Wisdom and Authority

Who? Who? Who? Throughout Ecclesiastes, especially in chap. 8:1-9, the author (“the Preacher”) asks rhetorical questions beginning with who. Throughout the book the expected answer, almost without exception, is no one. So he begins this section.

Who is like the wise? And who knows the interpretation of a thing? (Eccl. 8:1)

No one is so wise to understand, no one but God. With this as an introduction the Preacher gives us wisdom on how to deal with those in authority. He makes three simple but profound points about our relationships with governing authorities. These are not all that can be said on the subject, but they are wise statements.

  1. We are called to obey. (8:2, 5) God has placed authorities in their position, whether they do good or do evil (Rom. 13:1-2). There are exceptions to this, especially as you consider situations like the disciples with the Jewish authorities, but for the most part we are called to obey.
  2. Don’t do evil in response to evil. (8:3) Paul writes, And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. (Rom. 3:8) Grace isn’t cheap. We should respond in an evil way to an evil leader, it doesn’t not glorify God nor accomplish his purpose.
  3. Seek God’s wisdom when you disagree with earth’s leaders. (8:5-6) God has a right time for everything (see Eccl. 3:1-8), and the wise heart will know the proper time and the just way. For there is a time and a way for everything… God will direct you in how to respond to the world’s leaders, he will give you the words to speak (Mt. 10:16-20), and he will reveal the right time.

Amidst these simple instructions remember, who knows? Only God knows, and by grace through faith God will show you the proper time and right way to deal with those in authority.


Part of an ongoing series on Ecclesiastes


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