In one respect, Ecclesiastes chapter ten is very similar to another well known piece of Old Testament wisdom literature- the book of Proverbs. Unlike some other portions of the book of Ecclesiastes, the information found within chapter ten is arranged very much like the maxims found within the Biblical book of Proverbs. For instance, we can find the Proverbial literary technique of observation and comparison used extensively throughout this chapter as the Teacher pursues his examination of life under the sun.
While it may appear as if Ecclesiastes chapter ten is a loose collection of insights regarding our lives here on earth, there is one particular theme that runs like a bridge from chapter nine through the remainder of chapter ten. That theme involves a contrast between the wise and the foolish. In fact, the Teacher will use the word “fool” (or a variation of that word) eight times in the twenty verses of chapter ten as he examines the practical aspects that inevitably descend from the pursuit of a foolish lifestyle.
Solomon’s observations on the practical effects of wisdom vs. foolishness will take him to such varied destinations as business and employment, government relations, manual labor, personal interaction, and even some philosophical considerations such as valid inferences and the logical progression of thought. The information within this chapter offers great practical value for those who are willing to apply it and is certain to prove useful in a variety of circumstances and situations.
“As dead flies cause even a bottle of perfume to stink, so a little foolishness spoils great wisdom and honor” (Ecclesiastes 10:1).
The Teacher ended the previous chapter by observing that, “Wisdom is better than weapons of war; but one sinner destroys much good” (MKJV). The idea is that it is always easier to tear something down than build something up- and all the good that one wise person may accomplish can be quickly undone by the actions of one foolish or sinful individual. Solomon continues that thought in a more poetic form here in chapter ten by using the strong visual (and olfactory) image of some dead flies in a bottle of perfume.
As perfume is something that is usually identified with things like beauty, pleasantness, and attractiveness, the word picture that Solomon establishes for us is that a few dead flies are relatively small when compared to a jar or bottle of perfume but they have an ability beyond their relative size to ruin something of great value. We’ll take a further look at this application next.
“Dead flies can make even perfume stink. In the same way, a little foolishness can spoil wisdom” (Ecclesiastes 10:1 NCV).
In Ecclesiastes chapter seven the Teacher associated the idea of a good reputation with fine perfume. The problem is that one foolish mistake can ruin a good name and even the best perfume can do nothing to cover that. This is the kind of illustration that Solomon offers for our consideration in the opening verse of chapter ten. The idea is that little things can lead to bigger consequences, for better or worse.
The New Testament book of Ephesians also provides us with an important reminder in this regard when it says, “…I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1 NIV). This passage reminds us that it is important to live and act in a way that honors God. If we conduct ourselves in a manner that honors God, then everyone will have the right example to follow. So if you feel that life really stinks right now, perhaps its time to take an inventory of those small areas of conduct to see if something seemingly insignificant is generating an offensive result.
“A wise person chooses the right road; a fool takes the wrong one. You can identify fools just by the way they walk down the street!” (Ecclesiastes 10:2-3).
Some older translations of the Scriptures (such as the American Standard Version, for example) render Ecclesiastes 10:2 as, “A wise man’s heart is at his right hand; but a fool’s heart at his left.” Since most people tend to be right-handed, the right hand (or right arm) came to be associated with the greatest level of skill and strength. This eventually led to a further identification with the concepts of favor, righteousness, and blessing. Unfortunately for those who are left-handed, that also meant that the “left hand” came to symbolize just the opposite. But in reality, this has very little to do with left or right hand orientation- it really has to do with the heart.
When used in this context, the word “heart” refers to our innermost being in a physical, emotional, or spiritual sense. The idea is that the visible actions of a foolish person serve to demonstrate that his or her heart is not where it should be. As we’re told in Proverbs 23:7, “For as (a man) thinks in his heart, so is he” (NKJ) and a foolish person demonstrates what’s on the inside by the things that he or she does on the outside.
“If your boss is angry at you, don’t quit! A quiet spirit can overcome even great mistakes.” (Ecclesiastes 10:4).
As a political leader, Solomon’s frame of reference in offering this advice probably arose from his experience in dealing with situations where various bureaucracies were having difficulty working together. However, the principle that he establishes in this passage is useful in virtually any employment situation.
