Why is a funeral better than a party?
This question grows from Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 where Solomon summarizes
“Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies—so the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us. A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time.” (Eccl. 7:2-4 – NLT)
Many people try to run from facing the inevitability of their own demise. They drown out thoughts of death with loud music, alcohol, drugs, or keeping constantly busy. They resort to fantasy games in a virtual world that promises unending rebirths. They immerse their minds and bodies in pornography, gluttony, materialism or crime. “Eat, drink, be merry… grab the gusto… squeeze every drop of pleasure you can from this world and try not to think about what may come next.”
In verse 6 Solomon compares the strained and superficial laughter of these sorts of pleasures to quickly burning twigs that puff into smoke and are gone! Such is the life of one whose hope is only in this world. James says something similar, “Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.” (James 4:14 – NLT) And Paul, “…if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.” (1 Cor. 15:19 – NLT).
What Solomon is saying here is that the wise man will face the fact of His own mortality. Rather than run, he will allow the truth of life’s brevity to have “a refining influence” on his character and actions. He will become ever conscious that he lives out his days under the all-seeing eyes of His Creator, for “Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4:13) and “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27).
Jameson, Faussett and Brown note, “The house of feasting often shuts out thoughts of God and eternity. The sight of the dead in the ‘house of mourning’ causes ‘the living’ to think of their own ‘end.’”
After just such reflection the prophet Micah asks, then replies, “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8).
Indeed, after searching out all the pleasures of life, Solomon himself summarizes, “Here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” (Eccl. 12:13-14)
Adam Clarke observes “…it is much more profitable to visit the house of mourning for the dead than the house of festivity. In the former we find occasion for serious and deeply edifying thoughts and reflections; from the latter we seldom return with one profitable thought or one solid impression.”
“It is the character of a fool that his heart is in the house of mirth,” comments Matthew Henry. “His whole delight is in sport and gaiety, in merry stories, merry songs, and merry company, merry days and merry nights.” Even if he were physically in “the house of mourning,” adds Henry, “his heart… is in the house of mirth; this is his folly, and helps to make him more and more foolish.”
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