Apparently, Solomon Never Heard of the Saftey Board

Whoever digs a pit may fall into it; whoever breaks through a wall may be bitten by a snake.  Whoever quarries stone may be injured by them; whoever splits logs may be endangered by them.  If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed but skill will bring success.  If a snake bits before it is charmed, there is no profit for the charmer.  Ecclesiastes 10:8-12.

 

If we know it can happen, does it mean it will?  If we know there is danger, is the effort and work worth it?  If the worst befalls us, was the attempt at success worth our time?

These questions naturally follow the straight from the hip observations on reality in our text above.  Solomon doesn’t mention fear in his declarations but I think he implies an underlying awareness that fear of action could stop forward movement just as much as no fear mentality produces erratic outcomes.  The lack of fear doesn’t indicate courage; experiencing fear doesn’t suggest a lack of it.  Fear can be a good sign of a healthy awareness that a risk exists not merely a sign of weakness.  Wise people heed their fears as warnings to be cautious rather than abstain.  Only a “sluggard” declines to work because  there’s a lion in the street!

On some level all of these type things could happen in a day.  I’ve had days on the job where even when I did my best to be cautious and careful I couldn’t stop hurting myself—for whatever reason.  But here’s the principle behind Solomon’s POV:  the dull ax still works though may be not as quickly as a sharp one.  The skill needed with a dull blade is a little higher than with a sharp one.  I know, I’ve chopped enough wood and small trees to recognize the difference.  Wisdom, however, teaches us that a wise person takes care of his/her tools so unless we lack a wet-stone, we should take care of the ax.

The other example is the snake charmer being bitten.  Notice the previous snake reference about a snake behind a wall was there unbeknownst to the man doing the demolition.  A person unprepared for a hidden snake can’t really be blamed for the crisis.  A snake charmer, however, is supposed to work the charm and prevent such an occurrence.  This suggests to me that wisdom can’t know everything nor can it be prepared in every situation.  The big difference then is what can and cannot be known.  At the same time when we know what to do but fail or refuse to do it we cannot blame the “snake” for its response in the consequences.

Solomon is building his case up for doing what we have in front of us begun earlier in the book.  No one is off the hook.  Those who refuse to take action when they should are called fools—meaning in this context silly and irresponsible.  Yet with this demand for action and proactive effort any guarantee of a great outcome or successful life is completely denied us.  The volatility of life receives homage as much as wisdom, action and God.  Life remains unpredictable, get used to it and get over it.  On the other hand, those who take action when they shouldn’t are also called fools.  A person who doesn’t think out the path he/she is on is not wise.  Wisdom takes time to plan, focus and consider; fools refuse to do the work it takes to be successful.

The big problem isn’t the pit, snake or quarried stone it’s the lack of wisdom applied to the job at hand.  An awareness that any of these disasters could happen could either freeze me up in paranoia or add caution to my efforts.  Care in not only how the finished product looks but for my body which performs the task seems to be path of wisdom to me.

Growing up in a church where knowledge was almost equal to God—or at the very least, God’s crowning requirement for getting close to Him—I feared making a mistake in my theology so much that it froze me in areas where I saw discrepancies and confused conclusions.  What I mean is there were several areas where the Bible wasn’t clear yet my church emphatically claimed an interpretation as fact and I didn’t know what to conclude.  I eventually realized theology as the study of God left many mysteries to be solved and most we never would be able to due to a lack of information.

Peter’s second book, for example, spoke of Paul’s deep understanding of the mysteries of God but also concluded these very things would be hard for us to grasp without a spiritual foundation.  The Spirit guides us into all truth; the Christian world bases its conclusion on what feels right.  The Christian church is divided into factions over seemingly important doctrinal differences which really have nothing to do with the character and work of Jesus.  I’ve come to this conclusion after many years of study and watching the nature of people in groups such as denominations:  We have to live and let live on certain aspects of belief.