For example, most people have experienced a situation where another person’s mistake resulted in personal trouble with a manager or supervisor. Or perhaps you may be in a situation where you know more about the way things should be done than the person you report to. Maybe you’ve been offended by a superior or a colleague, or perhaps you are accountable for a circumstance or situation that is out of your direct control. How we respond to these types of conditions can often say a lot about our internal character and beliefs.
Proverbs 15:1-2 touches on this subject when it says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly” (NIV). On a practical level, this passage tells us that we shouldn’t be surprised if a foolish person speaks or acts in a manner that confirms what he or she is. The real issue is how will we respond? The Teacher’s advice in Ecclesiastes 10:4 reminds us that a wise person shouldn’t imitate the response of a foolish person in a similar situation; instead, he or she should utilize the God-given ability to respond in a calm, composed, and conciliatory manner (see Colossians 3:1-17).
The Scriptures also provide us with some additional counsel in this regard as well…
“A wise man controls his temper. He knows that anger causes mistakes” (Proverbs 14:29 TLB).
“But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive you your sins too” (Mark 11:25 TLB).
“Stop being mean, bad-tempered, and angry. Quarreling, harsh words and dislike of others should have no place in your lives. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you because you belong to Christ” (Ephesians 4:31-32 TLB).
“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:19-20 NIV).
“Don’t sin by letting anger gain control over you. Think about it overnight and remain silent” (Psalm 4:4 NLT).
“There is another evil I have seen under the sun. Kings and rulers make a grave mistake when they give great authority to foolish people and low positions to people of proven worth. I have even seen servants riding horseback like princes—and princes walking like servants!” (Ecclesiastes 10:5-7).
It seems that everyone wants to be respected and recognized as a leader, even if it’s only among his or her circle of friends. The problem is that a leadership position isn’t always as good as it may appear.
You see, it’s difficult for someone to hide a character flaw, individual fault, personal shortcoming, or lack of good judgment when he or she is in a visible position of leadership. The Teacher draws our attention to this reality when he says, “There is an evil I have seen under the sun, the sort of error that arises from a ruler” (NIV). The particular error that he identifies for us here is a failure to properly examine and recognize the appropriate qualifications of others when evaluating such people for positions of leadership.
Solomon was able to avoid this problem (at least initially) by asking for God’s direction in making the right decisions when it came to governing the nation of Israel (see 2 Chronicles 1:7-12). Unfortunately however, this was an error that King’s Solomon’s own son fell into.
Following Solomon’s death, the Scriptures tell us that his son Rehoboam became the next king of Israel according to 1 Kings 11:43. The problem was that Rehoboam didn’t maintain the God-given political wisdom of his father and that led him to make some serious mistakes. One of these mistakes involved a decision to act on the unwise advice of his childhood friends instead of the wise counsel of the men who had previously advised his father (you can see 1 Kings 12 for the whole story on that). This decision eventually caused the nation to break up and split into two separate groups.
Of course, you don’t have to be a political leader to see the general truth behind the Teacher’s observation in the passage quoted above. For example, it’s not uncommon for someone to receive a promotion based on something other than merit, competency, or demonstrated capability on the job. These types of promotions aren’t generally attained by what someone knows, but usually by who someone knows. In such instances, it often takes real Godly wisdom and the empowerment of God’s Holy Spirit to “…obey those over you, and give honor and respect to all those to whom it is due” (Romans 13:7 TLB), especially when dealing with leaders who are less than competent.
“When you dig a well, you might fall in. When you demolish an old wall, you could be bitten by a snake. When you work in a quarry, stones might fall and crush you. When you chop wood, there is danger with each stroke of your ax” (Ecclesiastes 10:8-9).
The word “risk” is defined as,“the potential danger that threatens to harm or destroy an object, event, or person.” (1) While it may be something of a trite saying, the reality is that life is full of risks. Since there is an element of risk involved in virtually every endeavor, the question is not if there are risks involved; the question is, are we taking the right kind of risks?
