“Discernment” – Ecclesiastes 7:15-22

January 5th,  2014

Ecclesiastes 7:15-22



Bible Memory Verse for the Week: Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. —  Acts 4:12


Background Information:

  • So Solomon has given us three corrections.  Correction number one: Prosperity is not always best.  Correction number two: adversity is not always worst.  And correction number three: realize that you don’t have the last word on knowledge.  (Tommy Nelson, A Life Well Lived, 115)
  • (v. 16) The two strange things that had fallen under Solomon’s observation–the righteous perishing in his righteousness, and the wicked escaping with impunity–suggested double cautions.  On the one side the externally righteous need to be guarded against a false religion; and even the upright against a false display of true religion.  On the other–the wicked–escaping for a time–let them not presume upon continued security.  (Charles Bridges, The Geneva Series of Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 161)
  • (v. 16) Grammatically speaking, the form of the verb that the Preacher uses in verse 16 may refer to someone who is only pretending to be righteous and is playing the wise man.  In that case, the person the Preacher has in mind is too righteous by half.  He does not have the true holiness that comes by faith, but only the hypocritical holiness that comes by works.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 166)
  • (v. 18) The Teacher instructs us to avoid extremes.  Verse 18 literally says, “The man who fears God will follow them both.”  The idea is that of taking the middle road between two extremes.  We come to know this proper way as we regularly study the Scriptures and then apply them in the hard school of experience.  (Roland Cap Ehlke, The People’s Bible, Ecclesiastes, 74)
  • The chain of thought is triggered by the observation that neither the righteous (“just”) person nor the “wicked” always gets the appropriate reward (v. 15).  This being the case it is no good pretending to be what one is not–very righteous or very wise.  That way of life fools neither God nor neighbor and threatens to be self-destructive in its hypocrisy (vv. 16-18).  In contrast, the “wisdom” that skirts both temptations carries more clout than the political influence of the whole city council (v. 19).  Wise fear of God is the key to integrity since no one is or can claim to be sinless (v. 20).  Part of integrity, then, is to try to do right and not worry when others badmouth you (v. 21).  After all, honesty leads you to own up to the fact that you, on occasion, have badmouthed (“cursed”) others (v. 22).  (David Hubbard, Mastering the OT: Ecclesiastes, 168)


The questions to be answered are . . . Can this passage (Eccl 7:15-22) really be wisdom literature?  Is Koheleth serious?  If we believe in the inspiration of Scripture, what are we to learn from this passage?


Answer: Again, Koheleth (Solomon) shows us the vanity, emptiness, and futility of life under the sun.  Good men die young and evil men live long and prosper.  People, in their desperation to find significance, become obsessed with righteousness, wisdom, wickedness and every sort of extreme.  If we fear God, His Spirit helps us from resorting to these kinds of obsessions so that we might be truly wise and live life to the fullest  while we as sinners live on this fallen planet.


How does one know the difference between being obsessed, extreme and addicted as opposed to being dedicated, committed and devoted?  Are you looking to your efforts to save you?


Virtually all of us have seen innocent people being treated unfairly and guilty people going unpunished.  This sight usually dismays and angers us.  It can also prompt us to become either overzealous in practicing righteousness or overindulgent in committing wickedness.  (Charles R. Swindoll, Living on the Ragged Edge, 71)


The Preacher aims neither to abolish nor even to explain life’s anomalies, but to enable one to live with them.  It is a simple fact that the righteous may, like Naboth (1 Kg 21:13), perish in his righteousness, whereas the wickedness of a Jezebel (1 Kg 18-19; 21) may persist.  The anomaly frequently perplexed the devout Israelite (cf. Jb; Pss 37; 73; Hab 1:13-17).  The blunt statement with no explanation (except perhaps 7:29) demands simply that the believer face life in this world as it really is.  Forewarned is forearmed (cf. 1 Pt 4:12).  (Michael A. Eaton, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 113) (12 pt. red bold emphasis Pastor Keith)


Solomon is talking in context about an observer becoming so bent on being holy and informed that he forgets the grace of the all-knowing God.  He’s talking about pharisaical wisdom and pharisaical righteousness.  (Tommy Nelson, A Life Well Lived, 112)


The Word for the Day is . . . Discern


The first thing that we need to come to terms with, in order for us to be saved, in order for us to grow in Christ, in order for us to mature, in order for us to be effective in the Kingdom of God; is for us to understand that WE ARE THE PROBLEM!  And if we are the problem, we are not going to be the solution.  We must forget about “doing” or “being” something on our own to solve our own problems and to save us from our sins.

It is our sinful nature, our deceitfully wicked hearts that trick us into believing we are OK and that everything will be OK if we simply do our best.  That is where we go wrong.  And it is only when we come to repent of our sinful self, that we will ever have a chance of becoming all that God desires for us to be.  Likewise, the church must come to a point of corporate repenting of her sinful nature if she is ever going to grow and mature in Christ.  Therefore, we desperately are in need of God’s grace, forgiveness and mercy if we are to be saved and mature as Christians. — Pastor Keith


4 Questions every person needs to ask themselves as we begin this new year:

I-  Discern: Am I looking to my righteousness as my self-salvation project? (Eccl 7:15-16a, 18; see also: Isa 64:6; Rom 1:16-17; 3:9-29; 10:1-4; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 3:1-29; Phil 3:1-14)


It is only when you see the desire to be your own Savior and Lord lying beneath both your sins and your moral goodness that you are on the verge of understanding the gospel and becoming a Christian indeed.  When you realize that the antidote to being bad is not just being good, you are on the brink.  If you follow through, it will change everything:  how you relate to God, self, others, the world, your work, your sins, your virtue.  It’s called the new birth because it’s so radical.  (Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God, 78)


Ethical Behaviorism = righteousness is measured exclusively in terms of what a person does or doesn’t do.  (Tullian Tevidgjian; Life Without God – Pt 9)


Most 21st century American Christians believe righteousness is simply coloring within the lines or Ethical Behaviorism (Tullian Tevidgjian; Life Without God – Pt 9)


God is not looking for a certain kind of righteousness.   He is looking for a righteousness that is motivated from a heart of love for God and others.  (Tullian Tevidgjian; Life Without God – Pt 9)


Law enforcement is not concerned about God’s righteousness, but only about Ethical Behaviorism or conduct.  Law enforcement is not concerned with why you keep the Law but only that you keep it.    (Tullian Tevidgjian; Life Without God – Pt 9)


