Better Things in the Book of Ecclesiastes

A fresh view of a neglected book.

Normally when we think of better things in the Bible our minds turn to the epistle of Hebrews. Here the person of Christ is presented as supreme and superior to that of the old economy under Judaism. It is the purpose of this article to consider a few of the better things from this much-neglected book of the Bible for practical and profitable help.

Better is the End of a Thing  – Chapter 7:8

Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof, is the full text of this quotation. This would be a condensed description of the life of a believer summed up in a few words. At the beginning we were born in sin, we continued in sin as our manner of our life, and the judgment of God lay before us. We were without hope and without God in the world. But now we rejoice as we look back to that time in our experience when God in His matchless grace dealt with us and brought us face to face with our condition before Him. Now as we move along lifes pathway we can rejoice that we have an expected end in the blessed hope that lies before us. The end of the believer is peace; none can condemn us, neither can anything or anyone separate us from the Lord.

Better is a Handful – Chapter 4:6

Better is a handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit. We live in a day when everything seems to be going at a breakneck speed; there are hardly enough hours in the day to keep up with the pace of things. There is a great danger of being caught up in the frantic pace of things in order to have the things we think we need. Our spiritual, family, and assembly life can suffer severely so that we miss out in our Bible reading at home or miss the meetings of the assembly. The Apostle Paul said that godliness with contentment is great gain and warned of the danger of those who would be rich and who pierce themselves through with many sorrows. A little less with quietness and contentment would deliver us from many of the things that trouble us today in this busy world.

A Good Name is Better – Chapter 7:1

We could connect this verse with the one above for they are both of the same character. A good name is better than precious ointment. In the home at Bethany they made Him a supper. During that supper Mary broke the alabaster box of precious ointment and began to anoint the feet of the Lord and to wipe them with her hair. Judas protested the waste of the ointment and he was quick to assess its value at 300 pence. This ointment speaks of wealth, but a good name is better than this. Wealth can be gained or lost, but once a persons name is tarnished through some unscrupulous action, that stigma seems to remain with them no matter how they try to make amends afterwards.

Two are Better than One – Chapter 4:9-12

While we do not quote the full text, there are a number of things in these verses to look at. Some apply it merely to marriage. First of all there is harmony and fellowship together as they labor. There is support if one should fall; the other will help to lift up his fellow. A warning is given with a woe to him that is alone when he falleth; he has no one to help him up. We see that principle applied during the Lords earthly ministry when he sent forth the disciples two by two. Many of those who labor in the gospel at home and abroad could testify to the truth of this principle. There is also the warmth of companionship and, while this may apply to husband and wife, we could expand it to when the saints are together in the assembly gatherings. When these things are neglected a believer can soon become cold and distant. If there should arise a matter of conflict, two will be able to prevail and withstand those in contention.

It is Better to go to the House of Mourning – Chapter 7:2

The funeral service has been dispensed with in many circles today, not merely for the expense part, but the thought of death is something people do not like to face. Obituary notices in the press often state no service by request. Cremation is largely accepted and in many instances the relatives do not bother to pick up the ashes. Much has been done by the funeral industry to try and minimize the reality of death. There are well-appointed chapels, with carpeted floors, comfortable benches, and piped-in music to make it more pleasing. They have coined the phrase, a celebration of life, to do away with the fact of death. It seems rather sad to hear Christians using this same phrase at funerals today. Some Christian funerals leave much to be desired in the presence of death. We have solos, duets, trios, and quartets that seem to be more for entertainment of those present. Then lengthy eulogies are given about the deceased covering the life from the cradle to the grave, interspersed with the persons achievements in business or sport, and little said about their spiritual life. Witty stories and jokes are told and the laughter that follows seems so out of place. Honesty should be our aim as well. A servant of the Lord told of going to a funeral of a brother he knew. Listening to the speaker he wondered if he was at the wrong funeral. It did not fit the description of the man who had died. When all this is finished how little time seems left for a clear word in the gospel to those present so that they may lay it to heart. This is a great opportunity for proclaiming the gospel for there are people who are present at a funeral who may never be inside a gospel meeting to hear the Word preached and eternal issues presented to them again.

Wisdom is Better than Weapons of War – Chapter 9:18

Conflict should be avoided wherever possible among Christians. Our conflict is with the enemy, which is of a spiritual nature in heavenly places. When there is a danger of conflict arising, those that have a care for the saints will do all that they can to avoid it from spreading. We have the case of the writer of this book – Solomon – when he came to the throne. Two women came before him contesting who was the true mother of the living child as both claimed it was hers. Solomon called for a sword to divide the child and give half to each. But this brought out the heart of the real mother who was prepared to let it go to the other rather than have it slain. If we realized what is at stake in some of these instances we would not maintain a position with continuing conflict and things becoming worse. How wise it would be to yield when no principle or doctrine of Scripture is involved. Wise words instead of weapons of war are much better heard in quietness without the clamor of controversy or contention.