“A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of one's birth; 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 take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth” (Ecclesiastes 7:1-4).
So many in our society seem to live to go out and party. They love to dwell on laughing and having a good time. There is nothing wrong with experiencing some laughter and joy in one’s life. Solomon wrote there is a time to engage in such things: “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). However, as the opening verses above show, the wise man indicates it is foolish to constantly pursue wanting to go to the “house of mirth” (Ecclesiastes 7:4).
In fact, Solomon indicates it is better to go to a funeral than to go to a party. You may be thinking, “Is he crazy?” However, remember that in the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon tells us how he set out to determine man’s purpose in living (Ecclesiastes 1:13). He is seeking the answer to the question, “Why am I here on this earth and what is my purpose for living”?
Going to a funeral certainly helps one focus on seeking the answer to that question. Consider some of the positive benefits of taking time to consider one’s death. First, it reminds each of us that death is an appointment each of us has to keep unless the Lord returns again during our lifetimes. Solomon writes, “…for that is the end of all men” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). The Hebrew writer stated, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
Second, going to a funeral, helps us to take the most important matters of life to heart. Speaking about going to the house of mourning and seeing the end that awaits us, the wise man adds, “And the living will take it to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). There are things in life I should take lightly such as being able to laugh at times at my own mistakes. However, there are things in life we should ponder deeply such as one’s purpose for living. Going to a funeral and considering that one day it will be me in the casket helps me to consider deeply the question: “What is my purpose in living?”
Finally, going to the house of mourning brings a “sad countenance” to us which Solomon writes, “by which the heart is made better”. Just as there is a time to “laugh” and to “dance”, there is a time to “weep” and a time to “mourn” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). Sometimes, we tend to want to avoid all weeping and mourning and just engage in those activities that are fun and bring laughter. However, the wise man tells us that we should be willing to engage in the emotions of weeping and mourning because they help to make our hearts better. This does not mean we should go around being depressed all the time, but it does mean it is a sign of a healthy heart when one is willing to embrace and acknowledge that they are feeling sadness and want to weep.
Today, I will not fear going to the “house of mourning”. I will embrace feelings of sadness and not seek to avoid them as they help me to have a healthy heart, to think soberly about my purpose for living, and to remind me of my own upcoming appointment with death. I don’t have to avoid thinking about death, but as I contemplate my own death I can rejoice knowing that following my death I will resurrected to enjoy an eternity with God in my heavenly home!
“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13).