I have said from time to time that I tend to forget the things I need to remember and remember the things I need to forget. Does anyone else feel like this? Solomon said something like this in Ecclesiastes 9:14-16.
Just to see how well we remember the important things, please take a couple of short quizzes. Check your answers and see how you do.
Quiz #1 - Who:
- Invented the polio vaccine?
- Discovered pasteurization?
- Discovered penicillin?
- Invented the artificial heart?
- Wrote the book of Philemon?
- Wrote the book of Acts?
- Invented the incandescent light bulb?
Quiz #2 - Who:
- Won last season’s “Dancing With The Stars”?
- Won the 1990 World Series?
- Is Miss America?
- Is Carole Baskin?
- Is the “Tiger King”?
- Is Prince Harry’s wife?
- Drove #3 in NASCAR races until 2001?
How did you do on your quizzes? Did you get more correct answers in quiz #1 or #2? Did you have to “Google” anything? Perhaps this illustration will give us some insight into Solomon’s words (Ecc. 9:14-16). In the text, after the siege, men were more likely to remember the loser instead of the winner! Why is it that men tend to listen to a failed king rather than a winning wise man? How upside-down can we get?
This passage does not give reasons why men tend to remember the loser and the things of lesser importance rather than what is of greater importance? Could I suggest that perhaps men tend to remember the things they ought to forget because those things of lesser importance satisfy a lust (Jas. 1:14-15). Additionally, we know many love to gossip, and love to find out the latest “scandal.” Are there not plenty of things in this world that would scratch such an itch?
Often, our priorities are the polar opposite to God’s. Solomon understood that and said so in Ecclesiastes 9. Let us take a moment to examine ourselves (II Cor. 13:5). What can we do to get our priorities in line with God’s? Make that change today and forget what is not important but remember what is (Phil. 3:13-14)!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Do we have a problem with listening to too much? Sometimes we hear things said about us that are really none of our business. Why do we listen, and why do we take these words to heart? Solomon teaches us a hard lesson in Ecclesiastes 7:21, but it’s a lesson that will help us immensely if learned.
The Holy Spirit inspired the following: “Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee.” What a lesson! In a time when we want to hear all, and when social media allows us to hear it, let’s go back and listen to Solomon. He reminds us that this isn’t always a good idea! “Take no heed” means essentially, don’t take it seriously. I’ve had to tell people (and tell myself), “consider the source!” This is the essence of Ecclesiastes 7:21.
Don’t listen, nor take to heart everything that falls out of someone’s mouth (or keyboard). An enemy doesn’t have your best interests in mind, anyway. Someone may ask, “What if it’s a friend saying harmful things?” As someone once told me, “Hateful statements are sometimes made by kind people.” We don’t always know what a person’s disposition is when they say things. You may be the nearest person to criticize when a friend is angry! Someone has said, “He was in the line of fire.” Listen, dear one -- “take no heed”!
As I thought about Ecclesiastes 7:21, I also thought about the other side of this “coin.” You see, it’s true that harmful statements can be made in a moment, and yes, there are times when a person does damage with his sharp tongue (Jas. 3:2, 5-6, 8; Ecc. 5:6; Prov. 26:18-19). Yet, have we ever thought about the fact that perhaps some of the damage could’ve been lessened if we’d not taken it the way we did? Maybe there would’ve been no lasting damage done if, after we have heard someone say something, that we remembered the words, “For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others” (Ecc. 7:22)!
In other words, before we get too offended at what someone has said about us, remember that we probably did the same thing already! Did you mean it, or was your mouth in gear while your brain was in neutral? Were you angry, and this person was just the easiest “target”? Maybe that’s what happened to our friend, too. Think the best about people instead of thinking the worst (I Cor. 13:7). See how your life is bettered for it!
I know it is a hard pill to swallow in a society that prefers “information overload,” but sometimes, the best advice is: “Don’t listen!” You’ll be happier when you don’t have your nose in other people’s business. Furthermore, the one who said something hateful will have some time to calm down, reflect, and repent before things get worse. Isn’t this the way we live Matthew 7:12 and 22:39?
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
The first seven verses of Ecclesiastes 5 remind us to be careful about the words we say. As we read this passage, we see that “a multitude of words” is associated with foolish behavior (Ecc. 5:3), vanity (v. 7), evil (v. 1), and sin (v. 6). Parallel to this thought is what Christ taught in Matthew 6. He said that the heathen (Gentiles, nations, etc.) think they will be heard in their prayers because of their “much speaking” (Matt. 6:7). The point being that God did not acknowledge their “speaking.” Most men see through the tactics of someone who “talks too much”! Friend, don’t be like that.