Godly righteousness, the kind defined by Jesus, is not defined only by conduct but by the motivation as well.  (Tullian Tevidgjian; Life Without God – Pt 9)


Jesus does not subscribe to Ethical Behaviorism.   (Tullian Tevidgjian; Life Without God – Pt 9)


The elder brother is not losing the father’s love in spite of his goodness, but because of it.  It is not his sins that create the barrier between him and his father, it’s the pride he has in his moral record; it’s not his wrongdoing but his righteousness that is keeping him from sharing in the feast of the father.  (Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God, 35)


The same testimony has been given in every age by Christians of the highest maturity in Grace.  “I cannot pray”–is the oft-quoted confession of Bp. Beveridge–“but I sin.  I cannot hear or give an alms, or receive the sacrament, but I sin.  I cannot so much as confess my sins, but my very confessions are still aggravations of them.  My repentance needs to be repented of; my tears want washing; and the very washing of my tears needs still to be washed over again with the blood of my Redeemer.”   (Charles Bridges, The Geneva Series of Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 169-170)


There is a place for the restraint of righteousness.  Mt 7:6 speaks of casting pearls before pigs and giving what is holy to dogs.  There are unbelieving people with whom it is not right to discuss the deeper things of the faith; they can’t appreciate them and will only reject them with opprobrium.  We shouldn’t try to reform them.  (Jay E. Adams, Life under the Son, 77)


There cannot be overmuch of the righteousness that is by faith.  But there is overmuch of the righteousness that consists in punctiliousness as to external ordinances, when these are substituted for “the weightier matters of the law: judgment, mercy, faith, and love of God” (Mt 23:23; Lk 11:42); and when they blind a man to his utter guiltiness.  (A. R. Fausset, Critical, Experimental, and Practical Commentary)


If God’s standard is perfection–if we are called to love him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength–then how could anyone ever be “overly righteous”?  No, our real problem is thinking that we are more righteous than we really are.  Somehow there never seems to be any shortage of people who think they are good enough for God.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 166)


When we think too highly of ourselves, resting on our own righteousness, then it is easy for us to say, “I don’t deserve to be treated like this.  Doesn’t God know who I am?”  It is also a very short step from there to saying, “Who does God think he is?”  So the Preacher cautions us not to be, as it were, “too righteous.”  In saying this, he is warning against a conceited righteousness that “stands ready to challenge God for His failure to reward” us as much as we think we deserve.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 167)


We see that the elder brother “became angry”.  All of his words are dripping with resentment.  The first sign you have an elder-brother spirit is that when your life doesn’t go as you want, you aren’t just sorrowful but deeply angry and bitter.  Elder brothers believe that if they live a good life they should get a good life, that God owes them a smooth road if they try very hard to live up to standards.  (Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God, 49-50)


We cannot have the religious sentiments and principles too strong, if only they have a right object.  We cannot love God too warmly, or honor him too highly, or strive to serve him too earnestly, or trust him too implicitly; because our duty is to love him with all our heart, and all our soul, and all our mind, and all our strength.”  It is surely absurd to warn the carnal man against an excess of spirituality–the earthly-minded man against over-much seeking of heavenly things.  The danger obviously lies in defect, not in excess; in stopping short, not in going too far.  (Charles Bridges, The Geneva Series of Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 163)


Eccl 7:16-17 appears to be one of the most blatant contradictions to the general teaching of Scripture.  God’s people are commanded to be righteous (Phil 2:12; Ti 2:12), to love God supremely (Lk 10:27), and to sacrifice their lives for God’s glory and service (Rom 12:1).  (John A. Stewart, Lamplighters Self-Study: Ecclesiastes, 24)


What he’s saying is: Don’t be self-righteous.  In Jesus’ words, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Mt 7:3).  To be sure, the unrighteous do flourish in the world.  But before getting too upset about it, we should look at our own lives and say, “If God would have punished me for everything I’ve done, I’d be much worse off than I am.”  There are more than enough wicked and foolish deeds in our past to keep us from being “overrighteous” or “overwise.”  (Roland Cap Ehlke, The People’s Bible, Ecclesiastes, 73)


Jews were to see their inability to keep the Law and, because of this, look to the Messiah all the more.  God designed the Law this way.  Moreover, even if by some miracle a Jew was able to keep EVERY SINGLE tenet of the Law, he would likely still fail in one—his attitude.  The Law, after all, creates a horrible “Catch-22” almost by necessity.  The better you “keep” the Law, the more you think yourself basically “good” and the less you humble yourself before God.  You quickly become self-righteous and prideful.  Thus, though you may be able to keep many outward tenets of the Law (as the Pharisees did), your motivation for doing so would have shifted from love of God to love of self.  All the outward piety in the world cannot cover a sick and twisted heart.  Period.  —Chris Scripter


Pride in his good deeds, rather than remorse over his bad deeds, was keeping the older son out of the feast of salvation.  The elder brother’s problem is his self-righteousness, the way he uses his moral record to put God and others in his debt to control them and get them to do what he wants.  His spiritual problem is the radical insecurity that comes from basing his self-image on achievements and performance, so he must endlessly prop up his sense of righteousness by putting others down and finding fault.  As one of my teachers in seminary put it, the main barrier between Pharisees and God is “not their sins, but their damnable good works.”  (Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God, 77)


As these beginners feel themselves to be very fervent and diligent in spiritual things and devout exercises, from this prosperity (although it is true that holy things of their own nature cause humility) there often comes to them, through their imperfections, a certain kind of secret pride, whence they come to have some degree of satisfaction with their works and with themselves.  And hence there comes to them likewise a certain desire, which is somewhat vain, and at times very vain, to speak of spiritual things in the presence of others, and sometimes even to teach such things rather than to learn them.  They condemn others in their heart when they see that they have not the kind of devotion which they themselves desire; and sometimes they even say this in words, herein resembling the Pharisee, who boasted of himself, praising God for his own good works and despising the publican.

In these persons the devil often increases the fervor that they have and the desire to perform these and other works more frequently, so that their pride and presumption may grow greater.

