A Lesson on Wisdom and Folly: An Ecclesiastes Meditation, Part II

A Lesson on Wisdom and Folly: An Ecclesiastes Meditation, Part II

Written by Samuel G. Parkison |
Tuesday, April 11, 2023

God’s Wisdom, by the power of his Spirit, makes us like himself. The Triune God shapes us into the image of true Wisdom. To be brought into Christ, then, is to be brought into Wisdom. And to become more like Christ (to become who we are—the journey of sanctification in the Christian life) is to become wise.

Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child, and your princes feast in the morning! 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! Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks. Bread is made for laughter, and wine gladdens life, and money answers everything. 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.
(Ecclesiastes 10:16-20)

This chapter ends with further wisdom regarding kings and their influence on a land. A foolish king is a disaster for the land, and a wise king is a great blessing to the land. The higher the authority, the higher the stakes. Foolishness and sin have ripple effects for everyone, of course, but the greater the authority, the further the ripple effects extend. So, a child who acts sinfully effects the home. But not as severely as when a mother acts sinfully. And whether he realizes it or not, a husband and father’s sinfulness have a far greater impact on the home than anyone else. Likewise, when a member of the church breaks his marriage vows, the whole body is affected. But not nearly as affected as when a pastor breaks his marriage vows.

When a king is a fool, it is disastrous for the whole land, because his influence stretches far. But when the king is wise, it blesses the whole land for the exact same reason. We should also note folly and wisdom here is all about fittingness. This puts us squarely within the conversation of natural theology. God has created the world and we must live in it. There is a nature to everything—including wine, laughter, money, and authority. It is unnatural—unfitting, foolish—for a king to feast and drink in the morning in a spirit of pure indulgence; to be lazy, ignoble and childish. But it is natural—fitting, wise—for a king to conduct himself with nobility and hard-working diligence; to drink and feast at the right time. Since wisdom begins with a fear of the Lord, it knows that God has created everything in its proper place, and to try to impose our own wishes on nature is folly. The best kind of authority recognizes that it is under authority.

One of the best illustrations of this kind of kingly authority is the example of King Lune in Lewis’s Narnia classic, The Horse and His Boy. In this story, King Lune finds his long-lost son, Cor, who is heir to his throne. Cor also has a brother, named Corin, and he would rather Corin be king. But the wisdom King Lune demonstrates how authority doesn’t change nature—it doesn’t buck against natural hierarchies or roles of responsibility—but rather harmonizes with it:

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