Ecclesiastes 4: 13-16
13 A poor yet wise lad is better than an old and foolish king who no longer knows how to receive instruction. 14 For he has come out of prison to become king, even though he was born poor in his kingdom. 15 I have seen all the living under the sun throng to the side of the second lad who replaces him. 16 There is no end to all the people, to all who were before them, and even the ones who will come later will not be happy with him, for this too is vanity and striving after wind.
I’ve discussed corrective criticism before but today Solomon tells us that as we grow in earthly stature and status, it is more and more difficult to accept being told we are wrong. Think of the parent being told they are wrong by the child. Think of the new employee advising his manager. Imagine a servant correcting a king. It is hard to be humble when we are backed by much experience and education isn’t it? I know I have a HUGE problem with this. It is difficult to be humble.
The bible has a lot to say about humility and the importance of being humble. Here are a few of my favorites:
The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord Are riches, honor and life.
1 Peter 5:5
You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
2 Chronicles 12:6
So the princes of Israel and the king humbled themselves and said, “The Lord is righteous.”
But the humble will inherit the land And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.
You can do a quick search of the bible and see how important humility is to God. It is important because the proud resist the will of God and therefore prevent themselves from entering a relationship with Him. Likewise, I believe what Solomon is pointing out here is the difficulty that the proud will have in continuing to grow spiritually because they refuse to hear what others are saying. As we grow up, it is common for us to look up to one or more individuals for wise guidance and instruction. But, what happens when you are suddenly that person, how difficult will it be for you to set aside what you think you know and accept the fact that you might be wrong?
This is the problem we have with religion today. We all stand our ground and argue how right we are when in reality the mystery of God is that nobody knows 100% for sure. This is the purpose of faith. This is the point of developing a relationship with God because we get to learn more about His character the longer we walk with Him (just as it is in any relationship). On the other side, we have the opportunity to grow in community as we support and help each other in our individual relationships with God. Paul instructed Timothy on proper exhortation in his letters and we must remember that we too need to be exhorted, not just to exhort others.
It amazes me how easy it is for me to reject correction and negate instruction. It try to remember that this is my fleshly desire/reaction and I need to stop myself and take things as they are and search for the truth in what I am being told. We are never too old to learn and we are never to wise to be corrected. Solomon’s gift was wisdom and this too he viewed as nothingness apart from a relationship with God. How are you taking pride in your wisdom when you can instead be humble and gain more wisdom? Nobody likes to be corrected but if we accept correction, then we will be more able to continue our search for the truth of God.