…Sometimes, too, when their spiritual masters, such as confessors and superiors, do not approve of their spirit and behavior (for they are anxious that all they do shall be esteemed and praised), they consider that they do not understand them, or that, because they do not approve of this and comply with that, their confessors are themselves not spiritual.  And so they immediately desire and contrive to find someone else who will fit in with their tastes; for as a rule they desire to speak of spiritual matters with those who they think will praise and esteem what they do, and they flee, as they would from death, from those who disabuse them in order to lead them into a safe road—sometimes they even harbor ill-will against them. (St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul, 39-40)


The noonday devil of the Christian life is the temptation to lose the inner self while preserving the shell of edifying behavior.  Suddenly I discover that I am ministering to AIDS victims to enhance my resume.  I find I renounced ice cream for Lent to lose five pounds.  I drop hints about the absolute priority of mediation and contemplation to create the impression that I am a man of prayer.  At some unremembered moment I have lost the connection between internal purity of heart and external works of piety.  In the most humiliating sense of the word, I have become a legalist.  I have fallen victim to what T. S. Eliot calls the greatest sin: to do the right thing for the wrong reason. (Brennan Manning; The Ragamuffin Gospel, 131)


In contrast to the two commands of Christ, the Pharisees had developed a system of 613 laws, 365 negative commands and 248 positive laws…By the time Christ came it had produced a heartless, cold, and arrogant brand of righteousness. As such, it contained at least ten tragic flaws. (1) New laws continually need to be invented for new situations. (2) Accountability to God is replaced by accountability to men. (3) It reduces a person’s ability to personally discern. (4) It creates a judgmental spirit. (5) The Pharisees confused personal preferences with divine law. (6) It produces inconsistencies. (7) It created a false standard of righteousness. (8) It became a burden to the Jews. (9) It was strictly external. (10) It was rejected by Christ. (J. Stowell; outlined from Fan The Flame, 52)


II-  Discern: Am I looking to my wisdom as my self-salvation project?  (Eccl 7:16b, 18; see also: Jn 5:39-40; Rom 2:17-29; 1 Cor 1:18-2:16; 8:1; 1 Jn 2:1-6; 3:6)


Being “overrighteous” is an obvious synonym for that type of Pharisaism that Christ warned against (Mt 5:20; 23:1-36).  “Overwise” may be the subtle casuistry that such righteousness needs to support it (Mt 23:16-22), or it may be the substitute of a vast knowledge of facts for the knowledge needed for practical living (cf. 12:12).  Even among Christians a passion for theology may obscure goodness and love.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, 1176)


But we are warned against another extreme.  Neither make thyself over-much wise–a wholesome practical rule!  Avoid all affectation or high pretensions to superior wisdom.  Guard against that opinionative confidence, which seems to lay down the law, and critically finds fault with every judgment differing from our own.  The Apostle gives this warning with peculiar emphasis and solemnity–“This I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, according as God has dealt to every man the measure of faith.”  “The more humble thou art, the more wary and circumspect thou wilt be; and the more wary the more safe.”  (Charles Bridges, The Geneva Series of Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 164-65)


If we were to peruse the pages of Scripture, we would find that wisdom is “the God-given ability to see life with rare objectivity and to handle life with rare stability.”  Godly discernment casts out fear and ushers in confidence.  Whether we dip into a valley of deep poverty or soar to the pinnacle of great prosperity, we can find the perspective and steadiness we need to cope with life by drawing on God’s wisdom.  (Charles R. Swindoll, Living on the Ragged Edge, 70)


Be wary of wisdom not rooted in Reality.  There is no one easier to fool than yourself.  (Rami Shapiro, The Way of Solomon, 63)


Solomon’s pride began to be his destruction when he considered himself wiser and more righteous than any man alive.  If that’s your goal in pursuing righteousness and wisdom, Solomon says, give it up; it will only lead to your downfall.  Moreover, Solomon seemed to think he could dabble in folly and still remain wise (Eccl 2).

This happened because he failed to realize the power of sin and thought he could “handle it.”  His advice here should thus be understood as, “Don’t give sin any more length in your life than it will take of its own accord.”  (T.M. Moore, The Christian Worldview Journal, June 22, 2011)


This is a realistic faith outlook.  We must not allow ourselves to become utopian in our thinking, or we’ll think we have all the answers–pride leading to destruction.  At the same time, we must not be complacent about the fact of sin–or else our folly will consume us.  No, we can’t figure it all out, but we can know and trust the One Who has, and Whom, knowing, we can find true contentment in life.  (T.M. Moore, The Christian Worldview Journal, June 23, 2011)


Aristotle, indeed, being concerned with the active, civic life, believed one should not over-indulge in the liberal arts nor linger over them in pursuit of perfection (wisdom).  For someone who dedicates himself completely to theory and the delights of literature perchance becomes dear to himself, but whether a prince or a private citizen, he is surely of little use to his city.  (Richard M. Gamble, The Great Tradition, 321)


Competitive comparison is the main way elder brothers achieve a sense of their own significance.  Racism and classism are just different versions of this form of the self-salvation project.  This dynamic becomes exceptionally intense when elder brothers pride themselves above all for their right religion.  If a group believes God favors them because of their particularly true doctrine, ways of worship, and ethical behavior, their attitude toward those without these things can be hostile.  Their self-righteousness hides under the claim that they are only opposing the enemies of God.  When you look at the world through those lenses, it becomes easy to justify hate and oppression, all in the name of truth.  (Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God, 54)


One characteristic of wise rulers is a keen understanding of human nature.  They realize that “there is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.”  If a ruler has too high a view of human nature, he will make one of two mistakes.  He will be overly strict and unwilling to overlook common human frailties.  Or he will be too lenient and let the people run rampant on the assumption that they will naturally do what is right.

The words of verse 20 occur elsewhere in Scripture.  Solomon used almost the exact wording in his prayer at the dedication of the temple: “There is no one who does not sin” (1 Kgs 8:46).  He then went on to ask God, “Forgive your people.”  St. Paul paraphrases verse 20 in Rom 3:10, “As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one.’” Paul proceeds to demonstrate man’s complete inability to save himself and his complete dependence on the grace of God.  (Roland Cap Ehlke, The People’s Bible, Ecclesiastes, 75)


Wisdom is a reality-based phenomenon.  To be wise is to know reality to discern it.  A discerning person notices things, attends to things, picks up on things.  She notices the difference between tolerance and forgiveness, for example, and between pleasure and joy, and between sentimentality and compassion.  She can spot real humility and keep it distinct in her mind from its thinner cousin, unpretentiousness.  (Consider the ambiguity of the assertion “He’s a humble man,” which might mean either that the man virtuously sees others as his equals or that he leads a lowly life and never pretends otherwise.)

