If we desire to become wise—to acquire “skill in the art of godly living”—we must accept God’s invitation to dwell with Him in each of wisdom’s three houses. Although at times it can be an uncomfortable stay, each house will ultimately provide for us the comfort we seek.
1) The Prosperous House (Proverbs)
2) The Stricken House (Job)
3) The Decaying House (Ecclesiastes)
And it’s a wreck.
The porch light only works intermittently because the electrical system is on the fritz. That could have something to do with the leaky plumbing. The roof has some holes and the windows are warping, so it’s a bit damp and drafty inside. And the conditions will only get worse because the entire structure is destined to collapse, decay, decompose, and disappear. No one will even remember that a house once stood in this place.
The truth is that this third house—life in this present world—has problems that are so critical and systemic that any attempt to address them is like trying to fix pervasive mold and structural rot with paint, wallpaper, and a few throw pillows. We have nothing in our tool boxes, or in our home decorating kits, to fix problems like these:
- A man works a lifetime to accumulate what another will enjoy.
- Tragic events befall the good and the bad.
- There is corruption in places of justice.
- The oppressed shed tears with none to deliver them.
- Wise and foolish men alike perish like beasts.
- No one is remembered after death.
- As for men, nothing satisfies, nothing endures, nothing matters.
We stand in the decaying house in disgust. We hate it. It’s a crumbling house that is returning to dust, and soon will be completely lost to memory. Our souls cry out, What’s the point? It’s all vanity, futility, meaninglessness!
Sure, the house functions in some respects. It provides us some shelter, a bed, and a table where we can share meals with the ones we love. But we’ll eat and drink knowing that our graves have already been dug out for us in the back yard. The grave is where we’re going.
The gloom of Ecclesiastes clears the way for our encounter with God. The Master Builder constructed a glorious mansion that men turned into a ruin. Only the Original Architect and Builder is able to free the house from perpetual decay.
- Eternity answers vanity.
- Omnipotence answers futility.
- Purpose answers meaninglessness.
Derek Kidner summarizes: Without God, nothing has meaning. With God, everything has meaning. Every act will be brought into judgment. So the end of the matter is inescapable: fear God.
It’s the three houses of wisdom together that tell the whole story. To be truly wise, we must live in all three houses simultaneously, so that we can walk closely with God through all circumstance of life, and help others do the same.