Remember that Even the Wise are Subject to an Uncertain Future

Ecclesiastes 9:11-10:7

Jerry A Collins



® Can living wisely keep you out of trouble?

Will wisdom always be noticed and rewarded?

Can wisdomís gains be destroyed by folly?

When we refer to living wisely, the Bible means that a person is living his or her life with a view to the whole of it. Making decisions, setting direction, determining what is valuable derived from and controlled by the revelation of God in the scriptures. The longer view of life one has the more wise he or she becomes. The more one develops a biblically eternal perspective of life, the greater the use of wisdom in that life (Rom 12:1-2). The foolish is one who takes his or her cue from the short-term wisdom of the world. A wisdom antagonistic to the wisdom of God in scripture. It is the secular mind, the spirit of the age, the running after the advice devoid of insight from Godís Word. EX:

WW: Everything evolved naturally

GW: Everything created supernaturally

WW: Strength is key to success

GW: Weakness key to success

WW: Tolerance is a virtue

GW: Tolerance is a sin

However, when you develop true wisdom in your life, that is no guarantee that you will be able to avoid hardships in your life. A wise person cannot be more sure of his earthly future than the fool.


Here again, Solomon evaluates life lived here on the earth, under the sun. He immediately ticks off five advantages and resources enjoyed by people who would appear most likely to succeed. These include the swift, the strong, the wise, the discerning, and the knowledgeable. We would agree that these are characteristics necessary to make one successful. Yet we would also have to agree that this is not always necessarily the case. As a race is not always won by the swiftest runner, or a victory scored by the mightiest soldier, so also the wise do not always earn a living, get rich, or acquire a good reputation vs 11. Wisdom is no guarantee of a good job or prosperous future. The reason for this is that everyone is subject to misfortune that we cannot anticipate or control vs 12. Comparing such times of misfortune to a net and a snare by which birds and fish are caught, he says that such evil times come suddenly and unexpectedly upon them, and results in nullifying whatever abilities they had. Life is not in our control. Human ability cannot guarantee success. We make great plans. Seniors expect to graduate. Couples plan to have children. Workers plan to have a career. Athletes plan to compete. Christopher Reeve said this week he used to remember minute by minute the days events preceding up to his accident that left him paralyzed. His life completely changed.


Here is an illustration of the tremendous advantage wise action can produce. The situation is one of incredible contrast. Godís wisdom at work in a person can turn what looks like sure defeat into brilliant victory. Solomon told us that this example and its lesson impressed him and was significant to him. A small city with few men in it was under siege by a powerful king with the latest technology available to him. But this king was outmaneuvered by a poor but wise man who delivered the small city of this powerful rival king. However, even though wisdom proved better than strength here, this poor wise man was forgotten and unrewarded by the people. People generally do not value wisdom as highly as wealth or power even though wisdom is really worth more. So we can expect that the wisdom we gain from Godís Word and apply in our lives will not necessarily be popular even though itís benefits are obvious. (Like Don Lonie who said the only safe sex is with your partner for life. It is only the marriage bed that is undefiled. The world and worldly xian will never agree with that).


If one is going to benefit from wisdomís counsel, there must be a a willingness to receive it in order to hear it. The worldly rhetoric and clamor is contrasted with the words of quiet instruction delivered by wise men of God vs 17. These are the words to be heeded. While wisdom is better than the strength of an army, we are warned that one sinner destroys much good produced by wisdom. That sinner is like a dead fly in a perfumers ointment which can give off a bad odor. In other words, one person, insisting on following the worldís philosophy, can often harm, arrest, or even destroy the value and work of wisdom. This folly can display itself has mightier and more effective than wisdom. The point is the tendency for folly, short-term living, to predominate over honorable wisdom 10:1. Satan is a counterfeiter. Worldly wisdom exists because Godís wisdom exists. Worldly wisdom is a counter to Godís wisdom, Satan is not an originator just a counterfeiter. Evil exists because good exists in the world. Evil spoils the good and perverts it. Evil cannot exist alone but must attach itself to good in order to exist. When evil overtakes the good it attached itself to, then it completely destroys. So the value of wisdom is decreased whenever worldly wisdom predominates in the life of someone unwilling to apply the wisdom of God.


In vss 2-3 the right and the left are not the correct or incorrect way. They are not the political right or left or conservative and liberal. They are the place of protection and the place of danger (cf. Psa 16:8; 110:5; 121:5). The place of protection is wisdom and danger is folly. This fool lacks the sense needed to protect him and all along the way of his life openly shows by his actions and its consequences that he is a fool.

In vss 4-7 the lesson is that the wise man maintains his composure when his boss in angry with him and does not impulsively quit. The self-controlled person who has less rank is really more powerful than the out of control superior. Not everything a boss does will be fair vs 5. Unfortunately ones good work does not always receive the praise it deserves. Sometimes promotions go to the less qualified because of a superiors arbitrary decisions. The results is that a superiors illogical decision can diminish the better workers wisdom vs 6-7. In a culture in which only dignitaries allowed the privilege of riding there was social upheaval, as suggested by the complete reversal of normal roles--servants he said were riding horses while princes walked like the common at their side. Wisdom is nullified in these circumstances.

1. Seek wisdom and live wisely all days.

2. Donít let wisdom unappreciated and unaccepted be a roadblock to joyful application of that wisdom.