Ecclesiastes 7:3-4 - A Proverb about Life - To Sorrow is Better than Laughter
Ecclesiastes 7:3-4: A Proverb about Life - To Sorrow is Better
Ecclesiastes 7:3-4 (NLT) Sorrow is better than laughter, for
sadness has a refining influence on us. A wise person thinks much about
death, while the fool thinks only about having a good time now.
Ecclesiastes 7:3-4 (AMP) Sorrow is better than laughter, for by
the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better and gains
gladness. [2 Cor 7:10.] The heart of the wise is in the house of
mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth and sensual joy.
Ecclesiastes 7:3-4 (CWR) Sorrow is better than laughter because
sorrow teaches things that laughter can't. A person who laughs his way
through life is a fool. A wise man thinks about the end of his life as
Sorrow. Frivolity does not strengthen character. There is a
Greek maxim that affirms, "To suffer is to learn" (see Heb. 2:10;
12:1-11). [SDA Commentary]
The heart. Grief is often a blessing in disguise that softens
the heart. The fires of affliction purify the motives and create the
capacity to be sympathetic toward others. [SDA Commentary]
The wise. The minds of the wise turn to the sobering things of
life, and learn to appreciate its moral and spiritual lessons. The
fool, on the other hand, is attracted to the lighter side of life and
seeks satisfaction in amusement, with little thought of the hereafter.
We may learn more about the meaning of life in the house of
mourning than in the house of feasting. [Nelson SB]
Sorrow may have a beneficial effect, tempering one's mirth with
seriousness. [Ryrie SB]
It will do more good to go to a funeral than to a feast. We may
lawfully go to both, as there is occasion; our Saviour both feasted at
the wedding of his friend in Cana, and wept at the grave of his
friend in Bethany. But, considering how apt we are to be vain and
indulge the flesh, it is best to go to the house of mourning, to learn
the end of man as to this world. Seriousness is better than mirth
and jollity. That is best for us which is best for our souls, though
it be unpleasing to sense. It is better to have our corruptions
mortified by the rebuke of the wise, than to have them gratified by the
song of fools. The laughter of a fool is soon gone, [Matthew Henry
Commentary Concise re vv 1-6]
This seems to contradict Solomon's previous advice to eat,
drink, and find satisfaction in one's work--to enjoy what God has given.
We are to enjoy what we have while we can, but realize that
adversity also strikes. Adversity reminds us that life is short, teaches
us to live wisely, and refines our character. Christianity and
Judaism see value in suffering and sorrow. The Greeks and Romans
despised it; Eastern religions seek to live above it; but Christians and
Jews see it as a refining fire. Most would agree that we learn more
about God from difficult times than from happy times. Do you try to
avoid sorrow and suffering at all costs? See your struggles as great
opportunities to learn from God. [Life Application SB]
The better & balanced life (1-24). The better life involves some
"bitter things," such as sorrow and rebuke, but the bitter things can
make life better... Sorrow and rebuke can teach you lessons that will
not be learned any other way (Prov. 27:5-6,12).... God gives both
prosperity and adversity, and He knows how much and how long. Instead of
peering into the future (v. 14b), live in the present and learn to
profit from both pain and pleasure (Phil. 4:10-13).... You are still on
the way and have not arrived yet (Phil. 3:12-16). That is why God
balances your life with trials and triumphs: to keep you from getting
proud and set in your ways. [Chapter by Chapter Bible Commentary by
Many people avoid thinking about death, refuse to face it, and
are reluctant to attend funerals. Solomon is not encouraging us to
think morbidly, but he knows that it is helpful to think clearly about
death. It reminds us that there is still time for change, time to
examine the direction of our lives, and time to confess our sins and
find forgiveness from God. Because everyone will eventually die, it
makes sense to plan ahead to experience God's mercy rather than his
justice. [Life Application SB]
With the close of chapter 6, the author had finished presenting
proof that life under the sun, without a personal relationship with
God, is meaningless... Given the meaninglessness of life, what should a
person do?.... We can trace the options he suggested in 7:1-12:8....
Human reason is incapable of drawing all the evidence together
and reaching correct conclusions. Human reason cannot truly
describe, or even comprehend, all of reality.
We conclude with this thought. The conclusions of secular man
about the meaninglessness of life are faulty, simply because secular
man does not have all the evidence, nor is he able to fit it
together accurately. The best that secular man can do is guess about the
true nature of the universe in which he lives. And his best guesses
lead, inevitably, to the conclusion that life for the individual is
empty and meaningless.
How wonderful that you and I do not have to guess! How wonderful
that we know. We know the origin of our universe and its destiny. We
know that we human beings have been created in the image of God, are
loved by Him, and are destined to live forever! We know the saving
power God has unleashed in this world through Jesus. And, because we
know, we are freed from secular man's bondage to despair. [The 365-Day
The Teacher of Ecclesiastes concluded that life was meaningless,
and from that starting point went on to distinguish options in life
which were better than others.
We Christians start with a different set of conclusions. We
believe that life is meaningful. God loves us, and has chosen us, in
Jesus' words, "to go and bear fruit" (John 15:16). Other New Testament
passages put it a little differently, but the thought is the same. We
have been chosen that we might "be for the praise of His glory" (Eph.
1:12). We are God's workmanship, "created in Christ Jesus to do good
This is not a secular universe, formed by chance. It is a
universe created by a personal God, who has chosen to love us--and chosen
us to love and serve Him.
What options then are "better" if our set of beliefs about the
world is formed by a belief in God and by experience of His love?
Well, some of life's better things for the Christian include: Caring
more about people than about things. Giving ourselves to serve rather
than be served. Storing up treasure in heaven rather than on earth.
Spending time with God's Word rather than TV sitcoms. Making time for our
families rather than spending all our time and energy on our jobs.
Depending on God rather than on ourselves, and expressing that dependence
in prayer. And so on.
You can add to this list just as easily as I can.
You see, our problem isn't in knowing what "better than" choices
are open to us as Christians. Our problem is in making those choices
No, this isn't one of those "let's add on some more guilt"
devotionals. It's just a reminder. The life of secular man really is
meaningless. God's call to you and me to make "better than" choices is His
invitation to discover something that secular man can never know.
A truly meaningful, and thus blessed, life. [The 365-Day