By Dave Lescalleet
The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left. Even as fools walk along the road, they lack sense and show everyone how stupid they are.
– Ecclesiastes 10:2-3
In this verse, the writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us that both wisdom and folly start at the same place. They both begin in the heart. This is very important because most people, when we think about the heart, we think strictly in terms of emotion (what we feel). But whenever the Scripture mentions the heart, this is not simply about our emotions, affections or desires — it is much larger. The heart is the source of our life. It is the epicenter of our inner being. Therefore both wisdom and folly begin in the heart. But now to fully understand what the Ecclesiastes writer is getting at, we have to also understand what he means when he directs wisdom to the right and folly to the left.
First off, he is not offering a political commentary. Nor is he ranting against left-handed people! Instead, he is speaking about the place of honor that wisdom holds. When the Scripture speaks about the right hand or the right arm, it is referencing what it means to know God. For instance, in the Psalms, David sings: The Lord says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet (Psalm 110:1). The same is true for the heart of the wise. The inner being (the heart) that is wise, will know God and will therefore find itself in this place of honor. Whereas a heart of folly will not.
But then notice Ecclesiastes 10:3. The writer offers two characteristics that will mark a life of wisdom. The first is found in how we use our time in this journey of life (as we walk along the road). In the New Testament, St. Paul makes the same point. Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-16). None of us can stretch time. Time is the great equalizer. How we use our time is a mark of wisdom. Being wise means that you know the clock is ticking and that time is passing and you demonstrate wisdom by not allowing opportunities to pass. In other words, do not be foolish. Think. Use wisdom because time is short. So make the most of every opportunity.
The second characteristic of wisdom is measured in our relationships to others (they lack sense and show everyone how stupid they are – Eccles. 10:3). Paul, again, makes the same connection: Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is… Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph. 5:17-20). Wisdom is measurable in our vertical relationship with God and in our horizontal relationships with others. Jesus himself prayed, Not my will but yours be done (Luke 22:42) and teaches us to pray to God: May your will be done on earth as in Heaven (Matt. 6:10). Nothing is more important in life than to discover and to do the will of God. May we display the heart of the wise by placing God and His will at the center of our lives and may we display the heart of the wise by loving others as ourselves.