One of the worst feelings is when your boss is angry at you. Here’s how to avoid it.
In our final section of Ecclesiastes 9:11-10:20, the Teacher (the author of Ecclesiastes) writes a proverb in verses 18-19 that is connected to the illustration he previously used of to help us determine if a leader is wise or foolish. In the previous post, we read the Teacher’s proverb in verses 16-17 that an immature leader is one who parties early in the morning, which is when work is supposed to start. The immature leader is, in other words, lazy. Here’s how my Old Testament seminary professor David Dorsey translates the Teacher’s continuation of that thought in verse 18: “18 Laziness causes the rafters to sag; idle hands cause the house to fall down. 19 Bread brings laughter and wine brings merriment, but money is needed to provide these things.”
That applies to all of us, doesn’t it? We should avoid laziness, and we should be people who work diligently. Of course there is a time to relax and enjoy life, as the Teacher clearly said previously in verse 17. Enjoy life, but with dignity and not shamefully, but only after we have worked diligently.
Wisdom, then, says that we should be people who work diligently. How would your boss describe your work ethic? How would your coach evaluate your practice? How would your parents say you are helping with chores? These are great questions for all of us to keep in mind as we seek to be wiser. Again, as with all proverbs they don’t tell us the whole story, because it would not be wise to be a workaholic who does not remember that life is fleeting, and who does not take time to relax and have joy in all things.
Finally, the Teacher concludes with one more proverb in verse 20. Here’s how Dorsey translates it: “20 Do not revile the king even to an intimate friend, or curse an influential person even in the privacy of your bedroom, because a bird of the air may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say.”
This reminded me of The Hunger Games or some dystopian future where robotic birds have microphones and are listening to what we say, reporting them to the government. Then I thought, our phones and computers and smart speakers and cars are already listening! How many of you have had the freaky experience of talking about something, only to have an ad for that very thing pop up in your social media feed in a matter of minutes?
But that’s not what the Teacher is talking about here. He is talking a bit more about gossip. How many of you have had the experience of talking negatively about a boss or a leader, just to have them or one of their friends walk by in the hallway and possibly overhear it? Or you accidentally sent a negative email or text to the whole company about the boss? Or maybe you share with person A, in confidence, your negative opinion about person B, only to find out that person A actually is friends with person B, and your negative opinion got back to person B, and now there are hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and your reputation is damaged a bit, not to mention that you are hurt that person A broke confidentiality!
Confidentiality is a messy thing. We absolutely need people in our lives that we can speak confidentially with about anything and everything. Spouses. Best friends. Usually those conversations stay in the privacy of our homes, and no word gets out, contrary to what the Teacher says. Remember these are proverbs, not promises. What, then, is the proverb here? That if you don’t want to break confidentiality, don’t share anything confidential. Wisdom suggests that we should be very careful and guarded about our words and who we confide in. Another way to put it: loose lips sink ships.
This brings us back to what we talked about in the previous section of Ecclesiastes, that what we allow our hearts and minds to dwell on will take root in our lives, and can be very difficult to uproot! So if you are spending lots of time reviling the king or those in leadership, that is where your heart will stay focused. And that is not where wisdom will grow from.
Consider that the things you talk about frequently are the things your minds and hearts are focusing on. So are you focusing on that which will bring good and noble character, on wisdom?
This week in our five-part series on Ecclesiastes 9:11-10:20, we’ve studied numerous proverbs, all around the theme of seeking wisdom and avoiding folly. Have you heard any proverbs that you sense God is saying you need to apply to your life? How can you pursue wisdom in a new area?