*Every week during our 12 week series in the book of Ecclesiastes we will post a devotional guide for the passage that was preached on the most recent Sunday. We encourage you to engage this book of the Bible more fully by walking through this devotional each week after having listened to the sermon on Sunday.*
Week 6- Ecclesiastes 7:1-8:1
I love to watch stand up comedy. Not only do I love to laugh but I love the fact that God has given us the gifts of humor, comedy, and laughter. His common grace to mankind includes the beautiful joy of finding things funny and experiencing how life-giving laughter can be. One thing that I have noticed as I have watched comedians over the years is that many of them joke about what they want their funeral to be like—what the theme will be, what words will be said about them, what pranks they would pull from beyond the grave, how their open casket would somehow both terrify and delight mourners, and so on. Even though these comedians are often young and live their lives to help people escape the grim realities of life through laughter, they can’t help but recognize the truth that they will die one day. They not only think about that future funeral but how they want to be remembered by the people in attendance—which, for a comedian, of course includes humor. In life and death they want to be remembered as the one who made people laugh.
King Solomon in Ecclesiastes also thinks a lot about his funeral, but for him it is no laughing matter. It is an absolutely serious and sober future reality that informs his present life. Laughter, while a gift from God that brings joy, can easily be the characteristic of fools, says Solomon. This is because too much laughing, feasting, and pleasure can often reveal the heart of a person who doesn’t want to face the harsh realities of life “under the sun,” doesn’t want to think about their impending death, and is, therefore, a fool (Eccl. 7:2-4). But Solomon says that a person’s funeral is even better than the day they were born because what is said about them after they die proves how well and how wisely they lived their life, while at birth they have their entire life ahead of them and there is no telling how they will live it (Eccl. 7:1). Seeing our death on the horizon should cause us to think about the name we are cultivating for ourselves as we live “under the sun.”
Solomon is in the later years of his life where he is thinking more about death and, therefore, wants to live as wisely as he can. He is intentionally seeking after wisdom, and, through wisdom, searching for meaning “under the sun.” The wisdom he has acquired helps him inform the generations after him that it is better to listen to the wise than to fools, bribes are bad, patience is a virtue, anger sours and spoils life, and wisdom is worth pursuing because it provides an advantage in life (Eccl. 7:5-12). But he has also seen that there are no guarantees in life and suffering happens to everyone. Therefore, as beneficial as wisdom is, don’t set your hopes on it because it won’t guarantee you a happy, successful, and long life.
But the more Solomon pursues wisdom the more elusive it seems. The more he comes to know, the more aware he is of all that he still does not know. His knowledge cannot control or contain life “under the sun.” And even though he desires wisdom, folly often seems to lie close at hand (Eccl. 7:23-29). But while Solomon seems to have achieved some measure of wisdom on his quest, it is more in line with worldly wisdom “under the sun,” rather than godly wisdom "beyond the sun.”
He is right to affirm that God is sovereign over all things in life (Eccl. 7:14) and that we should fear God (Eccl. 7:18)—we should stand before God in humble awe, reverence, and acceptance of His divine sovereignty. True wisdom is being rightly related to God and the world He has created and governs. But he also seems to be suggesting that the harsh realities of life in a fallen world ensure that even the pursuit of wisdom is folly, so don’t devote too much of your lives to it. His pursuit seems to continually lead him to despair. But seeking godly wisdom “beyond the sun” leads to peace and joy, and this is found in Christ.
Only in Christ are “hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). He is the true wisdom from God. Being united to Him by faith helps us to know how to better live our lives well for God’s glory, and to experience abiding peace and joy amidst life’s uncertainties. We will never achieve perfect wisdom “under the sun,” but we can achieve true wisdom in Christ that gives us a godly perspective “beyond the sun.” We can look at our future funeral and not fear or despair because “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). We can reflect on that impending reality and use it to inform the name we are cultivating for ourselves and how we live our lives for God’s glory today. We can rest and rejoice in God’s sovereignty knowing that He is a good, loving, and gracious heavenly Father whether our lives are long, successful, and picture-perfect, or we tragically die far sooner than we feel we should. Life and death are in the hands of our good God and He is working all things for our ultimate good and His eternal glory. Receiving true wisdom from Christ helps us to see these realities and worship.
So, take a page out of Solomon and many comedian’s playbook—think about your future funeral. Let the reality of death inform your daily life. Don’t let it lead you to despair, but rejoicing as you thank God that He has given you the gift of life. There are genuinely good things in this life to enjoy well to the glory of Christ. And think about what people might say at your funeral. Will they say that in folly you were so consumed with life’s gifts that you ignored the gift Giver? Or will they say that through wisdom you were so joyfully satisfied in the gift Giver that you were able to truly enjoy God’s gifts to His glory?
What does your pursuit of godly wisdom “beyond the sun” currently look like? How can your pursuit become more earnest?
Are you pursuing worldly wisdom or the true wisdom found in Christ?
Are you overly focused on having an easy and entertaining life that ignores the realities of trials, difficulties, and death? How can you look to Jesus to be able to face these hardships with hope and joy when they befall you or someone close to you?
Make a list of all of the things that you hope people will say about you at your funeral (ex: “she loved others so well,” “he was so generous,” “he brought joy to everyone around Him,” “Her main goal in life was to know and worship Jesus”). Spend some time on this and let your calling as a disciple of Christ inform your answers. Then make another list of practical ways you can begin to work toward these goals by looking to Jesus and relying on the power of the Holy Spirit.