Jump Start # 1956
Ecclesiastes 7:10 “Do not say, ‘Why is it that the former days were better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this.”
Wow! That passage slaps us in the face! Don’t say the former days were better? The former days were not better than these? We are living in better times than the former days? Really?
This verse is found at the end of Solomon’s series of contrasts, in which he says one thing is better than another. Our verse is like that. We think the former days were better than these days. God says, “don’t say that.” What Solomon identifies as better is not what would make our list. The day of death is better than the day of birth. Most wouldn’t agree with that. Better to go to the house of mourning than the house of feasting. Not typically. We’d take the party over the funeral, any day. Sorrow better than laughter. Strike three, we’d say. We’d think that Solomon got this all mixed up. Then comes our warning, do not say that the former days were better than these. God is showing us the deeper spiritual values through these contrasts. What’s on the surface isn’t always the best. The easy way is not always the best way.
Here are a few thoughts:
First, the older a person becomes, the more “former days” he collects. I asked a Wednesday night class to raise their hands if they had been a Christian longer than a decade. Tons of hands went up. Twenty years, lots of hands. We did that all the way up to fifty years. Some could have gone past that. A Christian for more than half a century. That’s a lot of former days. The older one gets the more former days he has than future days.
Second, we tend to remember good things. Our memory can be colored and we can only see things a certain way. We tend to look with fondness to our childhood. Those simple days before mortgages, kids in braces, stressful deadlines and traffic that doesn’t move. Going to grandma’s house for Thanksgiving, playing with cousins, carefree and fun. Toys. Cookies. Naptime. Cartoons. That’s how we remember the former days.
Third, our passage is telling us not to think that the former days were better. I’m not sure what all Solomon had in mind, but let’s talk about our times. We eat better and smarter today. We live longer today. We can reach more and do more today with technology. I have a friend who had by-pass surgery. That wouldn’t have happened a hundred years ago. Cancer once was the death sentence. It’s not any more. The good ole’ days, before air bags, seat belts and cars that were safe. The good ole’ days when you slept with the windows open under a floor fan on a hot sweltering July night. The good ole’ days when paint had lead in it and buildings were stuffed with asbestos. The good ole’ days of hippies, rights that were not very civil, and the place on the bus was determined by your skin color. The good ole’ days of getting up in the middle of the night and walking out in the dark to the outhouse. The good ole’ days when parents worried about mumps, diapers were cloth and had to be rung out, and every dish had to be hand washed. Oh yeah, we say, ‘we forgot about that stuff.’ Memory will do that.
Are there pieces of the past that were better than today? Probably.
Fourth, there is no going back. We are a forward moving people. We are witnessing all around us the death of many major stores that have been around for a long time. Trends in shopping have changed. Folks like to stay in their jammies and shop on line at home. Saying the former days were better and yet realizing that we are not going back, will only make one sad and depressed. I don’t miss typing sermons on a electric typewriter. I don’t miss copy machines that never made the copy look like the original. Hard wooden pews. Long sermons. Hot church buildings. Preachers pointing to sheets with diagrams outlining their sermons. Those were the days we may say. But it’s onward that we move. We can reach more people today faster and easier than ever before. We are wealthier as a nation today than in days gone by. Our homes are larger. Our pantries are stuffed. Our closets are full.
In many ways our times are turning more secular. Sin is more popularized today. People are more vocal about wanting wrong today. But in contrast I see larger and stronger congregations today. I see more powerful congregations today. In the good ole’ days, you didn’t hear of very many churches that numbered over 200. Today, that’s common.
Fifth, God was with us in the former days and He is with us today. Our need for Him hasn’t changed. What He expects of us hasn’t changed. We continue to walk by faith, just as in the former days. We continue to reach out in prayer, just as in the former days. We still need the Gospel, just like the former days. Some things will never change. Some things we will never outgrow.
Sixth, it’s rather sad to be stuck in the past. Some are. Some fight change. Some fear change. I love to see senior citizens who are using smart phones, facetime and have learned to keep forward looking. Those that are in the past feel like the best days are behind us. It’s all down hill now. Nothing good. This thinking can make us bitter, ungrateful, and miserable. The best days, from the standpoint of a Christian, are yet to come. The best days are when we are with the Lord in Heaven. Nothing will beat that. We won’t look back and miss these days. We will be so thankful and happy that God has invited us to His home.
Do not say that the former days were better than these. We need these reminders. We can forget.