Farmers Market of Foolishness | Ecclesiastes 10:1-20
Topic: Old Testament Passage: Ecclesiastes 10:1–10:20
Introduction | Farmers Market of Foolishness
Good morning! This week we are continuing our series of Ecclesiastes called The Pursuit: Chasing Meaning Under the Sun. Where do we go to find wisdom, meaning, and purpose? What is the point of all our accomplishments? Where is our hope when we life is met with failure or even simple toil and boredom? Is this all there is to life? In life under the sun all seems to be vanity as we struggle to find our purpose and meaning apart from God. The message of this sermon of Ecclesiastes isn’t “all of life is meaningless and nothing matters”; it’s because of God as the source of all meaning, and goodness, as we live the life we are given EVERYTHING matters! Last week we saw because of sin each of us will face death one day, but we are called to live all others. Chapter 7 was a day at the Smithsonian, but at least each one felt like a separate distinct place and theme. Chapter 10 is going to feel like a trip to chaotic a farmers market where different booths are all connected but sometimes in ways that don’t easily make sense. You’re going to expect to get a good deal on flowers and maybe an elephant ear but instead you’re talking too long to someone who is too political and you leave with homemade soap. We’re going to stroll through this chapter and try to come out the other side with some clarity and hope.
A Little Foolishness | v1-3
Ecclesiastes 10:1-3 | Dead flies make the perfumer's ointment give off a stench; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor. 2 A wise man's heart inclines him to the right, but a fool's heart to the left.3 Even when the fool walks on the road, he lacks sense, and he says to everyone that he is a fool.
Chapter 9 closed with a reminder that one man’s sin can undo a world of good. Chapter 10 opens with a similar statement about a little folly overwhelming wisdom and honor. Nearly everyone gets the concept that there are ways to walk through our daily lives that are more effective than others. You cannot simply say “all pursuits in life are equally valid or profitable.” To do so is to deny the present reality we are all experiencing. We know actions, decision, even thoughts and attitudes have consequences in our lives. In this case we see that a little foolishness can spread like an infection. The foolishness described isn’t buffoonery like Homer Simpson. It is a moral not an intellectual deficiency. Even among those who appear to live wisely there are moments, actions, of foolishness that greatly overshadow any wisdom or honor they may have had. We like to think that our “good” and life giving qualities will somehow overshadow or cover our areas of foolishness. See when it comes to sin and foolishness an ounce of sin outweighs tons of wisdom. It only takes a little foolishness to tarnish our whole lives. Sometimes we have more than a little.
Folly comes from our deformed hearts. Verse 2 isn’t about American politics. The right hand symbolized strength, for support, protection, and salvation, to have your heart directed “right” means to be wise and skillful in your day to day life. Conversely “left-handedness” was seen as incompetent weakness, to press in that direction meant you were tying your heart affections and inclination to that which will not bring life.
Our hearts desires betray who are truly are. We desire folly because we’re fools. He is someone who has simply said in his heart “There is no God.” Since wisdom, life, and honor all come from God to deny Him is deny these things. A fool confidently relies on their own wisdom and ability and their life shows it. Fools can’t hide. They will always be exposed and everyone can see. There isn’t any practical advice in this section it is simply laying out the truth of the contrast between wisdom and folly. This is sad and sobering when it’s an individual, but it is terrifying and destructive when it is someone in leadership over others.
Foolish Politics | v4-7; 20
Ecc 10:4-7 If the anger of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your place, for calmness will lay great offenses to rest. 5 There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, as it were an error proceeding from the ruler: 6 folly is set in many high places, and the rich sit in a low place.7 I have seen slaves on horses, and princes walking on the ground like slaves.
This is what happens when a little foolishness begins to creep into leadership. There are individual and corporate consequences, but there are also ways the wise are called to respond in these situations in general and leaders specifically. There is a way to respond to frustrating leadership that is Godly and wise. We all have people leading us either in government, in our work, even in our families where you at certain points when they’re frustrated with you (or you with them) you come to a point where you just want to check out, resign your post, sometimes even in a huff. This is foolish. Instead of one person being angry, now two people are. Fools can respond to leadership challenges by hitting the eject button. (If so and so is elected I’m going to move to Canada or Texas) We we’re called to press in peacefully. We are told “a soft word turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1) The calmness mentioned in verse 4 also translates as “healing”. This is difficult because our baseline response to foolish leadership is to rally and rail against it as we know we are the wise in comparison. The end of the chapter speaks of how we are to react.
20 Even in your thoughts, do not curse the king, nor in your bedroom curse the rich, for a bird of the air will carry your voice, or some winged creature tell the matter. Modern translation: When you're really angry about politics or at cultural-political-economic-media elites, even when reacting to stuff you're seeing on your smart phone while lying in bed, don't tweet about it.
While I am right at home talking about politics I believe there is a more immediate and personal application for us. There is an evil that has proceeded from our lives. We had godly leadership (literally God) in the garden who approached us with life and purpose and humanity’s response was to reject His rule, alienate themselves from God and ultimate they were cast out and had to flee. Rather than God having his rightful place of lord over our lives while we willingly and joyfully submit to Him, because of sin, we have inverted this relationship placing ourselves in charge. As such we have all placed ourselves in a place of leadership over our lives we are not designed for and do not flourish in. We not riding in a private jet we’re flying it, except flying it with all the skill of a drunk baby and we wonder why we crash. Meanwhile we’ve relegated God to being “a stranger on a bus”. This foolishness affects our daily lives.
Foolish Actions | v8-11; 18
8 He who digs a pit will fall into it, and a serpent will bite him who breaks through a wall. 9 He who quarries stones is hurt by them, and he who splits logs is endangered by them. 10 If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed. 11 If the serpent bites before it is charmed, there is no advantage to the charmer.
