The Expository Files

The House of Mourning

Ecclesiastes 7:2-4

Eccl. 7:2-4 "It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. 3 Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. 4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth."

This is a complete reversal from the usual response. It`s better to mourn than to feast? Who would say that? Inspiration did. Why is it better to go to the house of mourning? Solomon gave three answers:

Learn That's Where We're All Going. When we pay a condolence call or visit the grave we are reminded of our own mortality. The funeral is where we are all going to end up. Isaiah told Hezekiah "Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live," (2 Kings 20:1) and sinful Israel was told to "Prepare to meet your God." (Amos 4:12) The fool refuses to deal with eternity. He thinks of the pleasures of this life alone. But the wise man learns the lessons of life and death so the he may prepare in one for the other.

It Makes the Heart Better. To consider life in all its stages, ultimately and invariably culminating in death, gives us a healthy, balanced view of life. Just as a visit to the home of the poor helps us appreciate our wealth and a trip to the bed of the sick makes us appreciate our health, some time spent with the dead or grieving helps us appreciate life. This is not the easiest lesson to learn, but it is a necessary one. When we give sober thought to serious matters it brings good benefits later. "All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness." (Heb. 12:11)

Only Fools Try To Have Pleasure All of the Time. More fun and merriment is not what we need. More soberness is. The fool is interested only in what is currently fair, pleasant, easy, diverting, amusing and fun. He gives no thought to serious things and so never acts seriously. But the wise considers all of life rationally, soberly and seriously. So he pays his respects to the dead and considers their life, his own life and his own death. Thus the condolence call is a necessary and expected duty. It is not some outdated social custom, nor is it to be left only to our parents and other older people. It is not what elders are there for and it is not what preachers are paid for. It is the duty of all who are friends and brethren with those who are infirmed, ill and dying if for no other reason than to know that this is a part of life as well. It is not to be avoided simply because we are squeamish and find it icky. To avoid this duty (and miss out on an opportunity for a sober lesson) is a conscious, willful act of foolishness; and the practitioner of it will always remain the fool for it. The house of feasting may take our minds away from the very thing that we need to think about. We can learn something at the funeral. We are likely just to diverted at the feast and never see our real need.

Consider one final reason why we are to do this: We Are To Follow The Example of Jesus. We all know the "shortest verse in the Bible." Its is Jn. 11:35, "Jesus wept." This little verse teaches us so much about Jesus. Think again to the setting in which "He wept." Jesus came to Bethany to heal Lazarus and met the grieving sisters, Mary and Martha. As He sees their tears, and those of all the mourners present, "He was deeply moved in spirit, and was troubled." (Jn. 11:33) Our Savior consoled the family with words of hope and went to the cemetery with them. He then preformed a miracle that comforted them. We must satisfy ourselves with consoling the family with more mundane acts of kindness. But we must go nevertheless.

Jesus went not only the the wedding in Cana of Galilee, He also went to the graveyard in Bethany. Do you?

By Jay Horsley
From Expository Files 7.11; November 2000