing the end of our time in India. We had just returned that morning from a retreat where we had been teaching for a number of days. We spent the rest of the morning seeing some sites and the afternoon finishing up some last minute shopping. We had made plans to spend the evening with our hosts over dinner and fly out the next day. We arrived back to the hotel later that afternoon to rest and freshen up. My friend decided to go to the lobby and get things settled with our luggage and return to the airport from the hotel. I received a frantic call from him a few minutes later when he informed me that we had misread the tickets and our plane was leaving in the next 90 minutes. You talk about panic made. Even though our next destination was dated the following day, our flight was departing the evening before to get us there. We had assumed it was all happening the same day! International travel will do that to you. We can think that we have all the bases covered, that we have thought thru and planned for everything only to discover that we have been reading the departure date incorrectly the whole time. Even our most wise plans can sometimes look foolish.

Solomon has been on a search and on this search he has seen everything during his fleeting lifetime vs 15. Some of those things he has seem have been difficult to reconcile and understand. He begins this section by explaining to us what one of these difficult things are.


First, he says that he has seen the just man perishing in his righteousness. We would think that God would ensure that the righteousness of the just man would bring only good things into his life. But that is not always so and Solomon says he has borne witness to that fact.

Second, he says that he has seen the evil man apparently prolonging his life in his wickedness. We often say the good die young while the evil live longer than they should. This is difficult to reconcile with our sense of justice. Therefore::

A. We should not conclude that by being righteous we can escape adversity 16. Here we are warned not to be overrighteous or overwise. The idea is not to be wise in your own eyes in regard to your righteousness. You will only become confounded, dismayed or disappointed like the righteous whose righteousness was not able to deliver them from adversity. Even the upright died in 9/11. Many of their wives and newborn babies and children testified to that this week when they were interviewed on Primetime Live nearly one year after they had lost their husbands and fathers. We saw how confounded they are and also felt their dismay with them.

B. We should not conclude that because God does not consistently punish the wicked in this life that it is all right to sin 17. 9/11 is an unfortunate example of the wicked illusively avoiding punishment. Ultimately, justice will prevail. What you sow you will also reap. If you also persist in indulgent loose living you are a fool whose life will self-destruct.

C. One who fears God should avoid both of these extremes vs 18. Even though there appeared to be exceptions to the justice of God on earth, Solomon was convinced that God will judge all things (3:17; 11:9; 12:14). Like everything else, it would be in Godís time. So do not let these extremes dictate your life but fear God. Let that determine how you will live. Fear inspires obedience. If we are afraid of God, that is, we fear violating His spiritual and physical laws, we will have nothing else to fear. It is when we do not live in the fear of the Lord that our hearts envy sinners. If our goal is to fear God, the first step is to hear His words (Deut 4:10) which for us is studying the Bible since those are His words to us today. Then we will discern fearing God Prv 2:1-5. 2. WISDOM THOUGH VALUABLE IS INADEQUATE PROTECTION FROM ADVERSITY 19-24

A. Even though wisdom cannot protect us it can help guard us 19. As we apply wisdom to our lives it can guard us from hasty evaluations about the providence of God as unjust for instance. This wisdom gives more protection than even military strength of 10 rulers in a single city or to have 10 influential friends in high places who can bail you out. Fearing the Lord makes one much better off than this.

B. Wisdom is necessary because righteousness does not protect completely 20. No one is so completely righteous and no one continually does right and never sins. The fact that we can still sin means that wisdom gained from fearing God is an added protection for us from consequences of foolish, sinful and wicked decisions.

C. The fact that we are slandered and guilty of the same illustrates our unrighteousness 21-22. Wisdom gained from fearing God can provide a sense of self-control that can keep us from ill-advised slander, abuse and curses of others. Besides, he says, it is foolish to be overly concerned about or troubled by what others think and say about you in their unguarded, unkind and unwise moments. If we are honest with ourselves we will admit that we are not perfect vs 22.

D. As helpful as wisdom is it even has its limitations 23-24. Even Solomon with all of his wisdom could not ward off all adversity in his life. He did not possess sufficient wisdom to do this and neither does anyone else. That kind of wisdom, he says, was beyond his grasp.


A. One who wants to please God will escape folly but one who prefers to sin will not 25-26. Here is a guy who hoped to understand how stupid and insane wickedness and folly really are. First, he discovered that folly personified here as a lady as he does in Proverbs 2:18-19; 5:3-6; 7:24-26, confines a person like chains. Second, he discovered that only the one pleasing God can escape the share of folly and its consequences. Wisdom alone cannot do it.

B. A person who is pleasing to God is extremely rare 27-28. He also discovered that hardly anyone is a righteous person. The reference to woman in vs 28 probably refers to the personified folly of vs 26 meaning that noone can ever please God by folly. Thatís not rare its impossible.

C. People are responsible for failure to please God not God 29. God made us upright from the beginning able to choose to please him or not. We instead went for our own devices and have been inviting its consequences into our live ever since. Failing to understand fully Godís scheme of things (7:14) people have turned aside to their own explanation of these things.

1. dont judge a book by its cover. 2. folly/sin replaced by submitting to God.