For example, a wise person will consider what needs to be done, identify the possible hazards, weigh the potential risks, and determine the safest, most efficient way to successfully perform the task at hand. In fact, Solomon built on this idea in the book of Proverbs when he said, “Any enterprise is built by wise planning, becomes strong through common sense, and profits wonderfully by keeping abreast of the facts” (Proverbs 24:3 TLB). The problem often lies in determining what needs to be done. Once we make the determination that something must be done, we can then begin to identify the risks involved in undertaking that particular task.
This level of “acceptable risk” is something that varies according to the circumstance or situation. For instance, if we are convinced that we are involved in doing something that God has called us to do, then we may feel justified in taking risks that others might regard as being foolish or unwarranted. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be conscious of the potential dangers involved in a particular undertaking, but only that the reward and responsibility of fulfilling God’s call on our lives outweighs the potential risks that may be involved. This is the attitude that has fueled countless numbers of missionaries, preachers, and other church leaders down through the centuries.
On the other hand, the potential for risk is something that often prevents people from doing what God has called them to do. It’s important to remember is that God has different responsibilities for each of His people; the crucial thing is to get busy doing the work that God has called us to do. If we are involved in doing what God has called us to do, then we can be confident that we are doing the right thing even when there may be potential risks involved.
(1) Acceptable risk. (n.d.) West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. (2008). Retrieved March 23 2012 from http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Acceptable+risk
“Using a dull ax requires great strength, so sharpen the blade. That’s the value of wisdom; it helps you succeed” (Ecclesiastes 10:10).
One somewhat overworked slogan in today’s business world exhorts employees and business leaders to “work smarter, not harder.” Yet this concept is really nothing new, for the passage quoted above tells us that Solomon exhorted a similar philosophy thousands of years ago.
The illustration that the Teacher employed to illustrate this principle is the additional strength required to split wood with a dull axe. Whether the axe had become dulled through extensive use or through lack of use, the basic idea remains the same: wise preparation can save a lot of unnecessary work.
For example, a wise laborer knows that the relatively short period spent sharpening an axe will be more than compensated by the savings gained in time and effort. On the other hand, a foolish laborer fails to consider the future by continuing to work with a dull axe- and that failure to plan ahead demonstrates a clear lack of wisdom. This lack of wise discernment tells us that a foolish person fails to anticipate the potential consequences of his or her actions.
Even if you don’t spend much time chopping wood, this illustration helps to provide us with an important principle that we can apply in many different life situations. For example, wise preparation on the job can help complete a project on schedule and within budget, anticipate and meet the needs of a customer, or short-circuit an explosive diatribe from a difficult employer. Wise preparation in our personal relationships can help identify the kind of people that we may want to get to know better and those we definitely shouldn’t. Wise financial preparation can help supply for our needs now, our potential needs in the future, and the needs of others who could use some help.
So the principle behind this idea goes far beyond a simple labor saving suggestion- and it’s something that Solomon also chose to elaborate on in the book of Proverbs…
“My son, don’t ever let wisdom out of your sight. Hold on to wisdom and careful planning. They will bring you a long life filled with honor. As you go through life, you will always be safe and never fall. When you lie down, you will not be afraid. When you rest, your sleep will be peaceful. You have no reason to fear a sudden disaster or the destruction that comes to the wicked. You can trust the LORD to protect you. He will not let you fall into harm” (Proverbs 3:21-26 ERV).
“If a snake bites before you charm it, what’s the use of being a snake charmer?” (Ecclesiastes 10:11).
It must take a considerable amount of skill to handle a venomous serpent in the manner of a snake charmer. To work with such a dangerous creature when armed with little more than a flute-like instrument is a sight that many people will pay to see. Yet all the skill of a professional snake charmer will do no good if the snake strikes out as the charmer lifts the cover from the snake’s basket
You see, it isn’t enough to have the knowledge of how to charm a snake; the snake charmer must also apply that knowledge in an appropriate way- otherwise, the snake charmer is no better off than the person whose only experience in working with a cobra is derived from watching a few documentaries on television.
While a professional snake charmer can surely benefit from this reminder, everyone else can take a lesson from this concept as well. Some additional wisdom from the pen of the Teacher comes next…
“Wise words bring approval, but fools are destroyed by their own words” (Ecclesiastes 10:12).
The New Testament book of James utilizes the visual illustration of a rudder on a ship or bit in a horse’s mouth to make a similar point (see James 3:2-8). The same idea is true for the words we use- the things we say can help shape and influence the direction of our lives and the lives of others.
