Listen:  129.4

This is an interesting portion and the inquirer asks a very good question.  Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.”

Why would Solomon tell us that it’s better to go to a funeral than to a banquet?  He tells us why in those solemn words, “…for that is the end of all men, and the living lay it to heart.” Death, my dear friend, is at the end of every person’s life.  You can’t escape it, though many try, in vain, to avoid the thought of it.  I know people who never go to funerals because, they say, “It’s depressing.”  The truth is they do not want to face their own mortality!  Solomon is instructing us to face the reality of death head on, and if we do, we will “lay it to heart.” This simply means our hearts will be better off as we face the truth of our own appointment with death. The apostle Paul wrote hundreds of years later in Hebrews 9:26, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Once we do face this solemn fact, our hearts are then prepared to hear and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is nothing that can calm the soul that faces the prospect of death like the following words recorded in Hebrews 2:9 and 14, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death…that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man. Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”  Have you faced the fact that you have an appointment with death?  If so, have you, by faith, believed that Christ tasted death for you to save you and to deliver you from the fear of death?

Why is sorrow better than laughter? First of all, let’s be clear that laughter can be good for us. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 17:22, “A merry heart doeth good like medicine.” Good, clean humor is healthy for us, but it must be at the appropriate time.  Solomon wrote earlier in Ecclesiastes 3:4 that there is “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”  The truth is, we are living in a world filled with sin, and the effects of sin, including death, are all around us.  This should cause us to be, for the most part, sober-minded.  As noted above, many people avoid funerals and they often avoid any place or circumstance that may bring them sorrow.  They are truly in a state of denial. As believers in Christ we should walk in the steps of our Savior who we read of in Isaiah 53:5, was “…a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.”  As He walked through this scene and beheld the heartache and misery that sin had caused, His perfect human heart was filled with sorrow.  Who could ever forget His reaction to the mourning sisters of Lazarus after he had died, as told in those two short words in John 11:35, “Jesus wept.”?  We too should walk in this scene with hearts that are sensitive to the effects of sin that surround us and, if we do, we will also experience the truth that by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better” as we just read in Ecclesiastes 7:3.  At the same time that our hearts are filled with sorrow because of sin and its results, they will also be filled with love and sympathy for those who are hurting, and the Lord can then use us to bring comfort to them in their time of need. We will then have learned the all-important lesson that “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth” as we read in verse 4.  In light of the truth we’ve had before us, we need to pray to the Lord, as David did in Psalm 90:12, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”  (129.4)  (DO)