Discernment is a mark of wisdom: it shows a kind of attentive respect for reality.  The discerning person notices the differences between things but also the connections between them.  She knows creation–what God has put together and what God has kept asunder–and can therefore spot the fractures and alloys introduced by human violation of it.  She knows, for instance, the way a particular sort of request can contaminate a friendship.  The discerning person, moreover, possesses an eye for the details and oddities of reality–the anxieties, for example, that sometimes lie behind overbred chit-chat, name-dropping, and the overuse of foreign phrases at dinner parties.  She knows that kindness sometimes coexists with stupidity and integrity with humorlessness.  She knows that people full of shadows may also be full of a light that causes them.  In such and other respects, Lewis Smedes remarks, “a discerning person has the makings of a connoisseur.”   (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 116-17)


Claiming to be better than we are–self-righteousness–and posing as wiser than we are–playing at wisdom–these are the deadly sins against which Ecclesiastes warns us in verse 16 (see v. 20 as comment on the impossibility of perfect righteousness).  In a sense they are one sin, since “righteous” and “wise” are virtually synonymous in wisdom literature, especially Proverbs.  (David Hubbard, Mastering the OT: Ecclesiastes, 170)


Wisdom is of value…yes, but don’t look for perfection.  You will not find it.  There is no-one who ever gets it right all the time, says Koheleth: everyone makes mistakes.  We should not read into verse 20 any deep theological meaning.  Koheleth is merely warning us not to go around demanding or expecting perfection.  If we do, we are liable to be disillusioned.  (Robert Davidson, The Daily Study Bible: Ecclesiastes, 52)


III-  Discern:  Am I looking to my selfish, deceitful, wicked cunning as my self-salvation project?  (Eccl 7:17, 18)


The Preacher recognizes wickedness as a fact of human experience.  The right life walks the path between two extremes, shunning self-righteousness, but not allowing one’s native wickedness to run its own course.  The end-product of wickedness run riot may be an untimely death (Ps 55:23).  (Michael A. Eaton, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 114)

The hearts of the two brothers were the same.  Both sons resented their father’s authority and sought ways of getting out from under it.  They each wanted to get into a position in which they could tell the father what to do.  Each one, in other words, rebelled but one did so by being very bad and the other by being extremely good.  Both  were alienated from the father’s heart; both were lost sons.  (Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God, 36)


Be not over-much wicked.  Not as if one particle of wickedness could be tolerated by Him, who is “of purer eyes than to behold iniquity.” (Hab 1:13. comp. Ps 5:4).  Every degree of wickedness is over-much.  We must shun the least sin as a very pestilence.  But many–so far as ordinary causes are concerned–might have lived longer, but for their wickedness.  (Charles Bridges, The Geneva Series of Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 165-66)


What if his next plunge–his next willful indulgence–should harden his heart in foolishness, and close his day of grace forever!  (Charles Bridges, The Geneva Series of Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 166)


How near may he be to the depths of hell–whence there is no escape–where there is no hope!  How fearful not to learn the truth, till he learns it there!  (Charles Bridges, The Geneva Series of Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 166)


This kind of reasoning would have been right at home with the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers, who often advocated a life of moderation.  Do not be too good or too evil, they said.  Too much piety or too much iniquity will lead to an early grave.  This also happens to be the way many people think today.  They know better than to live a life of total wickedness because deep down they believe that God will judge people for their sins.  Yet secretly they suspect that trying to be holy will take the fun out of life.  Generally speaking they try to be good, and they hope they are good enough to get by on the Day of Judgment.  But their consciences are troubled too little by their sins.  As long as they are not overly righteous or overly wicked, they are happy the way they are.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 166)


Most of the time, even in the short run, wickedness and foolishness produce disaster.  In the long run, as we know from the NT, that result is inevitable.  (David Hubbard, Mastering the OT: Ecclesiastes, 171)


IV-  Discern: Am I looking to people’s opinion as my self-salvation project?  (Eccl 7:19-22; see also: Jn 2:23-25; 15:17-25;  Gal 1:10; Eph 6:6-7; Col 3:23; Phil 1:12-18; 1 Thes 2:4-7)


Flattery is like perfume.  Sniff it.  Don’t swallow it.  — Alistair Begg


In the closing verses (21-22), Koheleth makes personal his point about our flawed conduct with a two-pronged admonition.  First, in integrity we should close our “heart” if not our ears to what other people say about us.  To take seriously the words of others by mulling them over is to put ourselves at risk of being hurt or of judging others harshly.  The picture of the “servant cursing” (or perhaps “demeaning” or “disparaging”) the owner makes the situation both realistic and graphic.  Second, in integrity we should face our own propensity to sin by remembering the times, whether by tongue or by thought (“heart”), we have spoken badly of others and heaped harsh wishes on their heads.  “Judge not, that you be not judged” was Jesus’ way of putting this matter (Mt 7:1).  (David Hubbard, Mastering the OT: Ecclesiastes, 171-72)


What Solomon means by his counsel is this: “Let’s be honest.  If we get upset when people talk about us, we are holding them to a higher standard than we hold ourselves to, because we are prone to do the same thing.”  (David Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven on Earth, 206)


“If all men knew what each said of the other,” Pascal darkly observed, “there would not be four friends in the world.”  If we are wise, we will be careful not to take too much interest in what other people say about us:  “Listeners, standing upon the tip-toe of suspicion, seldom hear good of themselves.”  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 173)


Human sinfulness is seen particularly in unreliability of speech (cf. Jas 3:2).  The corollary is that we are not to pay unnecessary attention to the vindictiveness of others (cf. 1 Sm 24:9), for it will unsettle our tranquility.  (Michael A. Eaton, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 115)


When we receive lavish praise, we should not let it inflate our egos nor ascribe to it undue importance.  Wisdom equips us to keep our feet anchored in reality while others are trying to lift us into an undiscerning dreamworld.  (Charles R. Swindoll, Living on the Ragged Edge, 72)


Sometimes we receive unjustified and untimely criticism from others–even from those individuals who are closest to us.  If we put stock in all the “bad press” we receive, we will end up with a distorted view of ourselves that could cause us to become intimidated, defeated, and guilt-ridden.  Wisdom can help us separate valid and valuable criticism from that which is inaccurate and destructive.  Solomon also reminds us in these verses that we are sometimes guilty of judging others falsely.  Acknowledging this fact can prod us to abstain from giving false criticism as well as help us handle unjust remarks when we receive them.  (Charles R. Swindoll, Living on the Ragged Edge, 72)


The outside world, he realized, was just a reflection of the world inside: it was unreliable.  But, then, so was he.  (Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Pundit’s Folly, 34)


