The Tension between Saint and Sinner

Ecclesiastes 10:2, A wise man’s heart inclines him to the right, but a fool’s heart to the left.

The foolhardy conservative would take this verse out of context and use it in support of the supposed superiority of the right conservative versus the left liberal. While I consider myself conservative, I am not foolish enough to think this verse is speaking on political trivialities. It would be ignorant to assume this verse is speaking of our time when the context of the passage is not about politics at all, let alone American politics. I call the book of Ecclesiastes the Gandalf of the Bible. Gandalf the wizard in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is known for always speaking in riddles. Ecclesiastes is full of riddles, such as the above verse, and therefore deep wisdom is to be gained from them.

What is Qoheleth saying in this verse? It appears to me he is talking of a life of opposites: the wise man goes one way, the fool goes another. This in itself is rather ambiguous—to whence are they going? What is the path the wise and the fool embark on? Scripture is full of juxtapositions: right and wrong, light and darkness, the righteous and the wicked, wisdom and foolishness… It’s either right or left. These juxtapositions exist because our flesh struggles between each category. This verse is speaking of wisdom and foolishness, and whenever Scripture speaks of wisdom we need to remember the root of this wisdom comes from God alone in His Word and Spirit, according to the Proverbs.

Since true wisdom comes from God, then, the wise man is more keen to enact the things of God than to go the other way and obey Satan. I always say to people: A smart man knows what to say; a wise man knows whether or not he should say it. This verse could be describing the tension between saint and sinner as God’s people. God has made us saints, but we still deal with the reality of sin, hence the tension. God’s wisdom guides us toward sainthood (holy actions, good works produced faith); our foolishness in our flesh guides us toward sin. As God’s people, we are more inclined to exercise God’s given wisdom, but according to the parable of the sower (Luke 8:4-15), we can still fall away to the other side of foolishness. Therefore, let us ever more pray for God’s wisdom and guidance to do His good works and bring people to the truth of Christ (John 14:6), for it is His wisdom that brings us on the path of righteousness in Christ. Let us pray as Solomon did for more wisdom so that we may be able to lead people to Christ (see 2 Chronicles 1:7-9).

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