I didn’t ask to go to a funeral on February 25, 2019. It was forced on me. Kim’s sudden and unexpected death on February 18, and then the funeral the next week, turned my life on a dime. I guess that’s an understatement.
“The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning…” Ecclesiastes 7:4
Funerals have a way of turning your life on the proverbial dime. The way Ecclesiastes speaks about funerals is paradoxical. How can going to a funeral be good? Death and loss are negatives, right? Death and funerals are undesirable assaulting waves that crash on the shore of your life. Uninvited. Yet, Solomon makes sure we understand that the heart of the wise leads him to attend funerals or put his heart in the funeral home. Simple. One easy step.
“…this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” Ecclesiastes 7:2
A funeral will turn your life on a dime if you’ll let it. It’s interesting that the attendance of a funeral or even contemplating a funeral is all it takes to attain the description “wise.” I think it’s such an overwhelming wake-up call that it’s assumed that you will take it to heart. Funerals rivet your heart. A funeral is a reminder of your own future. It’s a reminder that your day is coming. After all, death comes to all of us—except Enoch, of course; but that’s another story. No man or woman can deny that death is on the horizon, and this funeral-initiated reminder gives the opportunity to pivot, redirect, or renew a life path. Turn on a dime. Get instant wisdom.
“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12
Solomon contrasts the funeral with a party—a house of mourning and a house of feasting side-by-side (Ecclesiastes 7:2). It’s better, he says, to spend time at funerals or at least to contemplate them. Attending parties lulls you into a tendency to ignore impending death. You’re tempted to live as if you’ll never die. Unwise.
“…but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” Ecclesiastes 7:4
Solomon is telling you and me that we have a choice—folly or wisdom. We may spend our time reminding our heart that life is a party like a foolish man, or we can spend our time reminding our heart that life is heading toward a funeral like a wise man. Don’t misunderstand this passage. Solomon is not encouraging an unhealthy relationship with death and funerals. He’s heralding the importance of healthy perspective. Remind yourself that life matters because death is coming. And to be sure, life is short.
“…you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” James 4:14
Let’s also be clear that these warnings are not admonitions against celebrations and parties. The issue here is a mindset of arrogance. Are you living foolishly as if you’ll never die? James reproves such a person saying, “…you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil” (James 4:16). Or are you living in humility recognizing you are given breath every day. It’s a gift of grace. It’s humility that reminds us that, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” (James 1:17).
Keep seeking wisdom and avoiding folly. Avoid entertaining a careless heart. Instead, take one easy step—attend a funeral—and you will nurture a heart of wisdom.
“Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool, but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding.” Proverbs 10:23