foolishness

Dead Flies and Foolishness

Does anyone like flies? I haven't met anyone who does. Perhaps the Lord of the flies (the devil) does, but I'm pretty sure that's a metaphor to describe an evil ruler.

Ever notice how one pesky fly can ruin so much? When a fly lands in your glass or on your food, it's just unappetizing. A fly buzzing around your face is both irritating and distracting.

There's good reason King Solomon likened flies to foolishness. In ancient writings, a fool was a person who lacked good judgment or moral integrity. We have all had those moments in life.

Scripture

A few dead flies will make even the best perfume stink. In the same way, a little foolishness can ruin much wisdom and honor. The thoughts of the wise lead them the right way, but the thoughts of the foolish lead them the wrong way. Fools show how foolish they are, just walking down the road. Their minds are empty, and everyone knows it. Don’t quit your job simply because the boss is angry with you. If you remain calm and helpful, you can correct even great mistakes. [vss 1-4]

Here is something else that I have seen in this life that isn’t fair. It is the kind of mistake that rulers make. Fools are given important positions, while the rich get jobs that are not important. I have seen servants riding on horses, while rulers were walking beside them like slaves.[vss 5-7]

If you dig a hole, you might fall into it. If you break down a wall, you might be bitten by a snake. If you are moving large stones, you might be hurt by them. If you cut down a tree, you are in danger of it falling on you. But wisdom will make any job easier. It is very hard to cut with a dull knife. But if you sharpen the knife, the job is easier. Someone might know how to control snakes. But that skill is useless if a snake bites when that person is not around. [vss 8-11]

Words from the wise bring praise, but words from a fool bring destruction. Fools begin by saying something foolish. But in the end, they speak nonsense. Fools are always talking about what they will do, but you never know what will happen. People cannot tell what will happen in the future. Fools aren’t smart enough to find their way home, so they must work hard all their lives. [vss 12-15]

(Ecclesiastes 10:1-15 ERV) [Context– Ecclesiastes 10]

Key phrase—Words from the wise bring praise, but words from a fool bring destruction.

[bctt tweet="Words from the wise bring praise, but words from a fool bring destruction"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

How is foolishness likened to dead flies and contrasted with the wise?

What are some ways that foolishness is given importance that doesn't make sense?

How can wisdom benefit any person with any given job? How do the examples given relate to what's said before them?

What else are we told about fools and foolish talk?

Reflection...

Careless words can undo great accomplishments and a person's good standing in life. This is all the more true with today's near instant media exposure. It can be like one loose thread when pulled that unravels the whole garment.

Much in life is beyond our control. When something is unfair we can choose to react or respond. Reaction requires little thought (if any), is driven by emotion, and tends to make things worse rather than better.

A wise response requires applied wisdom. Instead of an emotional outburst, wisdom can produce a passionate, yet measured counter to what's wrong.

Dead flies stink. So also foolishness. This is where wisdom is needed. Only the wisest of all—God—is able to remove what is foolishness in us, if we're willing to allow Him to do so.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

When have you said or done rash things you've regretted? What prompted these?

How do you handle situations where you're criticized, treated unfairly, or insulted?

Have you learned how to handle criticism and insults in wiser ways than before?

Do you have people in your life who are good examples of wise living? Are you willing to learn from them and their example?

Time, Fairness, and Wisdom

"It's not fair!" How many times have moms and dads heard this from their children? It's the usual preface to a complaint related to some disciplinary restriction or denial of a request.

It can be both comical and annoying when a child says it. But when an adult says it, there's usually another meaning, which boils down to—things should be done my way, or seen from my viewpoint.

Many things in this life are unfair, far beyond petty, childish claims of injustice. Some people claim to be victims and maintain a victimized persona, even when they've brought trouble upon themselves.

Tens of thousands in the world are true victims of injustice, who often go unheard and unnoticed. Sadly, their cries for help may be silenced by those who insist on their own way.

Scripture

I also saw other things in this life that were not fair. The fastest runner does not always win the race; the strongest soldier does not always win the battle; wise people don’t always get the food; smart people don’t always get the wealth; educated people don’t always get the praise they deserve. When the time comes, bad things can happen to anyone! You never know when hard times will come. Like fish in a net or birds in a snare, people are often trapped by some disaster that suddenly falls on them. [vss 11-12]

I also saw a person doing a wise thing in this life, and it seemed very important to me.There was a small town with a few people in it. A great king fought against that town and put his armies all around it. But there was a wise man in that town. He was poor, but he used his wisdom to save his town. After everything was finished, the people forgot about the poor man.But I still say that wisdom is better than strength. They forgot about the poor man’s wisdom, and the people stopped listening to what he said. But I still believe that wisdom is better. [vss 13-16]

Words spoken by the wise are heard more clearly

than those shouted by a leader among fools.

Wisdom is better than weapons of war,

but one fool

can destroy much good.

[vss 17-18]

(Ecclesiastes 9:11-18 GW) [Context– Ecclesiastes 9]

Key phrase—Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one fool can destroy much good.

[bctt tweet="Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one fool can destroy much good."]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What are some things noted as unfair in these verses?

What are two things than can happen to anybody over time?

What is the injustice done in the story of the wise man and the city?

In the face of injustice, what does King Solomon claim is better? Why?

Reflection...

When injustice exists, someone or some thing is the cause. Inordinate amounts of time and energy are often spent on assigning blame and finding fault.

This blame-game plays out in households and within businesses, but also escalates into national and global scenarios.

By far, more time is spent shouting about injustice than resolving it. Loud-mouthed fools may hold center stage for a time, but wisdom will prevail. The One who is all-wise will see to it.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

When have you seen true injustice? Did you do anything to help resolve it?

