Ecc 7:11-18 shows us three things set against each other, that, when considered together, give us wisdom under the sun.
Wisdom and Money are Set Against Each Other, v.11-12
Solomon wrote, “Wisdom is good with an inheritance”. In Ecc 2:18-19 his heir would need wisdom to properly manage what he inherits. Whataburger is a good example of heirs who had the wisdom to manage their inheritance. Harmon Dobson opened his first restaurant in 1950. By 1960 he was operating 17 restaurants. He died in a plane crash in 1967. Grace, his wife, took over the business. In the 1970’s, Whataburger grew to 200 restaurants. By the end of 1980’s, there were 440 restaurants. In the 1990’s, Tom Dobson, Harmon’s son became CEO, and by 2000, there were 575 restaurants. Today there over 850 restaurants, in 14 states, with over 50,000 employees. It takes wisdom to do this. “By it there is profit”.
Some heirs have spent up their inheritance. Prov 20:21 says, “An inheritance may be gotten hastily at the beginning; but the end thereof shall not be blessed”. The prodigal son is a perfect example of an heir that spent it up. I have known many who have run through fortunes because of a lack of wisdom.
Wisdom is a defense. In Ecc 9:13-15, a poor man’s wisdom delivered his city. And money is a defense. In Prov 10:15, “the rich man’s wealth is his strong city”.
“But the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it”. Prov 8:35 says of wisdom, “whoso findeth me findeth life”. Money can’t do this. So, wisdom is better. See Prov 8:10-11. And wisdom gives you better lasting wealth, Prov 8:17-21.
Verse 13 is covered in Ecc 1:15. The point is like the door in Rev 3:7-8. If God opens it no man can shut it and vice versa.
The Day of Prosperity and the Day of Adversity are Set Against Each Other, v.14
“In the day of prosperity be joyful”. Prosperity is the condition of being successful or thriving. See Jos 1:8. Enjoy the moment.
“In the day of adversity consider”. Adversity is the condition of serious or continued difficulty or misfortune. Solomon didn’t say “give up” or “quit”. He said “consider”. In other words, think carefully about the adversity, especially with regard to taking some action. We generally learn more in adversity than we do in success; we learn more in the valley than on the mountain top.
“God hath set the one over against the other”. The Lord set it up this way. So, don’t fuss with God in the times of adversity. You need the adversity. Job needed the adversity. And the Jews who read about Job in the Tribulation will definitely need to know what Job said and God wrote to get through the Tribulation. They will experience Ps 34:19 firsthand.
David Schroeder used to say, “People who have never felt as bad as I do after chemo don’t realize how good it feels to feel good”. We take feeling good for granted. His adversity caused him to appreciate his prosperity.
Paul finished his course with joy. He knew he had succeeded and joy followed. Jesus succeeded at the cross, and joy was set before him, Heb 12:1-3.
“To the end that man should find nothing after him”. The idea is that after you have been through enough prosperity and adversity you’ll be able to say like others have said, “I’ve seen it all”. You can’t rush life experience; you have to go through it and you want to learn from it while you’re in it. Paul learned a great deal from abounding and being abased, Phil 4:11-13.
Verse 15 is covered in the lesson on Evil under the Sun Ecc 6:1-2
Righteousness and Wickedness, Wisdom and Foolishness, v.16-18
Righteousness and wickedness are set against each other. “Be not righteous over much”. You don’t have to be right all the time. Don’t be a perfectionist. The Pharisees destroyed themselves with their own hyper-attention to righteousness. They strained at a gnat and swallowed a camel, Matt 23:24. You can’t be “that” righteous; only God is. Look at v.20, “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not”.
In Rom 7, Paul clearly shows us the incorrigible nature of our flesh. In his zeal for righteousness under the law, he became the enemy of the most righteous person who ever lived. And when he finally trusted Jesus Christ, who is our righteousness, 1 Cor 1:30, he counted all his righteousness “but dung” by comparison, Phil 3:3-9. Likewise, Job pitted his righteousness against God’s until he heard from God that he was wrong.
Wisdom and foolishness are set against each other. “Neither make thyself over wise”. You don’t want to be a know it all. You’ll destroy yourself. Have you ever heard the expression, “He was too smart for his own britches”? He’s so swollen with his own conceit that his pants don’t fit anymore. Many people have become so conceited with their “wisdom” that they aren’t afraid to change and corrupt God’s own words, 2 Cor 2:17. Jesus is our wisdom, 1 Cor 1:30. Instead of being over wise, make friends who are wise and seek counsel from them.
“Be not over much wicked”. Don’t give yourself to wickedness. Sin will take you further than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay. You reap what you sow, Gal 6:7-8. We are bad enough as it is; so don’t go pursuing more wickedness.
“Neither be foolish”. The famous last words of a redneck are, “Hold my beer and watch this”! “Why shouldest thou die before thy time”? We want enough wisdom to offset our foolishness and to lead us in the paths of righteousness. Wisdom gives us life and foolishness gives us death. Choose to live.
“It is good that thou shouldest take hold of this; yea, also from this withdraw not thine hand”. Hang on to what you’re reading here.
“He that feareth God shall come forth from them all”. You don’t want to live out on the extremes in the matters of wisdom and foolishness. Paul said, “Let your moderation be known unto all men”, Phil 4:5. Fearing God is the whole duty of man, Ecc 12:13. In Prov 31:30 the virtuous woman is praised because she fears the Lord. And by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
Conclusion: there is a great deal to learn from these things that are set against each other.