Years ago as I read the book of 1 Corinthians specifically 15:29 where Paul argues for the resurrection by using a practice of being baptized for the dead as an act of futility if Christ hasn’t been raised.  At first I just passed over the verse as a confusing issue and something of an anomaly, then it hit me like thunder:  Paul wasn’t arguing for or against being baptized for the dead!

I chewed on this idea for some time—probably close to a year or more until I came to an answer that seems to work.  No where in Scripture commands us to be baptized for those who have died nor does it even say it’s possible to save someone who has already passed on.  Yet Paul doesn’t argue for or against it, so does that mean he supports it?

Not necessarily.  Elsewhere he attempts to tell a church that what we do in this life must be the rule by which we are judged at the Bema Seat.  We get one chance to find Christ then we face the judgment.  Also Hebrews 9:27 seems to say we don’t get another chance once we die—Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment—which has been used by evangelists to mean we get one chance at salvation and then no more.  However, if we take this passage and connect to the one 1 Corinthians 15:29, the picture changes.  In fact it might paint a very confused picture unless we follow the thought through.

Since I don’t understand either the judgment or salvation completely, having barely scratched the surface, I find certain conclusions to be ill advised and stemming from a desperate need to feel safe.  The Bible seems to say all those millions of people who have never heard the name of Jesus will be lost if we take just the Hebrews text as our guide; whereas Paul’s allusion to those who attempt through baptism by substitution is not an issue gives hope for the unsaved dead.

What to conclude?

Nothing.

Leave it alone and stop worrying about it for there is no way to conclude anything on such flimsy evidence.  What I have found, however, is that God is wa-a-a-a-a-a-a-ay more open to interpretation than I was taught to believe.  If Paul didn’t see fit in his argument for the resurrection to correct the believers at Corinth on this matter, then who am I to justify or argue against it?  It appears to me there were lots of practices in the early church the disciples didn’t fight and only a few they adamantly stood against.  I think liberality in matters of practice should be respected as long as the basic mores of our faith create the foundation.

So does the risk of falling into the pit we dig or the danger of being bitten by a snake or harmed by a stone we cut mean we shouldn’t do these things?  Not at all.  Solomon is just pointing out that every activity whether good or bad comes with a risk that’s all.  Assessing the risk and taking steps to ensure a healthy outcome grows out of wisdom.  For me this means theologically and spiritually—the two are not the same.

Theology is man’s attempt to understand God; spirituality is submitting to the connection whether we understand it or not.  When we quote the verse claiming God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts, His ways higher than our ways, do we really believe it?

I’ll tell you right up front I don’t get God very well.  I don’t know why all the evil on earth happens the way it does.  I don’t know why some guys get the girl and others don’t.  I don’t know why some girls win the pageant and others don’t.  Why does God allow suffering?  I don’t know for sure.  I have a working theory that seems to explain it but really I don’t know for certain if my conclusion is correct.  Why?  Because I see how my grasp of the world around me has changed through experiencing it.  Or, as Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 13  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

What I know now of the world and its workings is much different than what I knew even ten years ago.  What I grasp about myself is in constant flux because I’m growing to know and in that growth I’m attempting to understand.

I’ve broken through the walls inside myself only to find a snake waiting to bite me.  Fortunately, I know the healer who crushed the snake’s head with His heel.  I’ve dug pits intending them for good purposes only to fallen into them where I needed help to get out—in fact I’m in one right now.  Everything spiritually I can do to prepare myself seems to bear no fruit I can see at times and discouragement sets in; and I don’t see it until much later when I look back.  The point for me is:  I can’t see it all so I just keep moving forward in faith, for what else is there unless I give up and die?

My life is a testimony, if you could follow it, of a provisional merciful God.  So I will continue to demo the walls, cut the stones, charm the snakes, split the logs and dig the ditches without paranoia and letting fear counsel my knowledge so I practice wisdom.

Whew!  Do I have a long way to go!

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