Words of Worth

“Better than your day of birth…”

November 20, 2016

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Imagine that Solomon were your substitute teacher for a day and he gave you this quiz:

True or False

  1. I like thinking about my birthday better than my dying day.
  2. I like weddings better than funerals.
  3. I like laughing better than crying.
  4. I like compliments better than criticism.

If you answered “true” to any, or all of the questions, you would have done poorly in class that day because Solomon seems to prefer death, funerals, sorrow, and criticism, according to Ecclesiastes 7: 1-5 –

1A good name is better than precious ointment,
    and the day of death than the day of birth.
It is better to go to the house of mourning
    than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
    and the living will lay it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
    for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
    but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise
    than to hear the song of fools.

Solomon’s thinking seems to be a bit upside down and backwards to my way of thinking, but on closer inspection of the verses, especially 7:1, he seems to make sense.

Since today is my wonderful Mom’s 90th birthday, and since I just celebrated a special birthday, and since my great niece was born not even 12 hours ago, I’ve been thinking about how much I like birthdays!  Bring on the cake, candles, and continuous celebrations! What could Solomon have been thinking!

A good name (shem in Hebrew) is better than a precious ointment (shemen in Hebrew). A shem is better than a shemen and thus the day of death is better than the day of birth.  There are at least two times in our lives when our name is illustrious and is in the newspapers- the day we are born and the day we die. And when we die, our life is represented by two bookend years with a dash in the middle – John Doe, 1900-1970.  That small little dash, on the day of our birth, represents the unwritten script of our lives yet to be lived for good or bad; on our day of death, the small dash represents the finished script of our lives already lived for good or bad.  If we die with a good name, nothing can be done to un-write that good name. However, on the day of our birth, we have many opportunities ahead to write our reputation. Who knows on our birthday if we will write for good or bad?

The late Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, once told a story of how he went into an out of state jewelry store to buy wedding gifts for his upcoming wedding and wedding party. But all he had for payment was an out of state check. The shop owner said it was against store policy to accept such a check, but as Bright was walking out the door, the owner asked if Bill knew anyone in town who could vouch for him.  Bill said that he didn’t but his grandfather had lived in that very town all of his life but had died three years ago. The shop owner asked if Bill’s grandfather was Sam Bright and if so, Sam was the most honest man the owner had ever known.  Based on how Sam Bright lived his dash, the store owner was willing to sell any item in the store to Bill Bright and accept an out of state check!

And it is that living out of the dash, having a good SHEM, that makes our dying day better than a SHEMEN and our day of birth!

Happy birthday, Mom! You are living your dash incredibly well! Anyone who knows who you are would be willing to accept an out of state check from your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.

Happy day of birth, Heather Renee! We’re all praying about your precious life and that it will be one that brings glory and honor to God!

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