Solomon’s reminiscences in Ecclesiastes are like a continuation of Proverbs. Several times in chapter 7 he contemplates ways of living and asks “What is better?” and makes observations which do not always provide a clear answer, but they do provoke our thinking.

The chapter begins, “A good name is better than precious ointment” which leads us to recall the valuable ointment used to anoint Jesus and those who only thought of its wasted value. How important is it to make a good name (reputation) for yourself? Very important, but make sure it is a good reputation in God’s eyes.

Verse 5, “It is better for a person to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools”. In so many ways this world is filled with the latter – but some would see Solomon as wrong! We ponder the state of mind that reaches that conclusion, “Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit” (verse 8). But when “the end of a thing” is not good, some positive thinking is needed to draw out the lessons for doing better in the future.

Solomon laments, “In my vain life I have seen everything” (verse 15). We usually do not appreciate how vain some things are until older age. Some modern versions translate this as the pointlessness of life; but what does one really achieve in life that is of lasting value? Recall Solomon’s attitude when he had accomplished everything that he had set his mind to physically achieve (2:1-11) that it was all “a striving after wind”.

At the end of Ecclesiastes he writes, “The preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth. The words of the wise are like goads, like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one shepherd” (12:10,11). In the New Testament we have the ultimate “good shepherd” yet those who went before him, such as David and Solomon, provoke much worthwhile thought. The last verse of chapter 7 says, “this alone I found, that God made man upright” “but now we have twisted minds” (CEV).

Let us make sure our minds are untwisted by reading and reflecting on God’s word every day.