About two years ago I came across this portion of Ecclesiastes and found it to be striking. I hadn’t noticed it before, but it was a game changer. If you take Solomon as the writer of Ecclesiastes, you’ll recognize him as renown for his exceptional wisdom. He was so wise, kings from around the region would come to learn from him. He was a writer, a composer, a scientist, a philosopher, an architect, a rancher, an economist, and, well, a husband. This unique combination of wisdom, skill and experience would have made him rather difficult to impress. With at least this one exception.
“Here is another bit of wisdom that has impressed me as I have watched the way our world works. There was a small town with only a few people, and a great king came with his army and besieged it. A poor, wise man knew how to save the town so it was rescued. But afterward no one thought to thank him. So even though wisdom is better than strength, those who are wise will be despised if they are poor. What they say will not be appreciated for long.” (Ecclesiastes 9:12-16, NLT)
In short, the story Qoheleth recounts the story of a nameless, poor man who was esteemed to be a small part of a small place. When overwhelmed with the possibility of defeat, he stepped forward with a plan. Notice he didn’t save the town, he knew how to save the town. As an act of desperation, the city fathers implemented his plan and so the day was saved. The kicker is that the “savior” didn’t get a parade or a plaque. He didn’t even get a gift card to Applebee’s with a thank you note. Nothing.
From this curious vignette in Ecclesiastes, I want to offer three observations.
- You are not limited by who you are not. You don’t need a position or a title to accomplish whatever is before you. We don’t know anything about the nameless man. Yet none of those issues formed a low ceiling for him.
- You are not limited by what you don’t have. It’s interesting that Qoheleth points out the fact that the man in his story was poor. He writes as though he was surprised, as though money and wisdom are one and the same. But this man was poor, and evidently despised because of it. But he didn’t let that limit what he could offer.
- You are not limited by what people don’t know about you. Remember the passage when Jesus walked into Nazareth, teaching with authority and healing afflictions? The people said, “Who does he think he is? Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” The Nazarenes knew what they knew about Jesus, but they didn’t know what they didn’t know, which was that Jesus was the Messiah. You don’t have to opt into the cultural phenomena of shameless, self promotion to get the job done. It’s ok if people don’t know everything about you, including what you had for dinner last night. The goal is not to be a well known person. The goal is to be a person worth knowing.
I hope you’re having a great week and that most of your resolutions are still intact. If you’re enjoying these posts from Out of Ur, feel free to forward them to a friend!