For example, a person on a ship without the control of a rudder is likely to end up in a place where he or she wasn’t expecting to go. The same is true for the self-destructive words of a foolish person- his or her speech is sure to eventually lead to a negative result. But the foolish person doesn’t exist in a vacuum- his or her words have an effect on others as well. For example, how many people have been injured because someone foolishly said the wrong thing at the wrong time? How many misunderstandings, fights, and wars have been started because someone said or did something foolish?
In Matthew 12:34-35 Jesus said, “…out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.” The foolish person- the person who chooses to live as if God didn’t exist- does the same as well.
“Fools base their thoughts on foolish assumptions, so their conclusions will be wicked madness; they chatter on and on. No one really knows what is going to happen; no one can predict the future” (Ecclesiastes 10:13-14).
The Biblical definition of a fool can be found in Psalm 14:1 where we read, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” In other words, the person who attempts to live his or her life under the presumption that God does not exist is someone who is acting foolishly- and whenever someone begins with a foolish premise, the end result is sure to be even worse.
Another problem is that a foolish person is often not content to keep silent regarding his or her opinion. Instead, “A fool starts out by talking foolishness and ends up saying crazy things that are dangerous” (GW). When a foolish person begins to talk about something that he or she knows little about, then it is virtually certain that nothing good will come of it. The Teacher helpfully identifies one such topic for us when he says, “Fools are always talking about what they will do, but you never know what will happen. People cannot tell what will happen in the future” (ERV). The point is that if a wise person is unable to accurately foretell what is to come in the future, it is rather arrogant and presumptuous to imagine that a foolish person could do so.
Author and apologist Greg Koukl has pointed out that foolish statements sometimes begin with the term “You could say…” or some variation of that phrase. Of course, anyone can say anything they wish but that isn’t the same as providing a valid or logically consistent reason for a statement. Koukl goes on to say that one way to uncover the unjustified assumptions behind foolish statements is to simply probe with questions such as, “How did you come to that conclusion?” or, “What do you mean by that?”
If you receive a response such as, “Well, I just feel that way…” then you might respond by reminding the speaker that feelings don’t exist in a vacuum; they proceed from some other source like an event or belief. That might lead to another question like, “What caused you to feel that way?” Often you find that people have never really thought very much about the reasoning behind their beliefs.
In taking this approach, you might just help a foolish person to recognize his or her ill-advised beliefs, help that person understand their need to acknowledge God’s existence, and introduce that person to Christ.
“Fools are so exhausted by a little work that they can’t even find their way home” (Ecclesiastes 10:15).
In the preceding verses of Ecclesiastes chapter ten, the Teacher provided us with some distinguishing features that help identify a foolish person. Some of those characteristics included self destructive statements, nonsensical talk, and sermonizing about subjects that he or she had little knowledge of. In addition to that list, Solomon will now supply one additional characteristic:“A fool is so upset by a little work that he has no strength for the simplest matter” (TLB).
While a wise person understands the value of trading some term fatigue to receive the benefit of a better long term future, a foolish person would rather talk than extend the effort necessary to help ensure his or her own success. Like the person who becomes exhausted by choosing to continue working with a dull axe (verse ten), “Fools wear themselves out with hard work” (GW). The result is that a foolish person doesn’t “…even know how to go to the city” (NKJV). This phrase seems to be a sort of proverbial statement that refers to something so plain, obvious, and unmistakable that only a dimwitted simpleton could ever possibly miss it.
The modern day equivalent to the person “who doesn’t even know how to go to the city” might be found in the observations of the well-known cartoon philosopher Foghorn Leghorn. In commenting on some of the various individuals that he encountered in the course of his animated exploits, Mr. Leghorn made some of the following character observations…
“That boy’s about as sharp as a bowling ball.”
“That boy’s as strong as an ox, and just about as smart.”
“I need a pointer and that dog’s got just the head for it. Pointed, that is.”
“That boy’s got a mouth like a cannon. Always shooting it off.”
