Foolishness is not rare; therefore fools are also not uncommon. This is the sad state of affairs in a world filled with the results of sin. Desires of the flesh for wealth, pleasure, power and prominence have fueled a plethora of fools from well before the time of Solomon and extending to our own era.
I often am amazed when watching the news or something on television that includes famous people or folks who have achieved high level prominence, noting how common it is to see incredibly obvious flaws of character, speech, appearance and belief. They look like a fool, they think like a fool, they quake like a fool … so, they’re a fool. I’ll sometimes see a prominent political figure from the national scene who represents literally millions of people in congress. How they achieved the position is surely incredulous, for their entire demeanor is outrageous. If I were to deliver even a short devotional in the style of these fools, you would rise up to fire me from pastoral ministry, and rightly so. Yet fools prosper and abound.
Many of you may recall my multiple years of service in local political leadership and organization. Truly, God put me there for a season of time, I’m still not sure why. It was interesting for sure. I was able to meet some very fine people, even on the national level. At the same time, I encountered more than a few of the most troubled souls I’ve ever known – the type that Solomon would call a fool here in Ecclesiastes 10.
And foolishness has a great chance to multiply when the person who possesses copious quantities of it becomes a king/ruler. This chapter has that idea as a backdrop throughout. Such sinful leaders can be unpredictable and contentious, bombastic, directionless, incompetent, self-serving with party living, believing money is the answer to every situation. There’s a chubby shrub in North Korea who is an “exhibit A” of this chapter.
So how does one deal with living in a world where dishonorable, full-time fools can have great power and authority? Well, wisdom is still a virtue to exhibit, wherever we may find ourselves on the social ladder.
More specifically, the New Testament provides better answers that go along with Solomon’s advice. We’re to honor them by good citizenship, rendering to them what is appropriate. And better yet, we’re advised to pray for those in authority (as surely they need it!), especially toward the end that we may live peaceable lives for the advance of the gospel. This puts our focus on things eternal, not merely the foolish stuff of this world, and the fools who so frequently govern.
Ecclesiastes 10:1 – As dead flies give perfume a bad smell, so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.
2 The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left.
3 Even as fools walk along the road, they lack sense and show everyone how stupid they are.
4 If a ruler’s anger rises against you, do not leave your post; calmness can lay great offenses to rest.
5 There is an evil I have seen under the sun, the sort of error that arises from a ruler: 6 Fools are put in many high positions, while the rich occupy the low ones.
7 I have seen slaves on horseback, while princes go on foot like slaves.
8 Whoever digs a pit may fall into it; whoever breaks through a wall may be bitten by a snake.
9 Whoever quarries stones may be injured by them; whoever splits logs may be endangered by them.
10 If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed, but skill will bring success.
11 If a snake bites before it is charmed, the charmer receives no fee.
12 Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips.
13 At the beginning their words are folly; at the end they are wicked madness—14 and fools multiply words.
No one knows what is coming—who can tell someone else what will happen after them?
15 The toil of fools wearies them; they do not know the way to town.
16 Woe to the land whose king was a servant and whose princes feast in the morning.
17 Blessed is the land whose king is of noble birth and whose princes eat at a proper time—for strength and not for drunkenness.
18 Through laziness, the rafters sag; because of idle hands, the house leaks.
19 A feast is made for laughter, wine makes life merry, and money is the answer for everything.
20 Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird in the sky may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say.