Extortion turns a wise person into a fool,
and a bribe corrupts the heart.
The end of a matter is better than its beginning,
and patience is better than pride.
Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit,
for anger resides in the lap of fools.
Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’(Eccl. 7:7-10 NIV)
For it is not wise to ask such questions.
The love of money can turn the heart of a person, and out of the love of money they can seek to use extortion to gain more money. Some will also stoop to use a bribe to obtain advantage. What would stop you from using these methods? The thought of death and the need to live a good life would challenge us not to be involved in such tactics. We may feel that we’re all above extortion and bribery, but this requires more thought. Extortion and bribery don’t always involve money. The objective of extortion and bribery is a method of getting our own way or obtaining an advantage. Extortion can take the form of threatening behaviour, bullying or manipulation to gain an advantage for ourselves. Bribery can be the use of information to persuade others to do as we want.
Patience is a virtue for all of us. It is easier to be a project starter than a project finisher. We need to have patience in life to see the project through to completion.
Anger can at times be an appropriate response, but on most occasions it is not. The Preacher advises us to resist being in a position of heart and mind where we are quickly provoked to anger, because anger resides in the lap of fools. When we are angry it is likely that we will say things that are foolish.
The Preacher then makes us think of the ‘good old days.’
Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions.(Eccl. 7:10 NIV)
‘The church is not what it once was. Back in my day …’ These four issues – extortion, patience, anger and nostalgia – all should be seen in the context of our impending death. One commentator who has a clear grasp of the Preacher’s message suggests that the Preacher’s response to nostalgia would be something like, ‘ if you think you’re living in a world where things are getting worse all the time, then cheer up: at least you’ll be dead before things get really bad.’ A shocking statement but that seems to be in line with the type of things that the Preacher has been saying so far. The Preacher does constantly use the shock of the thought of death to help us put the circumstances of life into perspective.
If we say that the past was better than the present then we have to ask, ‘Why was it better?’ When we ask that, are we really just denying the reality of God’s presence in the present? Is God no longer in control? If we live in the past, have we failed to see the good things that are in life at the present? It can also prevent us from attempting to contribute to anything in the present as we sit and long for things to be like they once were. This is contrary to the teaching of the Preacher as he advocates enjoying the gifts that God has given today.
Extortion, impatience, anger and nostalgia can all be ways of escapism from the reality of today. Extortion is a way of trying to force change in our present, impatience is a way of trying to speed up the present, anger is a way of expressing frustration with the present, and nostalgia is a way of living in the past and ignoring the present.
Lord, help us to value the gifts that you have given us today. Forgive us for our wrong reactions to the lot in life that You have given us and help us to follow the example of the Apostle Paul who says,
‘now as always Christ will be exalted in my body. ’Phil. 1:20.
Lord help us to grasp all that You have given us and live for the glory of Christ because we ask this in our Saviour’s name. Amen.