A good name is better than a good ointment, and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.
Solomon concluded that the good things that happen to bad people are not actually that good. So then what are the good things in life? In Ecclesiastes 7, Solomon pointed out that the best things in life are not necessarily those things we would choose. Today and tomorrow, we are going to look at seven “bad” things that are not really that bad.
First, “a good name is better than a good ointment” (v. 1). In the Hebrew text, this is a play on words. The word for “name” in Hebrew is “shem,” and the word for “ointment” or “perfume” is “shemen.” Solomon was saying that a good reputation is much more valuable than a gallon of Chanel No. 5 or Old Spice. A good reputation will linger with you long after expensive perfume.
Second, “the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth” (v. 1). Normally we think birth is much better than death. But that is only because we are limited in our perspective. From an eternal perspective, we see that for a Christian, death is better than birth. As Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21, “To me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Third, “it is better to go to a house of mourning than go to a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). If my assistant were to say to me, “Pastor, we have a conflict on your schedule next Saturday. At two o’clock you are scheduled to do both a wedding and a funeral,” do you know which one I would choose? Hands down, I would choose the funeral over the wedding. People are much more attentive at a funeral than they are at a wedding. The starry-eyed couple could not care less about the wisdom I have to share with them, and the audience just wants to get to the reception and get some food. On the other hand, there is something very sobering about a funeral as people contemplate their own mortality. People are much more likely to listen to life’s message during a time of mourning than a time of celebrating.
Fourth, “sorrow is better than laughter, for when a face is sad a heart may be happy” (v. 3). Isn’t it true that we learn and grow in those difficult times more so than in the pleasant times? I think of the words of English journalist Malcolm Muggeridge: “I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my seventy-five years in this world . . . has been through affliction and not through happiness.” We learn more from sorrow than from happiness.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Money Madness” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2009.
Malcolm Muggeridge, “A Twentieth Century Testimony” (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1978), 35.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.