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The Benefits and Limits of Wisdom

The Benefits and Limits of Wisdom

Jan 15, 2017

Passage: Ecclesiastes 8:1-17

Preacher: Tom Ascol

Series: Ecclesiastes - Real Life in a Fallen World

Category: Sunday Morning

Keywords: authority, benefits, contentment, limitations, wisdom


Pastor Tom Ascol continues his series on the book of Ecclesiastes with a message centered on Chapter 8 entitled “The Benefits and Limits of Wisdom.” We have all witnessed situations that would have turned out better had a little wisdom been used. Even routine daily encounters could be more profitable if wisdom was employed in interpersonal dealings. Oftentimes small problems would not become big problems if handled wisely. God’s Word has a specific emphasis on wisdom and its benefits, yet wisdom cannot explain everything.

Wisdom can enable you to live well. The first seven verses in today’s passage inform us wisdom is valuable. Exercising wisdom in dealing with authorities will serve us well, in fact, it may make the king’s face shine! The story of Joseph and Pharaoh in Genesis 41 gives a real-life example. Further, wisdom dictates proper deference and patience towards authorities. Why should we resist God’s appointed rulers? Romans 13 forbids that, unless contrary to God’s ways. The book of Esther shows a servant of God exercising wisdom and restraint as she approaches and successfully petitions the king. Jesus, in Matthew 27:24 – 27, though showing He was not bound by the paying of the temple tax, nevertheless paid it as an example of living under authority. It is exactly this type of deferential and patient wisdom that should be characteristic of believers.

Still, the Preacher, the author of the book, teaches wisdom cannot explain everything. Man makes plans but cannot discern the future. James 4:13 – 17, for example, encourages us to plan with the proviso “if the Lord wills.” Recognizing our dependence on Him, His plan, His authority, is exercising deferential wisdom. Moreover, vv. 8 – 9 teach we cannot even control the present; we have no guarantee on our lives, on the wind, or on obligations to the governing authority. Even the wicked, often seen to unfairly prosper, have no power over life, death, and judgment. Psalm 139:16 states “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Do we live as if we understand God knows all our days and knew them even before we came to be? God knows today and tomorrow; we do not.

Lastly, wisdom cannot eliminate injustice in the world. Wicked people, due to their power, wealth, or other things, are welcomed into holy places or communities. Justice is often delayed. Sinners do evil and prosper. Wisdom, while not being able to correct these, knows that in the end it will not go well for the wicked. True wisdom has an eternal perspective not limited to mere mortal existence. The upshot, the Preacher tells us, is that we should eat, drink, and be joyful in whatever estate God has placed us. We do not ignore the realities of what goes on around us but rather trust in the One who will make all right in the end. Trusting in Jesus Christ, His work, the salvation He provides and offers, alone makes our joy possible and genuine.