Ecclesiastes 7:20-8:1

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Ecclesiastes 7:20-8:1

                  The second half of the book of Ecclesiastes deals primarily with the search for wisdom.  Remember, Ecclesiastes is “wisdom” literature.  We know that wisdom is highly valued in the Bible, but we may not understand that when the Bible uses the word “wisdom”, it had a different meaning than it does today.  Wisdom was not just personal knowledge.  Wisdom was the collective understanding of moral conduct passed from one generation to the next.  In other words, to be considered “wise” in the ancient near east, you had to understand the right things to do, actually do them, and teach your children to do them.

In our scripture focus today, the Teacher is in the middle of sharing his conclusion that when it comes to finding wisdom, we shouldn’t try too hard.  It will only lead to frustration.  In verses 20-22, we are reminded that no one gets it right 100% of the time.  In the Bible, to sin is to act unwisely, and to be wise means to be righteous.  The Teacher has observed that there is no such thing as a person who never sins and is always righteous.  When people try to pretend they are perfect, they set themselves up for failure.  Furthermore, we should not be too hard on others when they say unwise things, since we all fall so short.

Verses 23-29 give a picture of Solomon attempting to figure out wisdom as if it were some type of mathematical formula.  The story presented here is of this great man who had encountered thousands of people.  He tries to “add up” all the wise things he has learned from them, in order the discover the hidden, secret wisdom formula.  What he finds out is that even if we think we have figured it all out, we end up trying to apply our wisdom to human relationships, and we find out we don’t really know anything.  Solomon admits that he might be able to understand one man in a thousand, but he can’t understand a woman at all!

If we can’t possibly hope to understand wisdom, how then should we live?  Chapter 8 verse 1 gives us the key:  “Wisdom makes one’s face shine, and the hardness of one’s countenance is changed.”  In the Bible, anytime God is depicted it is with a shining face—so bright humans can’t look directly at it.  However, those in the presence of God come away with that brightness on their faces.  The key to a good life is understanding God is the source of wisdom.  We can’t hope to understand God’s ways, but if we keep our faces turned towards God, the presence of the Holy Spirit will give us God’s wisdom.  When we focus on remaining in God’s presence, God’s wisdom shines through us.

  • Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
  • Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
  • Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.

Why do you think it is so hard to understand other people?  Is it harder to understand people of the opposite gender?  What’s the key to getting along with those different than us?


Is there anything in today’s scripture that especially speaks to you?


What questions would you like to ask about today’s scripture?