As we continue in chapter 10 of Ecclesiastes, Solomon is exemplifying the folly of a fool. He lists some things in a proverbial manner so as to better remember them as life lessons so we do not forget (that’s how I read them, anyway). These elements he presents to us seem like “common sense” but it is very possible that when we are the ones doing these things, it might not seem so apparent to us. It’s always easy to see someone else’s actions as foolish than our own, isn’t it? It’s similar to watching a football game. We have a “bird’s eye view” of the situation and aren’t in the heat of the moment and we always feel we can make a better decision than the coach or quarterback. We can clearly see the guy that’s open or the better way to execute a play. Let’s check out these examples from Solomon.
8 He who digs a pit may fall into it, and a serpent may bite him who breaks through a wall.9 He who quarries stones may be hurt by them, and he who splits logs may be endangered by them. 10 If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength. Wisdom has the advantage of giving success. 11 If the serpent bites before being charmed, there is no profit for the charmer. 12 Words from the mouth of a wise man are gracious, while the lips of a fool consume him; 13 the beginning of his talking is folly and the end of it is wicked madness. 14 Yet the fool multiplies words. No man knows what will happen, and who can tell him what will come after him? 15 The toil of a fool so wearies him that he does not even know how to go to a city.
At first look, we see some “inerrant truths” of living life: be careful when digging a hole, don’t move heavy stones, make sure your axe is sharpened, be careful around snakes, and don’t talk too much or you will look like an idiot. Wow, thanks Solomon…I didn’t know that already. He is highlighting what seems obvious to us. Maybe this passage eludes to the popular saying, “there’s the hard way and there’s the smart way.” If we get anything out of what Solomon is saying here, it should be the ridiculousness of being foolish and the importance of seeking wisdom. Do you pray for God’s wisdom?
It is easy to be foolish, yet as Solomon points out the toil of a fool so wearies him that he isn’t even able to do simple and basic things. Folly and foolishness is exhausting. It is efficient to be wise. What is wisdom, then? We discussed before that wisdom is applying what you already know. A fool falls into a hole he has dug because he doesn’t apply his knowledge of the existence of the hole to his choice of where he walks. A fool gets bit by a serpent because he is trying to climb through hedges (walls) where they live. A fool gets hurt by the very stones he is quarrying because he doesn’t apply his knowledge of the danger of the stones. A fool doesn’t take the time to sharpen an axe to be able to chop more wood with less exertion. A snake charmer dies if he gets bit by the very thing he is trying to charm and earn money with. A fool who talks to hear his own voice doesn’t gain anything but ridicule and the disrespect of others. How does this apply to the word of God? We have the information but we don’t use it!
The bible has all the information we need about how to live free from the slavery of sin, yet our foolishness (the misuse of the information we have) continues us in our sinful pattern. We get so exhausted that we can’t even do the simplest of tasks in our spiritual walk and we become burdened by our sin. We were slaves to sin, how can we continue in it any longer? The Apostle Paul asks us bluntly as he continues in Romans 6 3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin.
So what is our problem? Why are we still fooling around with sin when we KNOW it does nothing good for us? It’s easy for us to read today’s passage from Solomon and chuckle or shake our heads at perceived foolishness. Maybe we picture someone we know or even our own past flashes through our minds. I suddenly remember bits from my childhood when my parents would tell me that I lack common sense. They called it “street smarts” as opposed to “book smarts.” I got straight A’s but I sure did some stupid things. I might have had the knowledge of what to do but I didn’t always apply it correctly. Then we turn around and do it again! I also like how James expresses it in relation to wisdom. 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. Simply reading, knowing, and memorizing the word of God is just knowledge; applying it and carrying it out is wisdom. If we don’t we are as foolish as a man who doesn’t even remember the image of his own face immediately after looking at it.
Ask God how you are being foolish today and pray for His wisdom to guide us and apply the knowledge He has gifted us with.