In life, we do not just have to decide between good and evil but very often between good and better and between better and the best. Settling for the good instead of the better or the best is not wise. As it's been said, the Good is often the Enemy of the Best.
So, in this chapter the Preacher lists what he considers the better choices:
- A Good Name is Better than Perfume ("A good name is more valuable than costly perfume"): Unlike costly perfume which gives temporary pleasure to those around the person wearing it, a good reputation is forever and its fragrance is not limited to a time and a place. A good name brings pleasure to the people and make us a joy in any company.
- Dying is better than Living ("the day of death is better than the day of birth"): This assumes that we have a good reputation when we die. When we have fought the good fight of life, death is like graduation day. Paul himself looks forward to his death: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day — and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." It has been well said that a person is not ready to live until he is ready to die. Martin Luther King knew that his life would end soon, and on the eve of his assassination, made the following statement in his last sermon: "Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about a thing. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."
- Attending a Funeral is better than Party ("It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting"): In our Happy Hour lifestyle, we seek for fun and pleasure, especially at the end of a long week of work. But the Preacher says that attending a funeral is better than going to a party because "death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart." Attending a funeral is always a sobering thing because it confronts us with the brevity of life and helps us evaluate how we have been living our life and what we are going to do with the remaining days we have. Yesterday, a friend related to a few of us about his four year-old son's preoccupation with death, constantly asking what it is like to die and when his mom and granny are going to die. When his mom told him that if we believe in Jesus we will go to heaven when we die, the boy, with bible in hand, started telling his neighbours to believe in Jesus so that when they die, they can be in heaven. What a great example of childlike faith!
- Rebuke is better than Flattery ("It is better to heed a wise man's rebuke than to listen to the song of fools"): Receiving negative feedback about our poor conduct and performance is not easy to take. But it helps us become better persons when received with grace. I know it does me good when my wife gives me some "feedback" about my conduct or preaching.
- Ending is Better than Starting ("The end of a matter is better than its beginning"): This is really good advice for me who likes to start many things. It's not the starting of a new project that matters but bringing it to a successful completion. We need to focus on completing what we have started, before we start any new project.
- Patience is Better than Pride ("patience is better than pride"): Pride is the root of impatience. When we are impatient, it shows that we think we can do the job faster and better. So the humble person is also the patient one.
- New is Better than the Old ("Do not say, 'Why were the old days better than these?' For it is not wise to ask such questions"): Most of us are resistant to change. We think the old wine tastes better and we often reject new wine: "And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, 'The old is better.'" (Luke 5:39). God is always doing a new thing and He wants us to have new wineskins (mindsets) to receive His new wine. New songs, new worship styles and new church structures upset some church people. But if we want to walk by the power and presence of the Spirit, the old m ndsets must go.
Finally, we must affirm that God's ways are not only always better than man's ways, but they are also the best ways: "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts'" (Isa 55:8-9). Amen.
Father, may You have Your way in us. Amen.