How have you handled what appears to be unfairness or an unjust situation in your own life?

Do you seek ways to move beyond what seems unjust or unfair in life?

How do you react when you see injustice? Do you complain about it, or are you moved with compassion to do something about it?

Looking for Answers

What do you think? Are people by nature good or bad? Wait! Before you answer, consider that this is a centuries-old debate.

People with credentials may speak with authority when they give their opinion, but it's still just their opinion. Opinions don't resolve debates, they tend to polarize the debate.

An important part of the discussion, if you want to move beyond mere debate, is to define terms. What's the basis for goodness? How do you define human nature?

Scripture

Surely there is no one on earth who always does good and never sins. But wisdom can make one person stronger than ten leaders in a city. Don’t listen to everything people say. You might hear your own servant saying bad things about you. And you know that many times you too have said bad things about other people. [vss 19-22]

I used my wisdom and thought about all these things. I wanted to be wise, but I couldn’t do it. I cannot understand why things are as they are. It is too hard for anyone to understand. I studied and I tried very hard to find true wisdom. I tried to find a reason for everything. I did learn that it is foolish to be evil, and it is crazy to act like a fool. [vss 23-25]

I also found that some women are dangerous like traps. Their hearts are like nets, and their arms are like chains. It is worse than death to be caught by these women. God’s followers should run away from them. Let the sinners be caught by them. The Teacher says, “I added all this together to see what answer I could find. I am still looking for answers, but I did find this: I found one good man in a thousand. But I did not find even one good woman. “There is one other thing I have learned. God made people good, but they have found many ways to be bad.” [vss 26-29]

(Ecclesiastes 7:19-29 ERV) [Context– Ecclesiastes 7]

Key phrase—I learned that wickedness is stupid and foolishness is madness

[bctt tweet="I learned that wickedness is stupid and foolishness is madness"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What are we told about people in general and the value of wisdom?

What advice is given about what people say, and what is the basis for this advice?

What did King Solomon find out in his search for wisdom and reason for life?

What was Solomon still looking for, and what did he learn about God and people?

Reflection...

An opinion is a belief based on a subjective point of view. Why is it subjective? Because it's a personal point of view.

In the very beginning of humanity, when God created the universe, it was all good. Not good in the way that expression is used today. Everything created was genuinely good, pristine, and in right order.

God is the only true standard of goodness. However, the world around us is no longer in pristine condition, regardless of your opinion on climate change. And, the population of the world does not live in harmony with one another or their environment.

Our view of people and life in general is jaded. It's jaded because we have a hard time seeing beyond ourselves and our own point of view. Solomon was onto something when he said— God made people good, but they have found many ways to be bad (verse 29).

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

What is your view of human nature, God, and goodness? What do you base this on?

If you've been living for a while, how has your view of life and human nature changed?

What areas in life are you still seeking answers? What are you sure about? Why?

Where do you seek wisdom? How has the wisdom you've gained in life helped you?

From One Extreme to Another

Life is full of ups and downs. Some of these can be extreme, but most are not. I'm thankful for that.

I'm also thankful for the hills and valleys of life. It would get pretty boring and monotonous without these, like an unending treadmill to nowhere.

Still, some people seem to experience triumph to tragedy cycles of mood swings. They seem stuck on a never-ending, emotional rollercoaster. Then there are those who exhibit extreme attitudes and behaviors. All these extremes create tensions that can't be sustained for long.

Life is a lot harder when you go from one extreme to another.

Scripture

Wisdom is as good as an inheritance. It is an advantage to everyone who sees the sun. Wisdom protects us just as money protects us, but the advantage of wisdom is that it gives life to those who have it. Consider what God has done! Who can straighten what God has bent? [vss 11-13]

When times are good, be happy. But when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one time as well as the other so that mortals cannot predict their future. I have seen it all in my pointless life: Righteous people die in spite of being righteous. Wicked people go on living in spite of being wicked. [vss 14-15]

Don’t be too virtuous, and don’t be too wise. Why make yourself miserable? Don’t be too wicked, and don’t be a fool. Why should you die before your time is up? It’s good to hold on to the one and not let go of the other, because the one who fears God will be able to avoid both extremes. [vss 16-18]

(Ecclesiastes 7:11-18 GW) [Context– Ecclesiastes 7]

Key phrase—Wisdom is as good as an inheritance.

[bctt tweet="Wisdom is as good as an inheritance."]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What are we told about wisdom? Why is it valuable?

In what way do good and bad experiences keep us from predicting the future?

What are we told about the righteous and wicked? Does this seem unfair to you?

What would help us avoid being too virtuous or too wicked? How does this help?

Reflection...

Religion and philosophy are often taken to extremes. In a philosophy class, taking a thought to an extreme point happens a lot. Sometimes this is exercised as if it was an olympic sport.

Religions are filled with radicals—people who take a belief well beyond its original intent. Of course, what's seen as radical or fanatical by one person is acceptable to another. Even Jesus was branded as too radical by the religious leaders of His time on earth.

How can we keep from going to extremes? We need a center point. We need something to ground and guide us. This is the benefit of godly fear.

When we see God for who He is—all-knowing, ever-present, almighty, and eternal—we gain perspective. It keeps us humble and wise (Proverbs 9:10). It will also help keep us from going from one extreme to another.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

Does your life seem like a treadmill or rollercoaster? If so, have you discovered why this is so?

How do you handle the ups and downs of life? How much does it bother you when things don't go as planned?

Does it bother you when some people seem to get away with wrong doing, while others who seem innocent and good suffer?

What's your understanding of the fear of God? Does God fill your heart with awe and wonder?