Online Bible Commentary
How Do We Become Wise?
Ecclesiastes 7:15 I have seen everything in my days of vanity: There is a just man who perishes in his righteousness, And there is a wicked man who prolongs life in his wickedness. 16 Do not be overly righteous, Nor be overly wise: Why should you destroy yourself? 17 Do not be overly wicked, Nor be foolish: Why should you die before your time? 18 It is good that you grasp this, And also not remove your hand from the other; For he who fears God will escape them all. 19 Wisdom strengthens the wise More than ten rulers of the city. 20 For there is not a just man on earth who does good And does not sin. 21 Also do not take to heart everything people say, Lest you hear your servant cursing you. 22 For many times, also, your own heart has known That even you have cursed others. (NKJV)
The book of Ecclesiastes, written by Solomon, is classified as wisdom literature. Wisdom literature is especially concerned with helping us to deal with the issues of life. Late in his life, Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, had the time to write, and compile, the wisdom books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.
In this passage, Solomon starts out by writing what many people say who have lived a long life… “I’ve seen it all” (v. 15a). He has seen the righteous die young, and the wicked live to a ripe old age (v. 15b). He; therefore, suggests moderation. Do not be too righteous or wise so that your life is not cut short (v. 16).
On the other hand, do not be too wicked or too foolish so that God does not cut your life short (v. 17). He concludes that if you are not too righteous, and also fear God by being not too wicked, this is the best path to living the longest life possible (v. 18).
Some would say that Solomon is saying that a little sin is a good thing. However, proper interpretation cannot conflict with the overall teaching of the Bible, which is that sin is never good. So verse sixteen is to be interpreted as extreme righteousness, such as fasting for long periods of time, can be hazardous to your health and can lead to a life cut short.
The Bible also teaches that extreme wickedness, sin, carries earthly consequences which possibly could mean a life cut short. For example, an alcoholic or drug addict is likely to live a shorter life because of the damage he has done to his body. So verse seventeen is to be interpreted to mean that we should sin as little as possible.
This kind of moderation in both righteousness and wickedness is what Solomon is suggesting. The goal is to never sin. But Solomon understands that we all sin, even when we try not to.
The key to this moderation is “wisdom” (v. 19a). Wisdom is stronger than even a kingdom with ten kings (v. 19b). Wisdom informs us that even the most righteous person will sometimes sin (v. 20).
Wisdom does not let us become too righteous in our own hearts, where we are offended by one who calls out our sins (v. 21). For wisdom reminds us that “many times” we have sinned against others (v. 22).
After the death of his father, King David, Solomon became the king of Israel as his father had wished. Solomon was still a teenager, likely nineteen years old. The first thing he did as king was to ask God for wisdom (1 Kings 3:9).
God granted his prayer and gave Solomon more wisdom than any man who came before him or any man who would come after him (1 Kings 3:12). Not only that, since Solomon asked for wisdom and not riches and honor, God granted him greater riches and honor than any other king during his lifetime (1 Kings 3:13).
Wisdom is greater than anything else we could ever want, including riches and honor. Wisdom only comes from God. It does not come from old age. Solomon was only nineteen when he became the wisest man ever to live.
Since wisdom only comes from God, how do we become wise? We Christians can pray for wisdom, and should, everyday. Also, we can learn wisdom from reading God’s word, the Bible. Read your Bible, some everyday, and, over time, God will make you wise.