Wisdom is better than strength. (9:16, niv)
In this section of Ecclesiastes, Solomon seems to abandon his quest for meaning to promote some of his parables. Is this contradictory to his earlier teaching (see May 19), where he says wisdom is meaningless? No. In the struggle to find our purpose in living, wisdom helps.
Earlier in his book, the Teacher discussed wisdom’s limitations. Here he focuses on its strengths. He reminds the reader about the sort of daily wisdom that can maximize our enjoyment of life and minimize its pain. This is practical. He is not seeking esoteric enlightenment in a philosophical realm divorced from the material world. That’s how some other religions deal with the issue of meaning. Rather, he says the wise have a better experience than fools. His examples include the practical wisdom of knowing how to deal with authority (10:4, 20), anticipate problems (10:8-10), use words well (9:17; 10:12-14), and avoid laziness (10:18). He could have added many more such examples.
Wisdom beats everything else when it comes to producing happiness in our day-to-day experience. The wise man may still struggle to know life’s meaning, but at least he knows “the way to town” (10:15)—and that’s better than the alternative.
Father, give me practical wisdom, so my life will not be a constant struggle to overcome the results of my own stupidity, and I can focus on more important things. Amen.