A good name is worth more than the finest perfume, and the day you die is better than the day you were born. In the same way, it is better to go to a funeral than a celebration. Why? Because death is the end of life’s journey, and the living should always take that to heart. Sorrow beats foolish laughter; embracing sadness somehow gladdens our hearts. A wise heart is well acquainted with grief, but a foolish heart seeks only pleasure’s company. (Ecclesiastes 7:1-4 VOICE)
I was talking with my dad. We talked about a person’s fear of thinking that the prick of a needle feels worse than what it feels like once the needle is in all the way and the medicine is being injected or the blood is being drawn. I was at my doctor’s office a week or two ago and had to have some blood drawn. Before the nurse stuck the needle in my arm’s vein, she said, “Ok. It’s going to be a little pinch.” And it was. Once the needle was in, though, I didn’t feel a thing. Likewise, I had some dental surgery done last year. Ooh, I’m not a fan of dentistry – especially when it is going on in my mouth. And yes, there was a long needle. I remember the doctor saying, “Here comes a small prick” as he inserted the needle in my gum-line Well, it didn’t feel small and it wasn’t a prick – at least, to me it wasn’t. Anyway, once the needle was in and the anesthesia started pumping, I didn’t feel a thing. So anyway, sometimes we may fear the prick and pinch of a needle so much that we opt to not get the shot and we end up not benefiting from what the injection or draw will afford us later. We might call this – if it isn’t our arm or mouth – wastefulness, shortsightedness, lack of foresight, or improvidence.
When we make the kids eat their vegetables, we don’t tell them that the veggies will make them happy or that it will remind them of riding the Astro Orbitor at Disneyland. No, we somehow expect them to be impressed by telling them that the veggies will make them grow up big and strong. Really? And how many kids have dug into their Brussels sprouts and cauliflower so that they might grow big and strong? Silly parents. But you get the idea, don’t you? The idea that we try to get across with the kids about their veggies is that even if the short-term effect is gagging, choking, and much melodrama, the long-term affect is strong minds, bodies, and bones. Eat those veggies, my child! We want the young one – who is ours and is incredibly mature, bright, and wonderful – to understand that a long-term effect can outweigh a short-term effect. Well, last I heard, vegetables are still not #1 with most kids. Perhaps our approach is not working – kids simply can’t and don’t understand what it will be like later in life to have a strong and healthy body if vegetables are somehow forced down them now. It just isn’t going to happen. Thankfully, parents keep cajoling their kids to eat their veggies and many children grow up strong and healthy.
Seven times in Ecclesiastes 7, the Teacher writes about the “better than” idea. The Hebrew word used in these passages for the “better than” comparison is tobe. This Hebrew word has to do with all things that are good, beautiful, best, favorable, fine, or bountiful. The Teacher is making the point that, in spite of what one might think, there are actually ways that are better than others. For example, the Teacher says that dying is better than living, that going to a funeral is better than going to a party, and that sadness is better than happiness. Maybe some of us get this, but might this all sound a bit like convincing someone that the better after-effects of a shot outweigh the initial pinch and prick of a needle? Or that being strong and healthy is desired so eating veggies is necessary in spite of not liking the veggies? Yes, I know that it might be a really hard sell for some.
Perhaps we miss the point about life sometimes. The Teacher in Ecclesiastes is very clear – enjoy life to its fullest and be thankful for life. But he also makes it abundantly clear that there is much more to existence than this life on Earth. And that which is beyond our understanding of this life is “better”, he tells.
The Teacher asks in Ecclesiastes 6:12 (VOICE):
For who knows the best way for us to live during the few days of our fleeting lives? After all, we pass through them like shadows. For who can say what will happen under the sun after we are gone?
His answers follow in the rest of Ecclesiastes 6 and 7. He reveals to us what he believes are the better ways to view, observe, and live life. I wish to look at the better ways for a few days. I wish to challenge us to think beyond the pinch and prick of life to what lays before and beyond us. I desire that we get a handle on an idea of what is better and more important for us to hope for and obtain while we are in this life. I’ll see what I can do.
Let us begin. The worship of the Eternal One, the one True God, is the first step toward knowledge. Fools, however, do not fear God and cannot stand wisdom or guidance. (Proverbs 1:7 VOICE)