This is a lesson that Lucy learned when she looked inside the magician’s book, a story told in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis.  As she was leafing through a book of magical incantations, Lucy saw a spell that would enable her to hear what her friends were saying about her.  Her curiosity got the best of her, and foolishly she cast the spell.  Soon she could overhear Marjorie Preston telling Anne Featherstone that although Lucy was “not a bad little kid in her way,” she “was getting pretty tired of her before the end of the term.”  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 173)


One wise man responded to criticism by saying, “He didn’t insult me at all; in fact, he was talking about another man: the man he thought I was.”  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 173)


Enjoyment does not come from possessions or from riches.  Nor does it come from companionship, from popularity and fame, from the approval and the admiration of others.  Enjoyment comes by knowing the living God and taking everything from His hand with thanksgiving, whether pain or pleasure.  That is the gift of God, and that is the lesson of this great book.  (Ray C. Stedman, Is This All There Is to Life?, 76)


People who study the corporate workplace say that interpersonal problems are far more time-consuming than technical problems.  Psychologists tell us that one’s “emotional quotient” (EQ) is more critical to life success than one’s “intelligence quotient” (IQ).  It is only by wisdom that employers can effectively manage those who work for them.  (David Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven on Earth, 205)


CONCLUSION/APPLICATION: How does a relationship with Jesus help me apply this passage?:

A-  A relationship with Jesus not only allows you to see yourself and your sin more clearly, but also shows you the futility of attempting to save yourself by your own extreme efforts towards righteousness, wisdom or the approval of others. (Isa 64:6; Sermon on the Mount; Mt 5:20; Lk 18:9-14; Rom 1:16-17; 3:9-29; 10:1-4; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 3:1-29; Phil 3:1-14)


“The real evil is that we trust in our own power to be righteous and will not lift up our eyes to see what Christ has done for us…”   It is your goodness more than your badness that separates you from God.”   (Martin Luther;  preface to the Galatians)


“The real difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is not their attitude toward sin… . the difference is their attitude toward their good deeds.  The Pharisee repents of sin, but the Christian repents of his or her ‘righteousness’ as well, seeing it not only as insufficient, but sinful itself, since it was done in order to save ourselves without Christ.”  (Tim Keller, The Content of the Gospel, 27)


Having the true and proper fear of God will help us not to be so self-righteous.  We will know that God sees us as we really are, and this will teach us not to pretend to be something we are not.  The fear of God will also keep us from living a wicked life, because when we understand his holiness, the last thing we will want to do is fall under his judgment.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 168)


Christian living, therefore, must be founded upon self-abhorrence and self-distrust because of indwelling sin’s presence and power.  Self-confidence and self-satisfaction argue self-ignorance.  The only healthy Christian is the humble, broken-hearted Christian.  (J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness, 196)


God save us also from self-righteous judgmentalism . . .There is a universe of difference between the motivations behind legalism and discipline.  Legalism says, “I will do this thing to gain merit with God,” while discipline says, “I will do this because I love God and want to please him.”  Legalism is man-centered; discipline is God-centered.  (J. I. Packer; Rediscovering Holiness, 114)


The office therefore of the law is to kill, but only so that God may revive and quicken again.   It is not given only to kill; but because man is proud, and dreams that he is wise, righteous, and holy, it is necessary that he should be humbled by the law so that this beast, the presumption of righteousness, might be slain; otherwise, man cannot obtain life.  (Martin Luther; Galatians, 219)


Heidelberg Catechism: Question number 60  Q. How are you right with God?


A.    Only by true faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 3:21-28; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8-9; Phil 3:8-11).

Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all of God’s commandments and of never having kept any of them (Rom 3:9-10), and even though I am still inclined towards all evil (Rom 7:23), nevertheless, without my deserving it at all (Ti 3:4-5), out of sheer grace (Rom 3:24; Eph 2:8), God grants and credits to me the perfect salvation, righteousness, and holiness of Christ (Rom 4:3-5; Gn 15:6; 2 Cor 5:17-19; 1 Jn 2:1-2), as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, as if I had been perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me (Rom 4:24-25; 2 Cor 5:21).

All I need to do is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart (John 3:18; Acts 16:30-31).


Q 61.  Why do you say that by faith alone you are right with God?


A.      It is not because of any value my faith has that God is pleased with me.  Only Christ’s satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness make me right with God (1 Cor 1:30-31).  And I can receive this righteousness and make it mine in no other way than by faith alone (Rom 10:10; 1 John 5:10-12).


Q 62.  Why can’t the good we do make us right with God, or at least help make us right with him?


A.   Because the righteousness which can pass God’s scrutiny must be entirely perfect and must in every way measure up to the divine law (Rom 3:20; Col 3:10; Dt 27:26).  Even the very best we do in this life is imperfect and stained with sin (Isa 64:6).


My dad had imparted to me a latter-day Puritanism:  Never lie.  Always tell the truth, no matter what the cost.  Work hard at any task you are given.  Give people a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.  I learned so much about truth telling and integrity from him.  What I hadn’t learned was that by presuming I lived by his strict moral code, I would become blind to the ways I failed it.  My self-righteousness enabled me to compartmentalize: to believe I was doing the right thing while simultaneously going along with the wrong thing.  (Charles Colson, The Good Life, 195)


Knowing God without knowing our own wretchedness makes for pride.  Knowing our own wretchedness without knowing God makes for despair.  Knowing Jesus Christ strikes the balance because he shows us both God and our own wretchedness.  -Blaise Pascal

The pleasure of pride is like the pleasure of scratching.  If there is an itch one does want to scratch; but it is much nicer to have neither the itch nor the scratch.  As long as we have the itch of self-regard we shall want the pleasure of self-approval; but the happiest moments are those when we forget our precious selves and have neither but have everything else (God, our fellow humans, animals, the garden and the sky) instead.  (C.S. Lewis, Letters of C. S. Lewis, ed., W. H. Lewis, 115)


The Law is a divinely sent Hercules to attack and kill the monster of self-righteousness and to show us every day just how desperate we need God’s grace. (Martin Luther as quoted by Tullian Tevidgjian; Life Without God – Pt 7)


An idol is something that we look to for things that only God can give.  Idolatry functions widely inside religious communities when doctrinal truth is elevated to the position of a false god.  This occurs when people rely on the rightness of their doctrine for their standing with God rather than on God himself and his grace.  It is a subtle but deadly mistake.  The sign that you have slipped into this form of self-justification is that you become what the book of Proverbs calls a “scoffer.”  Scoffers always show contempt and disdain for opponents rather than graciousness.  This is a sign that they do not see themselves as sinners saved by grace.  Instead, their trust in the rightness of their views makes them feel superior.  (Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, 131)


