As we wrap up Ecclesiastes, much has been said and much has been written, and now there is only one thing left to say - a final word on the matter that brings us our conclusion and settles everything we have heard… fear God, and keep his commands.
A little folly brings great destruction, while a little wisdom can bring great joy and strength. As we continue in chapters 9 and 10 of Ecclesiastes, the Preacher shows how even though the wise and foolish both share the same fate of death, it is much better to live wisely during your days under the sun.
The teacher of Ecclesiastes compares different areas of life - wisdom with folly, pleasure with toil - and comes to the same conclusion for each of them. Everything is hevel. What does this word ‘hevel’ mean and why does he say this about everything in life? What are we to do with it then? Does our work matter? Can we find pleasure in life?
James understood how critical God-given wisdom is for enduring trials (1:5). But he also knew the human tendencies to rely on self-guidance and worldly advice when tough times arise. In this section James reminds us that real faith produces gospel wisdom, which in turn produces gospel fruit. James shows us that our goodness comes from God-given wisdom, not our own human wisdom. We see that God's people are to be a community of fruitful, gospel wisdom in a world of envy, jealousy and selfish ambition.
After James discusses the importance of our works over simply saying you believe, he now contends that our words are very much important to our faith, too. So which is it? Should we focus on our demonstration or our declaration of faith? What we find, as we look into the wisdom of James, is that both our works and our words flow from our worship. With hearts rooted in the love of Christ, we will bear the fruit of a faith that speaks and acts.
When trials come, when you experience suffering, when life doesn't look like you hoped, what is your usual response? Is it joy and thankfulness? Shockingly, that's how James writes we should respond. How can we count it all joy when we meet trials of all kinds? These first four verses of James give away the theme of the entire letter - that God desires to use all we go through in life to complete and whole perfection, that we would lack in nothing, for His glory!
James makes it abundantly clear that, no matter who you are, you're going to face trials of many kinds. Left to ourselves, we are tossed about like a wave on the sea — directionless and without purpose — and our faith quickly wilts like grass under a scorching sun. Why do trials overwhelm us? Because we lack wisdom and we lack faith. That's why we need wisdom that comes from God; wisdom that compels us to see trials from God's perspective. And this wisdom must involve sustaining faith that involves complete abandonment to God and His purpose for our trials. We learn that in order to become a people "perfect and complete" (1:4) we must be wholehearted and single-minded in our devotion to God, not "double-minded" and divided in our loyalty.