As we near the end of Ecclesiastes, Solomon continues his argument for what is good. As we saw in the last passage, he admits that life isn’t fair. That even being righteous and wise doesn’t guarantee that everything will go well with you.
But he still presses on arguing for the virtues of being wise. And he points out first that one act of foolishness can wipe out all that you in your wisdom have built up. It could be the foolishness of another (9:18), or foolishness of your own (10:1).
And so he warns about two things. First, how we deal with people in authority, that we should hang in there when we make a mistake and our boss gets angry with us. If we stay calm, apologize, and do what we can to make things right, then things may settle down (10:4). He also warns to be careful what you say about your boss even in private because those words often find their way back to your boss (10:20).
In between, and then after that, he gives a long lecture on the folly of laziness. There are some people that make all kinds of excuses for not working. Some people say, “If I dig a pit, I might fall in it.” Or “If I do some masonry, I might disturb a snake and get bitten.” “If I cut some wood, I might end up cutting myself.” (10:8-9)
But Solomon replies, “The answer is simple. Work skillfully. If you have enough skill you won’t have any problems. Even if you have bad tools, you can have success. Stop making dumb excuses.” (10:10)
But still people complain, “Yeah, but who knows what will happen in the future? Who knows if my work will be rewarded, so why work so hard? It’s so tiring. It’s just a pain to drive into town and work.” (10:14-15)
So Solomon warns, “Things will start to fall apart around you if you don’t work. Sure you may have fun now, but what will happen when you need something and you can’t pay for it?” (10:18-19)
Other people say, “Well, how can I know I’ll be successful? I might plant corn, but that’ll probably be just the year when wheat grows well and corn doesn’t.”
So Solomon replies, “Be wise then. Prepare for all situations. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. You may not know what will be successful, but if you diversify your efforts, at least one of them will be successful. (11:1-6)
All of this reminds me of the parable of the talents, and the wise workers and the foolish one. The wise ones invested; the foolish one didn’t do so because he was afraid of what would happen if he lost everything. Had he followed Solomon’s advice, both in dealing with his boss after a mistaken investment, and in diversifying, he probably would have at least tried to do something with the money he received. But in the end, he incurred the very wrath he was trying to avoid.
How about you? Are you investing what God has given you? Are you working hard using the talents and resources God has given you? Or are you just making excuses for being lazy?
May God be able to say to us all,
Well done good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness. (Matthew 25:21)