Our Lord Jesus Christ, with all the concern, compassion and love which he showed to mankind, made some very vivid portrayals of man’s condition.  He did not mince words about the gravity of human sin.  He talked of man as salt that has lost its savor (Mt 5:13).  He talked of man as a corrupt tree which is bound to produce corrupt fruit (Mt 7:7).  He talked of man as being evil: “You, being evil, know how to give good things to your children” (Lk 11:13).  On one occasion he lifted up his eyes toward heaven and talked about an “evil and adulterous generation” (v. 45).  In a great passage dealing with what constitutes true impurity and true purity he made the startling statement that out of the heart proceed murders, adulteries, evil thoughts and things of that kind (Mk 7:21-23).  He spoke about Moses having to give special permissive commandments to men because of the hardness of their hearts (Mt 19:8).  When the right young ruler approached him, saying, “Good Master,” Jesus said, “there is none good but God” (Mk 10:18)…

Jesus compared men, even the leaders of his country, to wicked servants in a vineyard (Mt 21:33-41).  He exploded in condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees, who were considered to be among the best men, men who were in the upper ranges of virtue and in the upper classes of society (Mt 23:2-39).

The Lord Jesus made a fundamental statement about man’s depravity in Jn 3:6: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.”  He saw in man an unwillingness to respond to grace–“You will not come to God” (Jn 5:40), “You have not the love of God” (v. 42), “You receive me not” (v. 43), “You believe not” (v. 47).  Such sayings occur repeatedly in the Gospel of John.  “The world’s works are evil” (Jn 7:7); “None of you keeps the law” (v. 19).  “You shall die in your sins,” he says (Jn 8:21).  “You are from beneath” (v. 23); “Your father is the devil, who is a murderer and a liar” (vv. 38, 44); “You are not of God” (v. 47); “You are not of my sheep” (Jn 10:26); “He that hates me hates my Father” (Jn 15:23-25).  This is the way in which our Lord spoke to the leaders of the Jews.  He brought to the fore their utter inability to please God.

Following another line of approach he showed also the blindness of man, that is, his utter inability to know God and understand him.  Here again we have a whole series of passages showing that no man knows the Father but him to whom the Son has revealed him (Mt 11:27).  He compared men to the blind leading the blind (Mt 15:14).  He mentioned that Jerusalem itself did not know or understand the purpose of God and, as a result, disregarded the things that concern salvation (Lk 19:42).  The Gospel of John records him as saying that he that believed not was condemned already because he had not believed on the Son of God (Jn 3:18).  “This is the condemnation, that…men loved the darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (v. 19).  He said that only the one who has been reached by grace can walk not in darkness but have the light of life (Jn 8:12).  The Lord Jesus emphasized that it is essential for man to be saved by a mighty act of God if he is to be rescued from his condition of misery (Jn 3:3, 5, 7-16).  Even in the Lord’s Prayer the Lord teaches us to say, “Forgive us our debts” (Mt 6:12).  And this is a prayer that we need to repeat again and again.  He said, “The sick are the people who need a physician” (Mt 9;12).  We are those sick people who need a physician to help us and redeem us.  He said that we are people who are burdened and heavy-laden (Mt 11:28)…

The people who were most readily received by the Lord were those who had this sense of need and who therefore did not come to him with a sense of the sufficiency of their performance.  The people he received were those who came broken-hearted and bruised with the sense of their inadequacy.  (Roger R. Nicole, “The Doctrines of Grace in Jesus’ Teaching”)


In your old days and before this “living” thing had happened to you, your immediate reaction would have been to decide to do good works and to say, “I am going to turn over a new leaf.  I am going to do this, that and the other.”  But the moment there is true repentance, all that stops.  You renounce your own works, you admit that there is no good thing in you, that all your righteousness is as “filthy rags,” and that obviously there is no point in your deciding to live a better life, or, by a great effort of the will, to serve God, because all you do will still be polluted and therefore useless.

So you do not do that.  You renounce your good works, your self-reliance, and every attempt at self-justification.  This a part of the obedience of faith.  You accept the pronouncement of the Scriptures that none of us can ever justify ourselves before God, that “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight” (Rom 3:20).  You accept it completely, and you prove it in action by not attempting to do anything to save yourself.

Then you accept the teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ and His way of salvation.  You accept, you believe this message concerning the Lord Jesus Christ as your Sin-bearer, as the One sent by God to reconcile you to God.  And not only that, you are ready to confess this.  You are ready to acknowledge that He is thus your Savior and your Lord, that He has bought you with a price, that you are not your own, that you have no right to yourself.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 10, 336-37)


John Newton, a minister, once wrote a letter to a man who was very depressed.  Take note of what he said:

You say you feel overwhelmed with guilt and a sense of unworthiness?  Well, indeed you cannot be too aware of the evils inside of yourself, but you may be, indeed you are, improperly controlled and affected by them.  You say it is hard to understand how a holy God could accept such an awful person as yourself.  You then express not only a low opinion of yourself, which is right, but also too low an opinion of the person, work, and promises of the Redeemer, which is wrong.  You complain about sin, but when I look at your complaints, they are so full of self-righteousness, unbelief, pride, and impatience that they are little better than the worst evils you complain of.  (John Newton, The Works of the Rev. John Newton, Vol. VI, 185)  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 90)


J. I. Packer once told me our view of God is like a pair of old-fashioned scales.  When God goes up in our estimation, we go down.  Similarly, when we raise our sense of self-importance, our view of God must, to that same degree, be lowered.  (Michael Horton, Putting Amazing Back into Grace, 16)


Obviously the doctrine of justification by faith only is absolutely essential.  There has never been a revival but that this has always come back into prominence.  This doctrine means the end of all thinking about ourselves and our goodness, and our good deeds, and our morality, and all our works.  Look at the histories of revivals, an you will find men and women feeling desperate.  They know that all their goodness is but filthy rags, and that all their righteousness is of no value at all.  And there they are, feeling that they can no nothing, and crying out to God for mercy and for compassion. Justification by faith.  God’s act.  ‘If God does not do it to us,’ they say, ‘then we are lost.’ (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; Revival, 55)


A truly humble man does not fear being exposed.  (Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 121)


