Introduction: Last week, we ended our study with the story of the man
who saved the city against a great military power. The people of the
city forgot the man because he was poor. His wisdom was not valued by
them. This week, Solomon continues to urge us to consider the
importance of wisdom in our words and in our work. Let’s wisely dive
into our study!

  1. Dead Flies and Democrats

    1. Read Ecclesiastes 10:1. Picture dead flies in an open jar
      of perfume. Would you pick the flies out and use the

      1. If you say “no,” wouldn’t the stink of the flies be
        gone once you scooped them out of the perfume?

      2. Wouldn’t it be the “green” thing to do to save all
        that perfume? (You put perfume on your body. The idea
        of rubbing dead fly juice on you is just revolting.
        Besides, someone might be able to smell just a hint
        of “dead fly” on you.)

      3. Now that you have focused on this problem, how
        careful will you be in the future to keep the top on
        your jar of perfume?

      4. How careful should you be to avoid a little folly in
        your life? (You have all of this good perfume in the
        jar and you have all of these good and honorable
        things in your life. It seems irrational to waste all
        the perfume because of a few dead flies, but the sad
        fact is that you can ruin your life by a few (maybe
        even one) foolish deed.)

    2. Read Ecclesiastes 10:2. Just when you thought Solomon was
      writing for another time and place, American Republicans
      realize his words are for our time, right?

      1. Seriously, Solomon has just told us how much a little
        foolishness can ruin our life. How do you understand
        his advice to avoid foolishness? How do we get our
        hearts to lean right? Should we literally bend to the
        right? (The commentary, Be Satisfied, explains “in
        the ancient world the right hand was the place of
        power and honor, while the left hand represented
        weakness and rejection.” If you are wise, your mind
        is set on what is morally right and that will tend
        towards power and honor. If you are foolish, you will
        gravitate towards what is wrong and that will get you
        in trouble.)

    3. Read Ecclesiastes 10:3. Are foolish people obvious?
      (Solomon tells us that even in simple tasks – like driving
      the car – you can tell if a person lacks wisdom.)

  1. Practical Advice for Would Be Fools

    1. Read Ecclesiastes 10:4. Have you ever seen someone stomp
      out of a meeting in anger? Have you ever seen someone
      quit their job in a huff? (I know a fellow who quit a job
      he otherwise liked because he became angry in a moment.
      The next day he changed his mind and his boss told him he
      had already quit. My impression is that his working life
      was never again as good. Solomon says “When your boss gets
      angry, stay calm, keep working, explain your position and
      you can clear up your boss’s misconceptions.”)

    2. Read Ecclesiastes 10:5-7. Can you depend on your boss not
      to be a fool? (No. Rulers make mistakes and promote fools
      to positions of authority. When that happens, take it
      calmly and do your best in your work.)

    3. Read Ecclesiastes 10:8-9. If you work hard and smart, is
      there any guarantee that you will succeed?(Solomon’s
      message is that being wise and hard-working, being
      inclined to do what is right, is not a sure-fire method
      for success. Because of poor judgment, some fools may have
      authority over you. Sometimes, your hard work ends up
      injuring you. Life here on earth is not absolutely

    4. Read Ecclesiastes 10:10. What should you do if you are
      working under the authority of a fool? Does a dull ax have
      anything to do with this?(Solomon says that even if you
      have to work under poor conditions (working with a dull
      ax), if you work hard and skillfully, you can overcome the
      difficult conditions. The message seems to be that life
      is unpredictable, life presents challenges, but in general
      terms being wise and skillful will bring success.)

    5. Read Ecclesiastes 10:11. What if you are doing what
      Solomon suggests in Ecclesiastes 10:10, and your “dull ax”
      boss bites you before you have been able to show the
      results of your hard, skillful work? (In that case, you
      are not going to profit from your hard work.)

      1. Would being “bitten” by your boss be your fault?
        After all, in this story you are the “snake charmer.”
        Has the snake charmer failed in being “charming?”
        (Compare Proverbs 22:11.)