Although it may be amusing to apply the reflections of a cartoon rooster to the type of person that Solomon identifies for us in this passage, the reality is that a foolish person actually lives out a sad, unproductive, and directionless existence. A person who is diligent to factor God into the daily equation of his or her life could avoid such a fate by reading and applying God’s Word on a daily basis, but since the foolish person refuses to accept such an Authority (see Psalm 14:1), he or she inevitably lives out the words of Proverbs 26:11: “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool returns to his folly” (MKJV).
“What sorrow for the land ruled by a servant, the land whose leaders feast in the morning. Happy is the land whose king is a noble leader and whose leaders feast at the proper time to gain strength for their work, not to get drunk” (Ecclesiastes 10:16-17).
The word used for “sorrow” in the passage quoted above is a word that is also translated as “woe” in a number of other Biblical versions. (1) This word is used to communicate an expression of grief, regret, or apprehensive concern over an approaching disaster and is found in only one other Old Testament passage: Ecclesiastes 4:10 where we read, “…woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up” (NASB). In selecting this word, Solomon chose to highlight the dangerous situation faced by a nation led by those with a preference for feasting and getting drunk.
Earlier, Solomon provided us with the illustration of a qualified leader who faced rejection because he lacked the external qualities that were typically associated with acceptable leadership. But in these verses, Solomon observed the danger posed by those rulers who lacked both the internal and external qualities of good leadership. The complete idea is two-fold: any nation ruled by such unqualified leadership is surely headed for serious trouble but good leadership distinguishes itself by maintaining the right priorities.
While most people will never ascend to the kind of national leadership position that Solomon describes in these verses, the Scriptures tell us that it is possible to participate in improving the quality of governmental leadership. The New Testament book of 1 Timothy tells us how…
“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone– for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1-2 NIV).
While there may be many who are eager to complain about the government, how many are actually willing to pray for their governmental leaders? For instance, every citizen can (and should) pray for God to provide each government official with the wisdom necessary to govern effectively. Every citizen can pray that each representative of the state would work to create and enforce only those ordinances that are good and acceptable in God’s sight. Every citizen can pray for God to provide his or her governmental leaders with godly counselors who will provide God-honoring advice that each would put into practice. To borrow a phrase from the verse following the 1 Timothy passage quoted above, “This is good, and pleases God our Savior…” (1 Timothy 2:3 NIV).
(1) OT:337 ‘iy — Alas! Woe! The Online Bible Thayer’s Greek Lexicon and Brown Driver & Briggs Hebrew Lexicon, Copyright © 1993, Woodside Bible Fellowship, Ontario, Canada. Licensed from the Institute for Creation Research.
“Laziness leads to a sagging roof; idleness leads to a leaky house” (Ecclesiastes 10:18).
One increasingly familiar term in our 21st century age of information is the term macro. This word is often used as a prefix to indicate something very large in scale, scope, or capability. (1) At the opposite end of this definition is another familiar term: micro, a word that refers to something small in size, scope, or capability. (2)
If we were to perform a modern day analysis of Solomon’s ancient observations in Ecclesiastes chapter ten, we might apply these terms to describe the scenario that he illustrates for us here. The “macro” portion of this illustration would involve the situation described in the verses preceding Ecclesiastes 10:18 where we read that, “A country is in trouble when its king is a youth and its leaders feast all night long” (Ecclesiastes 10:16 GNB). Since people are not usually inclined to lead their leaders, we might say that these poor leadership characteristics effectively reached down to an individual (or micro) level: “When you are too lazy to repair your roof, it will leak, and the house will fall in” (GNB).
Although its possible to view this verse simply as a warning about the consequences of laziness, the context of this passage seems to indicate something more. When taken together, these verses help to remind us that the attitudes and choices of a nation’s leadership have an effect on the citizens of that nation. In other words, the macro attitudes of governmental leaders eventually filter down to the micro level of individual citizens. As one commentator puts it, “Continued laziness and neglect cause a house to fall apart, whether that house represents a government or an individual life” (3)
This verse also serves as a reminder that everyone has some influence with others, even if it’s only in small amounts. For instance, a lazy disposition that permits a sagging roof or a leaky home serves as a very visible indicator to others about the attitude of the homeowner. In a similar manner, our words and actions can have a profound influence on teammates, classmates, co-workers, family members, or members of an online community. Your influence -however small- can be used to lead and impact others in whatever manner you choose. That makes everyone a leader to some degree, and part of our responsibility as Christians is to use the influence we have to lead and impact others in a way that honors God.
