Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 28, 1960

Solomon's Parable -- Ecclesiastes 9:14-16

Gordon Wilson, Sacramento, California

"This wisdom have I seen under the sun, and it seemed great unto me: There was a little city, and a few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it: Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man. Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard."

Upon reading this parable of Solomon, we immediately are constrained to exclaim, What ingratitude! What injustice! that the poor man should rescue his city from destruction, yet not be remembered for it. He received no reward, no benefice, he did not get any special praise or honor for his great deed. In fact, he was promptly forgotten by the people: "No man remembered that same poor man." We, as Americans, have always honored our heroes and our national saviours. The birthday of a revolutionary hero, Washington, is observed annually, as well as that of the emancipation hero, Lincoln. Our military heroes are decorated with ribbons and medals, and parades are arranged in their honor. Special benefits are bestowed upon war veterans; we believe in giving credit where it is due. But it was not so in the case of Solomon's poor wise man.

It may have been that people were not aware of the deed performed by this man; it could be that they were not informed as to why the foreign troops withdrew from outside their walls. Or, it may have been that in the past the poor man had done some great wrong which the people remembered, and therefore they were not willing to give him credit for anything good he might do. It is possible that he did not ask the permission of the city fathers before proceeding as he did, thus their jealousy prevented them from honoring him. But whatever the reason (and it is not revealed) our hearts are moved with sympathy and indignation at the thought of allowing his bravery to go uncredited. Yet, if this is our attitude, and if this is the most that we get from reading the parable we missed the most important thing. For consider these facts:

First, wisdom was not made unwise because the man did not receive credit. He was still wise. We have heard that 'virtue is its own reward." If this is so, then virtue must be self-contained and self-dependent. It does not depend on anyone recognizing its virtue. So it is with wisdom. Perhaps no one gives credit to the wise, perhaps wisdom is not recognized as such, but it is all the same wisdom. This man did not receive credit for being a wise man, but that did not change the fact that he was wise. The application can be made to all graces with which Christians may be endowed. It may be, brother or sister, that you are the most humble hearted, and self sacrificing member of the church. But nobody gives you the credit for it. What does it matter, for after all your character is what it is whether any person knows it or not.

The second thing to consider is; The city was not defeated because the man did not receive credit. It was still saved. The city was small, the men were few, the enemy was great. Strategy was called for in the absence of strength. So, "Wisdom was better than strength." And this was true even though no one seemed to realize it. It would have been more to our liking if the poor man were made rich in reward for his nobility, if he were given titles and positions of honor. But the salvation of the city did not depend on such as this. It was saved anyway. I believe it to be equally true, this principle, in regard to our service as Christians. Much that we do goes unnoticed, but the good is accomplished just the same. Maybe we think we deserve more credit than we receive for good works performed. But still, the hungry are fed, the naked are clothed, the neglected are cared for. Perhaps we feel that we should have more glory for our efforts to teach the lost, but be that as it may, souls are converted and God gets the glory! This is a good thing to remember when we start feeling that nobody appreciates us, and that our efforts are wasted on an ungrateful people. The good is still accomplished. And, after all, that is the thing that matters. If your heart's attitude is what it ought to be, you will not be as greatly concerned about who gets the credit, as you will be about the good that is accomplished.

Third, someone finally gave the poor man credit for what he had done. Solomon recorded this matter by inspiration of God, so we see that at the last, God gave him credit. Men may not see, and if they see, they may not care about the righteousness we perform. But God sees it all and He is crediting us with it all. If our works are evil we may be successful in deceiving men, but "I know thy works" saith the Lord. Men may misunderstand us when we do right, but God knows His own. Listen to Jesus on this point:

"Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men, to be seen of them: else ye have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. When therefore thou doest alms, sound not in a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets that they may have glory of men . . . And when ye pray, ye shall not be as the hypocrites: for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men ... Moreover when ye feast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may be seen of men to fast." (Matt. chapter 6, ASV).

It is sad not to receive credit from men for what we do, but how infinitely sadder to receive praise here and lose our reward in heaven. Let men forget me, but let the God of heaven remember me forever as His child.