      2. Is there some other point that you think Solomon is
        making here? (Solomon seems quite worried about
        snakes. He mentions being bitten in this verse and in
        Ecclesiastes 10:8. Snake charming on its face is a
        dangerous profession. His point may be that if you
        engage in high risk work or high risk investments,
        you may get bitten.)

    6. Read Ecclesiastes 10:12. What is a gracious word? (Read
      Proverbs 25:11. I like this mental picture. You appreciate
      gracious words. You are uplifted by gracious words. I
      remember a diligent church worker who created all sorts of
      problems with her words. She knew that her words offended,
      but that did not change her behavior. I remember her
      (often) saying, “I’m going to be direct, because that is
      just the way I am.” Then she would rip off your ears with
      her “direct” criticism. We are by nature sinners, but that
      is no justification to continue sinning! Consider your

      1. Another interesting mental picture is found in
        Ecclesiastes 10:12: a fool is consumed by his own
        lips. Imagine your lips eating you! What does this
        mean? (Your words destroy the quality of your life.
        See, Proverbs 10:21.)

    7. Read Ecclesiastes 10:13-14. How is folly different from
      madness? Why would a fool start out with words which are
      folly and end up with words which are madness? (All of us
      can remember times when we foolishly said something. If
      you are wise, you will learn from this and not repeat it.
      However, if you are a fool, you learn nothing and you
      continue to pour out nonsense, expecting a different
      result. A contemporary saying is that the definition of
      insanity is repeating the same action and expecting a
      different result.)

      1. Why does this text end with a comment about the
        future? What do foolish words have to do with
        predicting the future? (Read Proverbs 27:1. We want
        to boast about our hopes and dreams. But, this, too,
        is foolish for we do not know the future. The future
        is in God’s hands.)

    8. Read Ecclesiastes 10:15. Why would a fool get more tired
      from his work than a wise person? (The fool is talking so
      much, he is not paying attention to what is going on.
      That requires him to waste time doing unnecessary things.
      The commentary, Be Satisfied, had the interesting comment
      that the fool is talking so much he misses the sign
      pointing out the way to the town. I must confess that I’ve
      been talking while driving and missed the sign marking the
      exit to my destination.)

      1. “He can’t find his way to the courthouse,” is an old
        saying about incompetent lawyers. Since I always seem
        to be litigating in a new court, I’m often trying to
        find the courthouse. Would this expression apply to
        me? (What Solomon and this expression tell us is that
        if you cannot find the place where you are supposed
        to be working, you obviously cannot do the work. If
        work is in town, and you cannot find the way to town,
        you are in trouble.)

      2. Would it be fair to understand “the town” (city) to
        refer to the New Jerusalem?

    9. Let’s skip down and read Ecclesiastes 10:18. Yesterday, I
      was contemplating my life and I saw what I thought was a
      deficiency. Nothing around my house gets fixed unless I
      fix it. The guys at my office don’t know how to do the
      “practical” things I do, so they pay other people to do
      those things. Does the fact that I am working while others
      are paying to have things fixed disprove what Solomon
      says? (Others work to earn money to pay workers to do what
      they cannot do. In one way or another, the guys at my
      office “work” to keep the roof from leaking or the rafters
      from sagging. The goal, which I am missing, is to employ
      other workers to make money for you!)

    10. Read Ecclesiastes 10:19. Do you agree? If so, how is this
      true? (Since Solomon was just writing about laziness, he
      may be suggesting that bribes are the “answer” when you
      are a foolish, lazy ruler.)

    11. Read Ecclesiastes 10:20. What is a “bird of the air?” If
      you are an employee, do you follow this wise advice? (You
      remember all of the discussion about foolish, “dull-ax,”
      bosses? If you think you have one, you should keep that to
      yourself. Even thinking about your complaints about your
      boss does you no good.)

      1. In what situations other than employment would this
        advice apply?

    12. Friend, life here on earth is not entirely predictable. If
      you want to improve the odds of success, Solomon counsels
      to focus on what is right, pay attention to your words,
      and show wisdom in everything you do.

  2. Next week: The Way of the Wind.