Perhaps the most popular advice column is “Dear Abby.”
“Dear Abby I am forty-four years old and would like to meet a man my age with no bad habits” – Rose.
“Dear Rose, so would I.”
Ecclesiastes 7 is the “Dear Abby” of the ancient world, loaded with popular messages in the ancient near east that messed with peoples’ lives.
The first messy message is found in verse 1, the message that power and possessions define you: “A good name is better than precious ointment…” If you possessed precious ointment in the ancient world you were wealthy, therefore had control and influence over people. There is nothing wrong with wealth and power, but a “good name” is better. Why? The answer is because good character is not defined by power and possessions, therefore the true self does not need power and possessions to be ok in life.
The next messy message is your best life now (verse 1): “and the day of death (is better) than the day of birth.” The day of your birth (this life) is not all there is. Heartache and hardship is not all there is. Living one hundred years on this planet achieving, succeeding, being esteemed and affirmed is not all there is. Our best life is not now according to the Bible, it is coming.
Another messy message is life is only lament (verse 2): “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind…” Philosophy calls this nihilism while personality tests call it melancholy. The point is seeing, feeling, and living life as if the end of all human life is meaninglessness, emptiness, hopelessness, nothingness, vanity. What is missing in this message is the winning works of God or “the house of feasting” (verse 2). The “house of feasting” is where we engage the source and origin of all meaning and life, the Living God, in the great adventure of life in his world.
Life is only fun is next (verse 6): “For the crackling of thorns under a pot (this is a flower pot), so is the laughter of the fools; this also is vanity.” Philosophy calls this hedonism while psychology calls it addiction. The image is picking up a beautiful flower in a shattered pot and in the process shredding your hands. “Life is only fun,” says the preacher, “will shred your heart, relationships, and life.”
The final messy message is pride isn’t so bad (verse 8): “the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.” Pride pollutes the whole section between verses 7 and 29, pride is: (1) angry (v.9) (2) generationally arrogant and stupid (v.10) (3) self-righteous (v.16) (4) self-sabotaging (v.17) .
There is a better message for us, one with good news (verse 13): “Consider the work of God: who can make straight what He has made crooked?” All the messy messages have one thing in common, they are self-strategies to make straight what is crooked, reverse vanity, fill the forever empty. But they cannot. We cannot save ourselves. We need a Savior, someone who can make straight the crooked, reverse vanity, fill the forever empty. Consider the work of God in Jesus Christ.
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