Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Ecclesiastes Wisdom and Jesus' Wisdom

Ecclesiastes is possibly the bitterest book in the Bible. I tend to read it when times are tough. The author makes valid points at times, and is generally considered wise. Still, the reader senses that the author has succumbed to despair, and in his despair we see glimpses of the foolishness and madness that he imagines himself able to avoid. He sees that his wisdom is not enough to save him from death or to ensure his legacy. His disappointment in his wisdom -- and in all the pursuits of life -- is profound.

With that in mind, below are some selections from Ecclesiastes, paired with responses from Jesus' teachings.The general approach was suggested to me by the way that the phrase "eat, drink, and be merry" from Ecclesiastes is taken up by Jesus in one of his parables, and that Jesus had also alluded to Moses in a similar way.

All such things are wearisome. There is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:8, 9)

I observed all the happenings beneath the sun, and I found that all is futile, and pursuit of wind. (Ecclesiastes 1:14)

For what does a man get for all the toiling and worrying he does under the sun? All his days his thoughts are grief and heartache, and even at night his mind has no respite. That too is futile. (Ecclesiastes 2:22-23)

Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am humble and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

What real value is there for a man in all the gains he makes under the sun? (Ecclesiastes 1:3)

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Matthew 16:26)

So, too, I loathed all the wealth that I was gaining under the sun. For I shall leave it to the man who will succeed me – and who knows whether he will be wise or foolish? And he will control all the wealth that I gained by toil and wisdom under the sun. That too is futile. (Ecclesiastes 2:18-19)

Therefore I praised enjoyment. For the only good a man can have under the sun is to eat and drink and be merry. That much can accompany him, in exchange for his wealth, through the days of life that God has granted him under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 8:15)

And I will say to myself: “You have many goods laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink, and be merry.”
But God said to him, “You fool, this night your soul shall be required of you. Then whose shall those things be, which you have provided?” 

So it is with the one who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. (Luke 12:19-21)

Another grave evil is this: He must depart just as he came. As he came out of his mother’s womb, so must he depart at last, as naked as he came. He can take nothing of his wealth to carry with him. So what is the good of his toiling for the wind? (Ecclesiastes 5:14-15)

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break in and steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust corrupts, and where thieves do not break in or steal:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.  (Matthew 6:19-21)

If you would be perfect, go and sell what you have and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.  (Matthew 19:21)

A twisted thing that cannot be made straight, a lack that cannot be made good. (Ecclesiastes 1:15).

I further observed all the oppression that goes on under the sun: the tears of the oppressed, with none to comfort them; and the power of their oppressors – with none to comfort them. (Ecclesiastes 4:1)

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they shall be satisfied.  (Matthew 5:3-6)

I mused, “God will doom both righteous and wicked, for there is a time for every experience and for every happening.” So I decided, as regards men, to dissociate them from the divine beings and to face the fact that they are beasts. (3:17-18) 

Both go to the same place; both came from dust and both return to dust. Who knows if a man’s life breath does rise upward and if a beast’s breath does sink down into the earth? I saw that there is nothing better for man that to enjoy his possessions, since that is his portion. For who can enable him to see what will happen afterward? (Ecclesiastes 3:20-22)

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall be shown mercy.
Blessed are  the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  (Matthew 5:7-10)

For the same fate is in store for all: for the righteous, and for the wicked; for the good and pure, and for the impure. That is the sad thing about all that goes on under the sun: that the same fate is in store for all. (Ecclesiastes 9:2, 3)

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (Matthew 25:31-32)

Here is a frustration that occurs in the world: sometimes an upright man is requited according to the conduct of the scoundrel; and sometimes the scoundrel is requited according to the conduct of the upright. I say all that is frustration. (Ecclesiastes 8:14)

For I say to you, that what is written must yet be accomplished in me, “And he was reckoned among the transgressors”: for the things written concerning me are reaching fulfillment.  (Luke 22:37)

No man has authority over the life breath – to hold back the life breath; there is no authority over the day of death. (Ecclesiastes 8:8)

I am the good shepherd. I lay down my life for the sheep.
No man takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. (John 10:14, 15, 18)

All this I tested with wisdom. I thought I could fathom it, but it eludes me. (Ecclesiastes 7:23) 

For I have set my mind to learn wisdom and to observe the business that goes on in the world – even to the extent of going without sleep day and night – and I have observed all that God brings to pass. Indeed, man cannot guess the events that occur under the sun. For man tries strenuously, but fails to guess them; and even if a sage should think to discover them he would not be able to guess them.  (Ecclesiastes 8:16-17)

I thank you, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and have revealed them to little children. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in your sight. (Matthew 11:25-26)

The point of this is how our wise cynicism isn't as wise as we think, and how Jesus addresses the "rational" points made in our bitterness.  

Or as Paul summed up, "The foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom." 


Martin LaBar said...

Well done. By that I mean the selections, and the way you have arranged them.

Weekend Fisher said...

Thank you for the encouragement. It is so welcome.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF