“Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad; and a gift destroyeth the heart.”Ecclesiastes 7:7
A recent Sunday edition of our local newspaper listed a partial Bible verse for its ‘Thought of the Day.’ Ordinarily, this may not amount to much, but in today’s world we know very well the power that just a single word conveys. Their quotation was from the above passage, Ecclesiastes 7:7.
(Coincidentally, on that first Sunday in August, I had the privilege to preach at Bible Baptist Church on the topic of “Better Beliefs” from Ecclesiastes 7. You can listen to that message by following this link: http://biblebaptistchurchcambridge.com/Sermons/20200802-Sun-AM.mp3.)
In the Bible, several forms of literary expression are used. Most of the Bible is a narrative (history) that is sequential accounting of events as they happen. In this, the Bible provides the unique viewpoint of its Author, which sets the Bible above all other books. To weave the works of dozens of writers over the span of a millennium into a seamless account of how God has and will interact with man is the very definition of inspiration.
The middle section of the Old Testament of the Bible is often referred to as the Wisdom Books. It contains the books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. The chapters in these books contain stand-alone verses of pure wisdom condensed into one or two sentences. Most of them are shorter than the 160 character limit of a text message or tweet. They contain poignant contrasts, illustrative comparisons, far-reaching similitudes, and virtuous principles.
These verses are mostly independent of their context, meaning their truth will stand regardless of what comes before or after in the passage. That is most often how Bible verses are used: as standalone expressions of a general truth. But as a “text without a context is a pretext,” you must understand that using a Bible verse as a sound-byte to prove a point is a dangerous misuse of the Scriptural account. Such usage of the Bible is misleading at best, damning at its worst.
Ecclesiastes 7:7 states in its entirety: “Surely oppression maketh the wise man mad; and a gift destroyeth the heart.” This proverb CAN stand partially if split at the semicolon. The whole sentence is a synthetic, or constructive parallelism, so its truth is fully understood with the complete sentence. Solomon teaches that gifts and oppression are unnecessary additions to wisdom in the heart, producing destructive madness. But so robust is the truth of the Bible, that each half could stand on its own without much explanation.
On Sunday, August 2, 2020, the Jeffersonian Newspaper listed Ecclesiastes 7:7 as a whole for the “Thought of the Day.” What was given was only half of the verse, without correctly citing the omission. (A partial Scripture reference is noted as 7:7a, or 7:7b, etc.) Unfortunately, the error was extrapolated because of the omission of the last word on the first half of the verse: “Surely oppression maketh a wise man MAD.” (Ecclesiastes 7:7a) “Mad” was omitted.
Without this word, a communistic economy is approved. An over-reaching government is encouraged. The proper nurture of genius intellects is historically denied. The repressive attributes of heathenism are ignored. ‘Oppression’ never made a man ‘wise,’ it only has ever served to make him ‘mad.’ You can observe this truth on a global scale, in national politics, or in the microcosm of a middle-school classroom. The opposite, however, that tyranny leads to wisdom, will NEVER be true on ANY scale.
“Laws just or unjust may govern men’s actions. Tyrannies may restrain or regulate their words. The machinery of propaganda may pack their minds with falsehood and deny them truth for many generations of time. But the soul of man thus held in trance or frozen in a long night can be awakened by a spark coming from God knows where and in a moment the whole structure of lies and oppression is on trial for its life.”Sir Winston Churchill
People voice their opinions all the time and in so many ways. Let’s give the Lord space to speak to us- in complete sentences, please.