(1) macro Dictionary.com. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/macro
(2) micro Dictionary.com. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/micro
(3) Believer’s Bible Commentary William Macdonald Edited by Arthur Farstad Thomas Nelson Publishers Nashville
“A party gives laughter, wine gives happiness, and money gives everything!” (Ecclesiastes 10:19).
While Solomon has provided his readers with a significant amount of wisdom throughout the book of Ecclesiastes, the verse quoted above helps provide us with an example of how an “under the sun” philosophy can skew the thinking of even the most intelligent person. For example, one Biblical translation of this verse tells us, “A meal is made for laughter, and wine makes life pleasant, but money is the answer for everything” (GW). This seems to be a bit of uncharacteristically sloppy thinking on the part of the Teacher for a feast or party doesn’t guarantee happiness and drinking doesn’t always make life pleasant. And while money may be the answer for everything, the question is, is it the right answer?
Earlier on, Solomon observed that a combination of wisdom and money often helped to provide the ability to manage the most productive life possible under the sun. For example, money provides for our physical and material needs while wisdom helps ensure that we make the right choices at the right time with our resources. The real issue is identified for us in the New Testament book of 1 Timothy…
“But people who long to be rich soon begin to do all kinds of wrong things to get money, things that hurt them and make them evil-minded and finally send them to hell itself. For the love of money is the first step toward all kinds of sin. Some people have even turned away from God because of their love for it, and as a result have pierced themselves with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:9-10 TLB).
If someone’s primary goal is to generate a great amount of wealth then he or she is likely to make choices that are consistent with goal. The problem is that people are often tempted to do many wrong and inappropriate things when the accumulation financial wealth is the primary goal in life. That’s because the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil as we’re told in 1 Timothy 6:10. You see, money itself is not evil- it’s what we do with it that can make that way.
The right answer for the majority of life’s difficulties usually doesn’t involve throwing more money at the problem. One commentator offers a better perspective: “…the point is not that every man has his price but that every gift has its use—and silver, in the form of money, is the most versatile of all.” (1)
(1) Kidner, Derek The Message of Ecclesiastes: A Time to Mourn, and a Time to Dance quoted in Notes on Ecclesiastes Dr. Thomas L. Constable http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/ecclesiastes.pdf
“Never make light of the king, even in your thoughts. And don’t make fun of the powerful, even in your own bedroom. For a little bird might deliver your message and tell them what you said” (Ecclesiastes 10:20).
If people were to verbalize the things they really think or feel, the world would certainly be a much different place- but it would not necessarily be a much better place. You see, we are often encouraged to articulate our true opinions to others and there are certainly times when an open and honest exchange concerning our feelings may be warranted. The problem is that the wholesale airing of one’s opinion is something that is usually more characteristic of a foolish person than a wise individual. Solomon identified this reality in the book of Proverbs when he said, “The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil” (Proverbs 15:28 NIV) and, “Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 29:20 NIV).
Its important to recognize that our communication should be tempered by two filters- love and respect. The first is important because love always seeks another person’s highest good. While its true that there are times when the most loving thing you can do for someone is to tell them the truth in no uncertain terms, it’s important to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and look for ways to communicate the truth in a manner that recognizes someone’s God-given worth and considers the feelings of others who may be involved.
The other aspect of this idea is the concept of respect, or the act of bestowing honor, dignity, and regard for another person. For instance, the Teacher of Ecclesiastes applied this idea to the relationship between citizens and governmental leaders or others in authority in the passage quoted above. This kind of attitude is also reinforced in the New Testament book of Romans where we read, “Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor” (Romans 13:7 NIV).
This is where the concept of thinking carefully before communicating our opinions comes in, especially in regards to those in authority. One commentator summarizes Solomon’s warning in this manner: “What is thought will ultimately be verbalized and what is uttered in private will be announced. The words become as a bird which is released, cannot be recalled, and will make its flight to the intended person.” (1)
(1) Elwell, W. A. (1996, c1989). Evangelical Commentary on the Bible . (electronic ed.) (Ec 10:1). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.