As long as we look for our needs to be met by persons, we will always be disappointed.  This is especially true in marriage relationships, because such an expectation imposes a terrible burden upon one’s partner.  No person is perfect; no one can take the place of God in our lives.  Rather, in Christian marriage and in true community we learn together that we will find our needs thoroughly met only in our relationship with God.  Our alienation from him prevents us from discerning ways in which other persons can minister to our needs.  (Marva Dawn, Truly the Community:  Romans 12, 86)


Solomon is not advising us to obey God half-heartedly or sin against Him periodically.  Rather, he is urging us to live our lives in light of God’s omniscient and impartial judgment (cf. 11:9, 12:13-14).  The Lord does not approve of a superspiritual lifestyle–one that is oriented toward impressing others with piety (cf. Mt 5:20; Lk 18:9-14).  Overly pious living can lead to frustration when one sees the righteous trampled underfoot.  But neither does He sanction a lukewarm attitude toward sin (cf. 1 Cor 5:1-8).  For excessively foolish behavior can bring one’s life to an end before its time (cf. Ps 55:23; Prv 10:27).  Instead, God’s desire is that we walk with Him in obedience and behave toward others with humility.  When we fear the Lord in this way, we will achieve balance in our lives (Eccl 7:18).  (Charles R. Swindoll, Living on the Ragged Edge, 71)


If we know that our best works will not merit pardon for sin, and we long to confess wrong so that we may be rid of it, then what ultimately must we seek?  We ultimately seek grace.  Unlike the rich young man, who wants to “do” something so that he can broker his good works into spiritual blessing (Mk 10:17), the repentant heart senses its unworthiness and yearns for God to fix the damage to our souls that we cannot fix.

A Christian friend told me recently that he and his wife had discovered that their daughter had disobeyed them and handled the family car in a way that caused an accident.  The daughter could not afford to pay for the repairs or the traffic ticket.  So the parents paid for the repairs and the fine with the agreement that their daughter would pay them back over time.  The parents did not need her money, but hoped that making her responsible would help teach her lessons needed for her own safety and maturity.

The payback system required some discipline and diligence from the daughter, and she struggled to keep the arrangements.  The parents had to keep reminding her of her obligations, which frustrated the daughter as well as the parents.  Finally, after one of the reminding sessions, the daughter exploded, “Daddy, don’t you and Mom know that I realize what I did was wrong?  I know I was irresponsible.  I know it is my problem.  I wish you all would just get off my case so that I could figure out a way to fix this.”  Replied her father, “Honey, what I really want you to figure out is that by yourself you can’t fix this.”

Our heavenly Father’s words are quite similar.  Because we too easily echo the words of the rich young man–“What must I do…?”–God replies, “What I really want you to know is that what you “do” will never be enough to fix your situation.  Your sin is too great and your abilities are too limited for you to fix the mess of your life.  You need my grace.  You must turn away from all of your own resources and trust that only what I provide will fix your situation.” (Bryan Chapell; Holiness by Grace, 81)


B-  A relationship with Jesus shows you the stupidity of attempting to save yourself by selfishly and/or ruthlessly pursuing your own agenda.  Jesus is the only way.  (Mt 1:21; Jn 14:6; 10:9; Acts 4:12; Rom 5:1-2; Eph 5:11-18; 1 Tm 2:5-6; Heb 10:19-25)


If we do not move in divine forgiveness, we will walk in much deception.  We will presume we have discernment when, in truth, we are seeing through the veil of a critical spirit.  We must know our weaknesses, for if we are blind to our sins, what we assume we discern in men will merely be the reflection of ourselves.  Indeed, if we do not move in love, we will actually become a menace to the body of Christ (Mt 7:1-5).   (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 75)


Jesus said, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (n 7:24).  Righteous judgment is the direct result of love.  If you cannot pray in love for a person or the church, do not presume you have true discernment.  Love precedes peace, and peace precedes perception.  Without love and peace in your heart, your judgment will be overly harsh.  Regardless of the smile upon your face, your heart will have too much anger.  False discernment is always slow to hear, quick to speak, and quick to anger.   (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 81)


Let us recognize before we do warfare that the areas we hide in darkness are the very areas of our future defeat.  Often the battles we face will not cease until we discover and repent from the darkness that is within us.  If we will be effective in spiritual warfare, we must be discerning of our own hearts; we must walk humbly with our God.  Our first course of action must be, “Submit…to God.”  Then, as we “resist the devil…he will flee” (Jas 4:7).  (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 16)


We will never possess true discernment until we crucify our instincts to judge.  Realistically, this can take months or even years of uprooting old thought-systems that have not been planted in the divine soil of faith and love for people.  To appropriate the discernment which is in the “mind of Christ” (see 1 Cor 2:16), we must first find the heart of Christ.  The heart and love of Jesus is summed up in His own words: “I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world” (n 12:47).   (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 73-74)


The heart with a works-orientation may also express its love of independence and self-direction and self-achievement by rebelling against courtesy and decency and morality (cf. Galatians 5:19-21).  But it’s the same self-determining, self-exalting works-orientation that also gets disgusted with boorish behavior and sets out to prove its superiority through self-denial, courage and personal greatness.  In all of this the basic satisfaction of the works-orientation is the savor of being an assertive, autonomous and, if possible, triumphant self.  (John Piper, Future Grace, 278)


Worship point:  Realize the great gift God has given you in the person of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit will keep you from extremes, guide you into all truth and allow you to rest in the work of Christ rather than some futile, empty, superficial, self-salvation project.   When this sinks into your mind and heart, you will worship in Spirit and in Truth.  (Jn 4:23-24; 14:16-17, 26; 16:13-15; 1 Cor 1:18-2:16; 12:10; 1 Jn 3:24)


The Holy Spirit is involved in creation (Gn 1:2; 2:6); He is the motivating power of creation, humans, and animals (Job 33:4; Ps 33:6; 104:29-30); He is the revealer of God’s message to God’s people (Jn 16:13-15); He applies the message of God in the lives of believers (Neh 9:20; Jn 16:12-13); He convicts the world of those things necessary for salvation (Jn 16:8-11).

The Holy Spirit is intimate with God’s people, calling them to God (Isa 61:1); teaching (Jn 14:26); bestowing salvation (Jn 3:5-8); giving faith, knowledge, wisdom and understanding (Isa 11:2; 1 Cor 2:14-16; 12:9); sustaining (Ps 51:10-12); giving assurance of God’s love and salvation (Rom 8:12-17); and reminding them of heaven (Rom 5:2, 5; Eph 1:13-14; Rv 22:17).