How many times do we “shoot off our mouths” and not consider what we said until later, if ever? Solomon, by inspiration, makes it clear that our words can cause us great trouble. We are reminded here that God is vigilant in noting what we say (Ecc. 5:2b). This warning is repeated in such New Testament passages as Matthew 12:36-37, and James 3:1-12. In the book of Ecclesiastes, the Preacher reminds his listeners that our mouths can cause our flesh to sin (Ecc. 5:6). Friend, how closely do you watch what you say? David said, “I will keep my mouth with a bridle” (Ps. 39:1). What will you do? In an age of “social media,” let us be reminded that our “rash words” can be written as well as spoken. Are you careful to guard the words you type on social media? If not, why not? Are you careful about the stories you share on social media? Typed words will condemn us as quickly as the words that come from our mouths!
As we read Ecclesiastes 5, we note that verse four tells us to make sure and pay our vows when we make them. While this is not a passage talking exclusively about marriage, marriage vows are promises we make to our spouse and God, promising, “til death do us part,” among other things. Married people, are you honoring your vows? Man’s vows are so significant that it is written that it is better for us not to vow at all than to make a vow and not pay or fulfill it (v. 5). How are we doing in honoring the vows we make? See, if you make vows, but do not honor them, then you are a liar (Rev. 21:8)! Making vows also includes our debts! If you promise to pay someone back when you make a debt, then this is a vow. You need to make sure and pay your debts as you promised to do!
“By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words, thou shalt be condemned” (Matt. 12:37). Let us take the words of Christ and Solomon to heart. Our words are precious! Our words are the vehicles of our thoughts. We need to control our thoughts and make sure we do not “engage our mouths when our brains are in neutral”! “Keep thy foot” (Ecc. 5:1) means behave yourself! Let us behave ourselves and watch our words when we offer our sacrifices to God (Ecc. 5:1; Heb. 13:15; I Pet. 2:5), and watch our words daily! Jesus said our words can save, or our words will condemn.
Why is it that many of our politicians have no respect by the populace? It is because these people talk a lot, they promise (vow) a lot, and many times, their words amount to nothing! We judge them as liars because they promised things and never fulfilled their promises/vows! How refreshing it would be for a politician to come along who didn’t promise anything except to represent the constituents to the best of his ability! That’s enough!
Someone said that they prayed that their words might always be sweet, for one day they may have to “eat them”! How true! James 1:19 reminds us to be “slow to speak,” and how this is needed today! Let us follow the command of Ephesians 4:29 and 32, Ecclesiastes 5, James 1:19, and chapter 3 when we speak! We will be blessed immensely when we are not “rash” (hasty) to speak.
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
In the context of II John 11, we learn that whoever teaches false doctrine does not have fellowship with God (II Jn. 9). At the same time, it is not right for those who hear the false doctrine to accept the person and act as if nothing is wrong (II John 10). If someone bids “Godspeed” (KJV) or “Greets” (ASV, Darby, ESV, NET, RV, etc.) the false teacher, this person is just as guilty in the eyes of God. Other Bible versions use the terms, “participates,” or “sharing” for “partaker” in II John 11. I think this helps us understand what John was teaching. Not only is it wrong to teach false doctrine, but it is also wrong for those hearing false doctrine to stand by and allow it to be taught without opposition (II Jn. 10-11)!
The apostle Paul showed us the right response when he said that when Judaizers came in to “spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus,” they gave place “no, not for an hour” (Gal. 2:4-5)! Later, Paul would withstand Peter “to the face, because he was to be blamed” for the hypocrisy he perpetuated (Gal. 2:11). Paul would also write (by inspiration) a warning similar to John’s to the Romans. After listing the sins the Gentiles had committed through the years, he ends chapter one by saying, “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Rom. 1:32). In other words, not only did the people committing the sins deserve death (Jas. 1:15), but those who approve of what is done (applaud, ISV; consent, ASV; delight, Darby) deserve the same punishment! This sounds like John’s warning in II John 11.
The stand taken by Paul and John while they lived, and encouraged in their epistles (Rom. 1:32; II Jn. 9-11), serves at least two purposes. One purpose is obvious, and that is to save those who are affected by false doctrine, including myself! Remember, to bid “Godspeed” means I am also partaking (II Jn. 11)! If I do not take a stand, or if I bid “Godspeed” to a deceiver, then many more will be deceived. The second purpose is closely linked to the first. This is that by standing, we are also trying to win the soul of the false teacher. When we stand opposed to someone because of his false teaching, we need to make sure and check our attitude. Is our response motivated by hatred of the person or the doctrine? There is a difference! If I am trying to win an argument, I very well may lose the soul. If I am trying to win someone’s soul, I will win the argument by default. What John shows me is that I not allow what some call “love” to silence my tongue! I must speak! I must warn!
Sadly, we live in a time when men are afraid of confrontation. We have a society that recoils at the thought of standing for the truth, but ironically is quick to criticize and belittle anyone who does! We are told that retreat is courageous. This is wrong. Christians in our time who claim to wear the armor of Christ (Eph. 6:11-19), tend to forget about the sword. Yet, the sword is a part of our armor! The sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:18) is not a defensive but an offensive weapon. With it, we take the fight to the enemy (II Cor. 10:3-5; I Tim. 6:12)! The sword is not for cleaning your fingernails, or picking your teeth! With the sword of the Spirit, we stand against “the wiles of the devil” and do not give submission, “no, not for an hour”!
When we read II John, we learn that we do not give “Godspeed” (greet, participate, or share) with false teachers as if to “go along and get along.” Remember, souls are at stake, and they are too precious to leave to the “wolves” (Matt. 7:15; Acts 20:29-31)! At the same time, standing against the wolves who teach false doctrines may open their eyes to the truth. This is our goal -- to bring lost souls to the Father (Jas. 5:19-20). When we do not partake or share with false teachers, we will cause them to stop and consider what they are doing. No, not everyone repents at this, but folks need to know where we stand. Let them be warned in love and truth (Eph. 4:15, 5:11). Let us stand with a pure conscious, knowing that false teachers will face God in judgment, having at least been warned. Who knows, but you are in the kingdom “for such a time as this,” and your warning might save a soul from death? One thing is certain: silence in the face of false teaching and pretending nothing is wrong will do nothing to remedy the situation, nor will it save a soul. It only makes things worse!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
How many times have we heard people justify their sins by saying that they didn’t know “x” was wrong? Perhaps someone breaks the speed limit, and when pulled over, tells the officer, “I didn’t know it was ‘x’ speed in this area.” Does this mean that he didn’t break the law? Actually, in the courts in our land, ignorance does not automatically excuse someone’s error. Similarly, ignorance is not an excuse with God! The sins one commits in ignorance have the same consequences as sins that are committed knowingly (Jas. 1:14-15; Rom. 6:23).
How does this relate to Haman? Please read Esther 7. When Esther reveals that Haman is the one responsible for establishing a law that would kill all the Jews, including her, Xerxes was enraged (v. 6-7). I am convinced that Haman had no idea Esther was a Jew until then. After all, she had concealed this fact (following Mordecai’s command, 2:10, 20), and it seems she had never said anything until this moment (v. 3-4). Thus, Haman is ignorant of the fact that his law also meant a death sentence to the queen.
Thus, here is a woman with her life on the line based on Haman’s ignorance! We cannot fall for the adage that “ignorance is bliss,” can we? Ignorance on the job usually results in injury. Ignorance on the ball field often results in a loss to the team. No, ignorance may be many things, but it is not bliss! In Esther, we see that ignorance will result in her death if things are not changed quickly.
Looking to modern-day, we understand that sins committed in ignorance hurt others, and they jeopardize one’s soul (Ezek. 18:20). Because this is true, is there any wonder then why we are taught to bridle our tongues (Jas. 3)? Let’s make sure we do not speak before we know all the facts! Maybe when we know all the facts, we will be quiet, anyway. Is it any wonder then why we are taught to control our thoughts as well as our actions (Phil. 4:8-9; Matt. 15:17-20; Jas. 1:26)? Let us control our thoughts and make sure we are not acting until we know the truth. As a good friend of mine likes to say, “Many people get more exercise jumping to conclusions than they do digging for facts.”
It is a dangerous world, and our words and deeds are powerful. Let us guard what we do and say and make sure they agree with what Jesus wants (Col. 3:17). Let us not act until we know the facts. Don’t be like Haman!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs