Rightly Divide the Word of Truth
“This wisdom I have also seen under the sun, and it seemed great to me: There was a little city with few men in it; and a great king came against it, besieged it, and built great snares around it. Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that same poor man.
Then I said: ‘Wisdom is better than strength. Nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised,and his words are not heard. Words of the wise, spoken quietly, should be heard rather than the shout of a ruler of fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war; but one sinner destroys much good.’” Ecclesiastes 9:13-18
I was shocked while at a meeting where a world renown minister made the point from the above scripture that, as believers, we need to get more money so that people will listen to us.
When we read scriptures we must be careful to get from it what the writer intends (often referred to as exegesis). To read something else into scriptures and make it say what we want it to say is deceptive and outright wrong (often referred to as eisegesis). We must approach scriptures with pure motives and not use it for selfish gains or to manipulate others.
So, what is the point Solomon wants us to get when he related the above story? Look carefully, his message is clear. “Wisdom is better than strength… [and] weapons of war.” If we were to give his story a heading, that would be it. All his other points are sub-points of this main point. The fact that the wise man happened to be poor or that no one listens to or regard him is true but beside the point.
The question may be asked therefore; So if that is beside the point why mention it? He mentioned it in support of his main point. He is highlighting the cost one must be willing to pay to secure wisdom.
If you have to choose between strength, riches or recognition and wisdom, choose wisdom.
Everyone in this city would be dead if all they had were strength, riches, recognition and weapons of war. The city was saved because one man had wisdom. Wisdom averted a massacre.
The minister who caused God’s people to go away from this scripture thinking it is telling them to focus more on getting wealth that they may be heard has done his audience a great injustice.
Other noteworthy points in Solomon’s story:
- “…the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.” This seems to suggest that it was not something that the poor wise man said that saved the city but possibly something he did.
- This story also highlights the bankruptcy of the sinful nature. Human nature tends to honour status and wealth even if those who possess them are fools. Human nature looks down on and disregard the poor in spite of their intelligence or wisdom.
- “Words of the wise, spoken quietly, should be heard rather than the shout of a ruler of fools.” But this is not often the case. Human nature tends to disregard the voice of the soft spoken peasant while being attentive and responsive to the loud authoritarian. People tend to respond more when driven than when gently and kindly instructed.