In the corporate manifestation of God’s Spirit, we see Him doing the work of unifying believers with Christ and each other (1 Cor 12:12-13; Eph 4:1-6); transforming them (2 Cor 3:18; Gal 5:16-25); granting gifts that build up the church, the body of Christ (1 Cor 12; Eph 4:7-16); giving the church wise plans (Acts 8:29; 13:2; 15:28); empowering the church in an effective witness (Acts 8:29; 1 Cor 2:4-5; Eph 6:18-20); giving Scripture and prophecy (2 Tm 3:16-17; Joel 2:28-32); molding the church and individual believers to holiness and sanctification (2 Cor 3:18; Gal 5:16-25; Eph 5:26-27 [implied]); and always pointing to Christ, the Head of the church (Jn 15:26-27; Eph 3:2-6).

When we are bound, the Spirit gives us freedom (Rom 8:2, 12-17); when we are afraid and depressed, the Spirit lifts us up (Jn 14:15-18); when we pray improperly, the Spirit interprets and intercedes for us (Rom 8:26); and when we need to be reminded of heaven and home, the Spirit does the work we need to get us “home” safely (Rom 8:11).  The Holy spirit regenerates (Jn 3:3-8), indwells (Eph 5:18; Col 1:27), anoints (1 Jn 2:20), and baptizes the believer (1 Cor 12:12-13; Eph 4:4-6).  Believers are admonished to not grieve (Eph 4:30) or quench (1 Thes 5:19) the Holy Spirit but to walk in Him (Gal 5:16).

The Bible has a number of symbols or images for the Holy Spirit.  He is seen as oil (Jn 3:34), fire (Acts 2;3), a dove (Jn 1:30-34), a seal (Eph 1:13), and a guarantee (Eph 1:14). (Steve Brown, Follow the Wind–Our Lord, The Holy Spirit, 24)


Spiritual Challenge:  Think about how easy it is to get caught up in a works-righteousness mentality.  Think about how easy it is to begin to think that wisdom is the key to salvation and eternal life.  Think about how vulnerable we are to making public opinion our salvation.  Then run to Jesus in fear and trembling seeing His patience, grace, forgiveness and mercy towards us in light of our tendency to go to all extremes to find salvation.   The man who fears God will avoid all extremes (Eccl 7:18b).


The simpler I become, the freer my mind becomes for spiritual understanding and discernment.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 117)



Now Christ was all; all my wisdom, all my righteousness, all my sanctification, and all my redemption.  (John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, 36)


When I say “I am perfect!” I am not talking about my life.  I am talking about an identity which God has given to me in Christ Jesus.  When I look at Jesus, seated at the right hand of God, I see my perfect righteousness.  When I look at myself, plodding along from day to day, getting old and facing inevitable death, I see my sin.  The question is “Where do I choose to look?” (Don Matzat; Christ Esteem, 93)


*Self-righteous service comes through human effort.  True service comes from a relationship with the divine Other deep inside.

*Self-righteous service is impressed with the “big deal.”  True service finds it almost impossible to distinguish the small from the large service.

*Self-righteous service requires external rewards.  True service rests contented in hiddenness.

*Self-righteous service is highly concerned about results.  True service is free of the need to calculate results.

*Self-righteous service picks and chooses whom to serve.  True service is indiscriminate in its ministry.

*Self-righteous service is affected by moods and whims.  True service ministers simply and faithfully because there is a need.

*Self-righteous service is temporary.  True service is a life-style.

*Self-righteous service is without sensitivity.  It insists on meeting the need even when to do so would be destructive.  True service can withhold the service as freely as perform it.

*Self-righteous service fractures community.  True service, on the other hand, builds community. (Richard Foster; Celebration of Discipline, “The Discipline of Service”)


It is not your sin that will keep you out of heaven . . .  It is your thinking that you are righteous . . . That you don’t need Jesus.


Think about your own righteousness and presenting it to God.  What a joke!   You have nothing to offer the God of the Universe.  Even your most pure righteous deeds fall far short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23, Isa 64:6).   The only thing that can please God is God.  Therefore the only thing you can offer the God of the Universe is Himself reflected in you by the work of the Holy Spirit in you.  That is what brings glory to God.  That is what pleases God.  That is what brings merit to us before God.  It is God and God alone.  — Pastor Keith Porter


Quotes to Note:

Even “in well-doing there may be over-doing” and this over-doing may inadvertently progress towards undoing.  Indeed much of this is not religion, but superstition, which “is not the excess of godliness” (as Abp. Whately remarks) “but the misdirection of it–the exhausting of it in the vanity of man’s devising.”  It is important that our religion should be reasonable, consistent, uniform–not a matter of opinion, but of the heart.  (Charles Bridges, The Geneva Series of Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 164)


Learn to be truly righteous–wisely righteous.  Never be satisfied with the standard of the world.  Press onward in the path of the Bible–marking, and closely following, “the footsteps of the flock.”  Never shrink from the confession of principle.  But do not court needless offense.  Be determinately–not fanatically–singular.  A religion of impulse, novelty, fashion, or eccentricity, will never practically influence.  What is wanted is the religion of reality–the stamp of God upon the heart of man.  Any other religion is a cold–cheerless–wintry atmosphere–chilling the healthy glow of the Christian life. (Charles Bridges, The Geneva Series of Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 167)


Apart from God life seems only vain, wrong, and not the way it’s supposed to be.  However, “under the heavens”, we know that there is a time and a place for everything.  We even understand why the things that “aren’t supposed to be” actually are.  And even though we can’t always understand why things happen the way they do, we trust in the Lord, Who rules all things and is infinitely wise and good (Eccl 3).  If you try to make sense of life “under the sun” you’ll only end up despairing.  (T.M. Moore, The Christian Worldview Journal, June 21, 2011)


The point here must not be missed: a God-directed person may make better decisions about right and wrong than the consensus of a whole flock of pragmatic politicians who do not fear God.  (David Hubbard, Mastering the OT: Ecclesiastes, 171)


People who are too righteous or too wise might end up destroying themselves.  They become so rigid that they invite rebellion and disaster.  Parents, teachers and government lawmakers must learn to temper justice with mercy.  There are times to wink at a bit of foolishness.  (Roland Cap Ehlke, The People’s Bible, Ecclesiastes, 73-74)



My Wisdom

My Righteousness

My Esteem

My All

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply