Every day we make decisions. Some are easy, like deciding what you are going to wear or eat. Other times we have to make important decisions, life decisions. Ecclesiastes 8 begins and ends talking about the wise and wisdom. Solomon searched for the answers to life’s questions but could not find them under the sun. Life and decisions only make sense in light of eternity. Keeping with the sarcastic tone he uses throughout the book, today we’ll talk about how to make bad decisions.
The Wrong Thing
In verse 1 Solomon questions, “Who knows the interpretation of a matter?” The word interpretation comes from a word that means solution. Decision making is often about problem solving and finding a solution. You need to see the big picture. The issue is not about where you are but where you are going. What does God want you to do? If you please God it does not matter who you displease. But if you displease God it does not matter who all you please. Solomon goes on, “A person’s wisdom brightens his face, and the sternness of his face is changed.” If you want to do the wrong thing, just wake up and walk around with a stern face. Frown at everyone you meet! Or, if you want to make a good decision, learn to smile. Whistle while you work. Make the best of a bad situation. Start the day with prayer, devotions, and leave the house full of God. Verses 2 and 3 reference the king, or authority. Exercise caution, carefulness, maturity, diplomacy, and tact when you talk to those in authority. Before you make a promise, commitment, or vow, think it through. Don’t promise more than you can deliver! Be careful who you partner with. If you want to do the wrong thing, be disloyal, stab people in the back, say one thing to their face and another behind their back, disobey, and break promises. If you want to do the wrong thing, react rather than respond, spout off, storm out, overreact, and do something you will regret. Or you could do the right thing by being loyal, faithful, trustworthy, and supportive.
The Wrong Way
At the end of verse 5 Solomon says, “…a wise heart knows the right time and procedure.” It is not just what you say or do but how you say and do it. You can do the right thing the wrong way. People make bad decisions because they do not think through what to do AND how to do it. Ask God for wisdom on the “how.”
The Wrong Timing
Solomon reiterates this point in verse 6. “For every activity there is a right time and procedure, even though a person’s troubles are heavy on him.” You can do the right thing the wrong way or you can do the right thing at the wrong time. Timing matters. Doing the right thing, the right way, at the right time takes discernment. We don’t know what is going to come our way. The wind may blow out of the east, and it may be out of the west. We don’t know what is going to come our way. Things come up that we did not see coming. You have to make adjustments. I love the saying, “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not get bent out of shape.”
The Wrong Perspective
Towards the end of the chapter, Solomon says, “I observed all the work of God and concluded that a person is unable to discover the work that is done under the sun. Even though a person labors hard to explore it, he cannot find it; even if a wise person claims to know it, he is unable to discover it” (v. 17). On our best day, we are still human. We don’t know it all. Wise decisions are informed decisions. We have to trust in the Lord with all our heart, lean not on our own understanding, in all our ways acknowledge Him, and know that when we do, He’ll make our paths straight (Prov 3:5-6). There are things in life that do not make sense. In verse 14 Solomon wrestles with the classic question of bad things happening to good people. He says, “there are righteous people who get what the actions of the wicked deserve, and there are wicked people who get what the actions of the righteous deserve. I say that this too is futile.” If you have a real relationship with God you are going to wrestle at some point with what looks like the wrong thing, the wrong way, and the wrong timing, but that is only from our perspective under the sun. God always does the right thing, the right way, at the right time even when we can’t see it. He is working in us His good purpose. Keep obeying and keep trusting.
I love what Solomon says in verses 12-13. “I also know that it will go well with God-fearing people, for they are reverent before him. However, it will not go well with the wicked….” Decisions determine your direction. You make decisions and those decisions make you. Your life’s story is a series of decisions. We have all made bad decisions, but if you can make bad decisions, you can make good decisions. Successful people admit when they messed up, they humble themselves and do a U-turn. They turn around. The Bible calls that repentance. Make good decisions because decisions determine destiny. Do right. Honor God. When you make a decision based on the Word and prayer you can leave the results with God.