Jump Start # 2054
Ecclesiastes 7:2 “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man and the living takes it to heart.”
In the seventh chapter of Ecclesiastes, Solomon runs through a list of comparisons. Some things are better than others. His list seems backwards and most would say that this list doesn’t make sense. Sorrow is better than laughter? The day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth? Rebuke is better than songs? The end is better than the beginning? Our verse, a house of mourning is better than a house of feasting?
Not only would most question Solomon’s thinking on this, most have lived just the opposite of these. We avoid sorry and fill our lives with sit-coms, funny jokes and laughter. We avoid confrontations and rebuke. We don’t think about death. And, we only go to the funeral home when it is absolutely necessary. And, even then, modern funerals are filled with stories of laughter. We do all we can to take the opposite approach to what Solomon said so long ago.
So, what are we supposed to “take to heart” when we go to the house of mourning?
Death happens to everyone. The passage states, “because that is the end of every man.” It’s not regulated to a specific group of people. Cancer doctors get cancer. Preachers who preach about death, die. The rich. The poor. The educated. The uneducated. Those in the city and those who live out in the country. Of all the names in the Bible, only Enoch and Elijah didn’t die. Even Jesus died.
So, the living take that to heart. We don’t have forever to get things done. We don’t have forever to get around to doing what is right and good. Time flies. We get busy. Before long a lifetime has passed. Bucket lists of places to visit are nice, but much better is a spiritual bucket list. Things you wanted to do that make a difference before your time here is gone. It’s going to happen. You are not getting out of here alive.
2. Death comes unannounced. I met a very nice man last month in Florida while preaching there. He served as one of the elders of that congregation. Great guy. Last Saturday, while fishing, there was an accident and he drowned. His family, the church, and those that knew him were all shocked and crushed at this. No one knew it would happen that day. Car accidents. Crime. Mishaps. And, suddenly a life is finished here.
So, the living take it to heart. Each day could be my last day. Live that way. Honor God. Love your family. Leave footprints for others to follow. We have become masters at putting off difficult things. The talk you need to have with your teenager about their behavior and attitude. Apologizing to your mate for being so critical and demanding. We’ll do it, we tell ourselves. Just not now. And, getting right and doing right with the Lord. We hear the sermons. We know. We plan to. We will. That is, if we can.
3. Death leaves a hole that is often hard to fill. The living must live. They must move on without the one who has died. In the family, things are never the same. Some families survive and are ok. Others are never the same after that. The greater the role someone has in the congregation, the larger the hole that will be left. The death of an elder, a deacon or a preacher, impacts the congregation. Worship and work must go on.
So, the living take it to heart. In the family, financial preparations and papers ought to be in place to help the family if you are no longer there. Tell others where your papers are. Have a discussion about these things. In the church, forward thinking ought to lay out plans for a legacy. Who will be the next elders? Who will be the next preacher? Begin developing people for those roles.
4. Death isn’t the end. That’s the story of the N.T. Jesus rose to never die again. Because of Jesus, there is no “The End,” to our story. We simply switch rooms in the house of God. Because of Jesus, death is no longer feared. It’s seen as a doorway to take us to the Lord.
So, the living take it to heart. The living realize that they need to believe in Christ. They need to walk daily with the Lord. They need to be forgiven, and live with a purpose that God has given us. The account of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 shows us that they had identity, memory, feeling and understanding after death. Death isn’t the worst thing that can happen to us. This world is caught up in things that really doesn’t matter. Most of TV is a mindless waste of time. Image and labels are vain. What matters is faith in Christ. The heart that pays attention to these things will pour more of its interests into the eternal and the spiritual side of things. He will find himself being more of a servant like Jesus was. He sees what God values and that’s what he is interested in.
The living take it to heart. I have seen folks change because of a funeral. It wasn’t so much what was said, but the out pouring of love and help. I know one who was led to Christ because of the love he witnessed from a congregation. I know another who saw all the food and care that was given to his family and he remarked, “I’ve never done that for others.” He changed because of that.
The sad thing is that there are hundreds of funerals every day and how few of the living take it to heart. How few look inward and wonder, “what about me?” What have I done with my life? How have I helped others? This isn’t it, and am I ready to stand before God? No, they don’t think those thoughts. They move return to their busy schedules with hardly another thought. The funeral is forgotten. Time passes and nothing worthwhile came from it.
But for some, the living takes it to heart. The house of mourning has affected the living. It has opened their eyes. They noticed something that they have not thought of before. The living has been changed. It was good for them to be there.
Now, we begin to understand, “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than the house of feasting, because that is the end of every man and the living take it to heart.”