Eight Rules for Life

Ecclesiastes 10

I’ve been reading this book over the last several weeks called “Twelve Rules For Life: An Andedote to Chaos” by a psychologist named Jordan Peterson. Dr. Peterson is not a born again Christian, and there is a lot of stuff in the book that I don’t think born again Christians should swallow - but it’s mostly just common sense that is ridiculously uncommon and I’m glad I’m reading it.

Tonight we are going to look at chapter 9 (I’m skipping over most of chapter 8) and I want to give you 8 rules for life from Solomon.

Now, I’m skipping over most of chapter 8. Chapter 9 is a lot of “under the sun” or life without God thinking and it’s pretty bleak. Basically the best it can come up with is get all the gusto you can get. Live for today because you aren’t promised a tomorrow type stuff. It’s a goad to unbelievers because if you don’t believe in the afterlife and you insist on living life without God it’s all you get, pain, confusion and ultimately death.

At the end of chapter 8 Solomon starts to give us more wisdom for actually living a good life. And that’s what this is tonight. Not particularly spiritual. Just 8 rules for living a good and fulfilling life.

You could be a Buddhist or a Muslim and these lessons would be just as true and just as valuable. So it’s a different kind of message tonight.

1. Little vices can make a big stink of your life. (8:18-9:1)

The ointment of the apothecary would be perfume. If the guy who makes the perfume isn’t careful and a fly gets in there, it’s not going to smell good, it’s going to stink.

My pastor in Tennessee used to say to me:

Trifles make perfection and perfection is no trifle.

This is a reminder that we should work on the little things. The big picture of our life is made up of a bunch of little tiny decisions. It’s made up of moments and habits and it helps us immensely to get those habits and moments under control.

But that’s not the main lesson here. The main lesson is:

It only takes a few minutes of sin to destroy a lifetime testimony of righteousness.

A person can be amazing. They can be super competent and fun to be around and seem almost perfect and one small habit can cause their life to stink.

If someone told you I have a pornography habit (I don’t by the way) but if I did I gaurentee you most of you wouldn’t be here next Sunday. It doesn’t matter how good I am at preaching. It doesn’t matter how well the church is run. That’s a dead fly in the ointment.

2. Character is better than competence. (9:2)

In Bible times, the right hand was the position of strength and power. It was the place of control. The left hand was the place of uncertainty and no control.

So the idea hear is that a wise man has his heart under control, he knows his heart. But a foolish person’s heart isn’t under control and they are afraid of it.

I think what this is talking about is being a person of character. Being a person with a good heart. Being someone who does right when no one is looking.

That’s wisdom. And that is far better than being the competent person who doesn’t mind his heart - just his reputation.

3. It’s better to stay silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. (3, 11-14, 20-21)

Your words betray your heart.

  • A fool can’t hide himself. He tells everyone that he is a fool by his words. (3)

”for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.” (Luke 6:45d)

  • A fool with an untamed mouth is as dangerous as a serpent. (11)
  • A fool will destroy his own life with this own words. (12-13)
  • A fool can’t stop talking (14)
  • A fools words will get him in trouble with authority and hinder his advancement in life (20-21)

4. Faithfulness will keep you out of a lot of trouble (4)

The idea here seems to be that even when you seem like you are in trouble, be faithful and don’t leave your post. This will go a long way pacifying the people you are in trouble with.

Our tendency when we are in trouble is to run away, to hide. But that’s not what we should do, we should confront it. We should fess up to it and keep doing what we are supposed to be doing and when we do that it goes a long way in the eyes of the person we are in trouble with.

5. You reap what you sow. (8-9)

Don’t go making trouble because the trouble might hurt you.

6. Time spent sharpening your axe is not wasted time. (10)

Abraham Lincoln once said that if he had two hours to cut down a tree, he’d spent the first hour and a half sharpening the axe.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to become a sharper axe. Read. Take care of your self. Take classes. Get degrees. Teach yourself new skills. These things make you a sharper axe. They make you a more effective person.

This goes for the ministry too. You can take classes. You can learn new skills. You can practice. You can grow.

If your ministry is wearing you out maybe you need to sharpen the axe.

7. Everything rises and falls on leadership. (16-17)

8. Laziness will ruin your life. (19)