Damariscotta Baptist Church
Monday, September 24, 2018
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06/18/17 Sermon - What Does It Mean to Be Humble

“What Does It Mean to Be Humble”

Ecclesiastes 7: 1-29

Today’s reading in Ecclesiastes looks for all extensive purposes much like Proverbs, with wise sayings for us to consider. Our Scripture reading in chapter 7 will be in a different format than we usually do. There will be various readers and rather than wait until after all of the Scripture has been read and expounding on the Word, we will be stopping at various points to look at what Solomon has written and contemplate what may have been going on in his head.  We will begin with the reading of verse 1.


1 - Solomon has our name and our reputation as synonymous. I think we would agree that when someone’s name is remembered so is their reputation.

How many people spend more time and focus on making money, which will soon be gone, but pay little attention to their reputation, which will last forever?

The second half of this verse is more challenging to understand. Does your death date tell more than your birth date? We celebrate the day someone is born, but mourn the day they die. It could be that Solomon has turned this around because even with more wisdom than any other person, Solomon was unable to find meaning or satisfaction apart from a relationship with the God who created life.


2 - Verse 1 did not tell us “why” a good name is better than lots of money, or why your death day tells more than your birth day, but verse 2 gives us the reason you could learn more at a funeral than at a feast -

For death reminds each of us,

Should we contemplate it? that we are finite, and our journey on earth will come to an end

Thus Solomon writes verse 3


Solomon goes so far as to say it is better to cry than to laugh. His reasoning is that although our face may become blotchy when we cry, the heart is directly affected. Solomon thought by having a sad face, the heart was made glad. Why would one’s heart be glad if their face was sad? Solomon’s contrast had to do with the idea that through sadness one’s heart is at a place where it can contemplate. Whereas when the people do not experience sorrow or grieving and they seek only enjoyment they sacrifice learning and growing for having a good time. Solomon recognized that there was a time for everything, and we learn and grow more as we experience both times of sorrow and times of joy.


Both the sage and the fool have a heart, the wise one realizes life’s futility and the fool seeks fun and games.


Who wants to listen to a rebuke? Somehow we lean towards listening to the song and dance. Why is this? When we know that the sage giving the rebuke is much better for us than any song or dance. Solomon shares why he thinks this is so, in the next verse.


The saying in this verse is “onomatopoeic in Hebrew, the word for thorns (sirim) puns on the word for kettle (sir). For Solomon the song and dance of a fool was irritating, and useless, much like that of twigs on a fire, which produce little heat, and mostly smoke.  To him both were useless.


This statement stands to reason, of course brutality has the potential to stupefy the wise and and destroy even the strongest of heart. We hear and watch in the news everyday how brutality takes it stabs at innocent people and works to disrupt and destroy. Solomon has concluded that even being wise, does not make one indispensable.


For Solomon, he continues to reiterate that endings are better than beginnings. Rather a theme he has developed. Because of this belief, he encourages his readers to be someone who sticks through to the end, to be patient, rather than, putting your energy into being important along the way. Solomon is stating that it is better to be patient rather than proud.

A focus on humility reveals the wise, where the fool is the one who is quick to anger and lacks patience. Thus the warning in verse 9.


Solomon’s warning against being quick to go to anger recognizes that anger is not easily forgotten, it keeps returning, and returning, and returning, like a boomerang. Often when it returns the fool does not notice it is coming, thus the many lumps upon the fool’s head.


Many times I have heard teachers say, “There is no such thing as a foolish question.” Well, according to Solomon there is, and “Where are the good old days?
Is it. The concept of “the good ol’ days” is not a 21st Century invention.

Each generation at some point in their life, turns a corner and begins to view their past as a time when the “grass was greener,” “life was better,” and sin wasn’t so bad as it is today. Verse 14 will give us the answer to this perpetual question.

READ VERSE 11 and 12

The first part of this verse is a no-brainer. You don’t have to be wise to prefer prosperity over poverty. You do have to be alive, however, to appreciate having both. With both wisdom and wealth, Solomon concludes that it is wisdom that gives its owner energy, as we have heard before that for Solomon wealth brings exhaustion.


Solomon takes time to look around him and to recognize that it is imperative that humanity consider what God has created.

Solomon also recognizes that humans have limits and much like the First Law of Thermodynamics that matter can neither be created or destroyed.


Solomon may not be following God closely, like his father David, but he does recognize God’s sovereignty, even when our days are filled with adversity. The good days and bad days exist for all creation. Solomon teaches us to make sure we do not take anything for granted.


Solomon’s meaningless view on life continues. Revealing that a life, lived away from God, is prone to such an outlook. Solomon looks around and definitely sees things as they are. Good people do get taken before they should. Bad people live longer than they should. Definitely not what a “loving” God should do, right?

I dare say, his disappointment has clouded his judgement. Because Solomon goes on to imply that one can be too righteous and too wise. And that if one were to live that way they would be wasting their time and efforts. Some theologians suggest that Solomon is warning against being a fanatic on either end of the scale. Solomon concludes correctly by living as one who fears God one will keep focused on reality.


This verse actually has Solomon stating that wisdom will add physical strength to someone, that will exceed that of ten strong men in a city. But before the wise person can get puffed up and get a big head, Solomon pens verse 20.


Solomon recognized the limitations of humans.


These verses give an example of our limitations.


This is where Solomon demonstrates his humanity. He may have been the wisest man on earth, but he was still human. Somewhere along the line he thought wisdom was going to save him. What he discovered was that his hormones were stronger than his mind. It has not been determined at what point in Solomon’s life he wrote Ecclesiastes. Regardless, he was a man who had relations with over 1,000 women, and he was still discontented. Yet, ultimately Solomon placed the onus on us humans, not God. We are the ones who make a mess of things.

Thank you readers for following the directions so well.

Chapter 7 has us looking at such things as the value of a reputation, the value of this life and how to gain a perspective that our time on earth is relatively short. Because of this, Solomon encourages the reader to pursue wisdom rather than the lifestyle of a fool.

Solomon seemed to present a case that the best path to take was one that led to a balanced life and avoid the religious dogmatism that perhaps he saw with the religious leaders of his day who were following the customs and traditions of their faith in order to get a desired reward, such as the praise of others. Today, do we see those who pursue their faith in a rigid manner at times to avoid the unpredictable nature of human relationships? Rather than possessing a reverent humility, based on a healthy fear of God, in order to bring glory to God and not to oneself? Yes. Jesus saw the same thing and gave a warning to his disciples in

Matthew 23  A Warning Against Hypocrisy

23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

So what does it mean to be humble?

Here is a composite definition offered by one who did a comprehensive review of literature on humility: Humility is the ability to acknowledge -

One’s mistakes

One’s limitations

One’s imperfections

Along with

An improved awareness of one’s personal abilities

And an increased ability to “forget the self”

As well as the contributions of others to the  world.”

Humble people also:

Demonstrate an openness to new ideas

Have a more stable view on oneself, which may aid them to critically self-evaluate and thus be more likely to set self-improvement goals.

It seems that Solomon finally accepted his limitations of understanding and the wisdom of his choices. Solomon concluded that “God made humans upright”, but that humans desires and schemes show just how sinful they really are.

As followers of Christ, we should first understand just how sinful we are, and upon that realization develop a reverent humility which leads us, like a child, to a complete dependency upon God.

Let’s pray.