18 Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks.
Our daily lives can include any number of pursuits, but all of us are called to live wisely in the world God has made. Living vindictively or wickedly is foolish. Digging a pit is to set a trap. Breaking a wall is self-centered destruction. There are inherent punishments to certain activities. You live intentionally hoping to knock someone else down our out; you shouldn’t be surprised when you suffer painful consequences.
Danger is not limited to merely those pursuing wickedness. Because our world is fallen work that is supposed to be purposeful turns into toil. More than discomfort or frustrating sometime our toil can be downright deadly. Hours and hours of focused careful work can be outweighed by one misstep or slip. When we are careless or fail to be diligent, catastrophe can be close by. There is wisdom in preparing slowly and diligently for what we’re called to do. Keep sharpening your tools and learning your trade. You can neglect these things and you can still get the job done, you’re just going to have to use more strength. White knuckle brute force may be effective but it is not sustainable in the long run. You’ll get exhausted and defeated. It’s hard plowing through life in a way that is less than efficient. This happens in our lives as disciples of Jesus. There is wisdom given in the pursuit of Godliness that better equips for us success, consuming God’s word, prayer, community, but we discard diligence in these. Instead we keep walking loaded down and working only to see our lives dull and our effectiveness dwindle. Your life is one that needs to be diligent in what you’re doing now and preparing/growing for where you’re going. Be deliberate, avoid disaster; but don’t fall into sloth when you have an urgent task. Slow down but not too slow… The life of a disciple is one of deliberate diligence knowing the house of our soul needs regular maintenance and care if were to avoid our lives slowly decaying and crumbling.
Foolish Words | v12-15
12 The words of a wise man's mouth win him favor, but the lips of a fool consume him.
13 The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness, and the end of his talk is evil madness.
14 A fool multiplies words, though no man knows what is to be, and who can tell him what will be after him?
15 The toil of a fool wearies him, for he does not know the way to the city.
Our words, even a few of them, have a great impact on ourselves and others. James says our mouth is like a small rudder that turns a whole ship or one spark that set a whole forest ablaze. Our words are powerful. There are words of encouragement, admonishment, comfort that can be life-giving to others and can lead us to places of joy and favor. Conversely there are words of discouragement, division and condemnation that can consume us and others. Like the fly in the ointment, it only takes a few harsh, careless, or ill-conceived words to outweigh a multitude of well-crafted and considered statements, poison a whole conversation, destroy relationship or alter the direction of our lives. It begins with foolishness (again the fool says in His heart there is no God) of believing he and he alone is the judge of what comes out of his mouth. Untethered it leads to a crazed madness of moral evil. Denial of God is denial of good. Words multiply with the fool, not simply talking a lot, but pridefully asserting great knowledge specifically of the future which “no man knows”. He cannot be taught or instructed properly because he already knows it all even what cannot be known. Godly assurance or confidence is great, but begin bold about what cannot be known is foolish. This would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic. See this prideful rejection of God leads to an exhausting life of toil. Believing you have all the answers for your life becomes a pressure cooker when things continue to happen that you cannot predict or process on your own. It turns life under the sun today into weary toil. Moreover, there are eternal consequences for those who continue to walk in foolishness. You don’t make it to the city. Cities are places of community, enjoyment, provision, and protection. The Bible talks about heaven as an eternal city where God is properly enthroned the good King of his people who are living out their purposes flawlessly, where there is no stench of death, all words are life giving, there is no threat of careless destruction or evil intentions. God knows we need this city and He knows we cannot make it to this city our own, so he calls us out of our individual foolish wilderness.
Foolish Kingdom or Noble King? | v16-18
16 Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child, and your princes feast in the morning! 17 Happy are you, O land, when your king is the son of the nobility, and your princes feast at the proper time, for strength, and not for drunkenness!
The alternative to His forever city is living in a land of woe. Sad decay. This is the land ruled by us. We are unwise an ill-equipped rulers of our lives. Perspectives limited to the here and now, like princes drinking in the am, we regularly pursue our short term self-indulgent happiness at the expense of long term joy. A kingdom run by ourselves, for ourselves, will never last. God knows this land of our won’t last so He keeps calling us out of it. To repent of our own foolish kingdoms and submit to another kingdom ruled by Jesus, God’s son , the true son of nobility.
We are all fools, dead flies in God’s ointment. Rather than rejecting us as the fly in his ointment, he dives in further. And makes everything pure. In Jesus’ kingdom we feast for strength. Not to selfishly fall into drunkenness to forget the foolishness of this world; but to have strength to continue in it on mission in the world. We are continually calling other foolish sinners out of their kingdoms into His kingdom where there is an eternal feast at the proper time looking forward to a “happy land”.
Communion | v19
19 Bread is made for laughter, and wine gladdens life, and money answers everything.
We’re going to transition into a time of response to God’s word. If you have repented of your kingdom and trusted Jesus Christ in your place to enter God’s kingdom, we share a small “feast” remembering His work on the cross. The bread represents his body broken for us and the cup His shed blood covering the dead flies of our sin. We’re going to give our tithes and offerings knowing that God has richly provided us with all things and calls us to steward what we’re given for his purposes including the building up of our local church. We’re going to sing with glad celebration because Jesus was on the cross and we were not, and because he is alive we enjoy a new eternal life with Him today and forever, for all those who Trust Jesus!
More in THE PURSUIT | Ecclesiastes
January 3, 2016Season Finale | Ecclesiastes 12:1-14
December 20, 2015Bridled Joy | Ecclesiastes 11:1-10
December 6, 2015Die One Day, Live All Others | Ecclesiastes 9:1-18