Thursday January 8, 2009
Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. Ecclesiastes 7:3.
Wow! Whatever happened to laughter is the best medicine? Perhaps the introduction of misery clubs will halt heart disease! This would be one up on “laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone.” Read 6:12 to 7:6 of this book and you will find death is better than birth, mourning better than feasting, and merriment is the game of fools. Apparently written by the wisest man on earth, and from a Bible claiming that love, joy and peace are the Christian’s lot.
I am sure that in the misery of Gaza there are many that will agree with some of these statements, perhaps wishing they had been killed with other members of their families—death is better than life. This whole text is one about the apparent futility of life. “For who knows what is good for a man in life, during the few and meaningless days he passes through like a shadow?” If Solomon with all his riches and wisdom found life this way what hope is there for any of us lesser mortals?
Some glimpse into the writer’s thinking is contained the thought that “death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart.” To think or talk about death—very much a social taboo in western culture—is to recognize how unprepared we are to face it. Awareness of our imperfection, if not our downright sinfulness, is not only a downer; it reinforces the meaninglessness of life. It is our guilt, conscious or otherwise, that makes both life and death so unappealing we are tempted to drown our fears with “fools . . . in the house of pleasure.”
This reading today prompts us to be in mourning for our own death, not just for the death of others. As long as we are uncertain of our future beyond this life, merriment designed to avoid it is foolish. Better to dwell on Christ’s promise that "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matt 5:3–4. It is those who mourn for their sinfulness that will find forgiveness in Jesus Christ.