Mirth and Mourning

Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth” (vv. 3–4).

- Ecclesiastes 7:2–4

Between on-demand television programming, video games, movies, the Internet, and countless other entertainment options that our society offers us, we never have to work too hard to entertain ourselves. It is easy to take our minds off the cares of this world by watching the latest Hollywood blockbuster, playing a game with friends via our smart-phones, or spending hours online learning about our favorite hobby. Opportunities for distraction are everywhere.

Certainly, none of these things is inherently evil. Moreover, we should count it a blessing that advances in technology and efficiency have meant that we do not have to work as long or as hard for the same results, leading to more leisure time. Yet, we must not be unaware of the potential for spiritual danger that comes with all these distractions. If we are not careful, we can entertain ourselves so much that we never have time to think on matters of eternity. Because of all the fun we are having, we might become distracted from deep reflection on the state of our souls. Ecclesiastes 7:2–4 makes this basic point.

In Scripture, death and mourning for the dead are taken quite seriously. People in biblical times would pause for days to consider their circumstances and to express sorrow for the loss of a loved one (Gen. 50:1–14; Job 2:11–13). Thus, the house of mourning is the natural place for deep, honest reflection. Ultimately, it is better to go there than to go to the house of feasting (Eccl. 7:2a), for in the house of feasting, one is too occupied with merriment to consider one’s status before the Creator. But wise people know they must reflect on their hearts. After all, everyone will go to the house of mourning, first as a mourner and then as the one for whom others mourn (v. 2b). We must be set right with the Lord before death, for divine judgment immediately follows our exit from this world (12:13–14; Heb. 9:27–28). Going to the house of mourning provides us with an opportunity to think on the state of our souls and to seriously consider and apply the gospel, which alone can reconcile us to God.

The hearts of wise people are in the house of mourning and the hearts of fools are in the house of mirth (Eccl. 7:4). In other words, even in the midst of merriment, wise people are oriented toward the consideration of God, His Word, and His claim upon them. On the contrary, the fool makes no time for such considerations. Let us not be fools whose hearts are set on the world even when we are in the house of mourning.

Coram Deo

Although the many entertainment options we have today are not inherently bad, they might get in the way of sustained, biblical reflection on the things of God if we are not careful. That is why we must take time on a regular basis to meditate on Scripture and what it tells us about the Lord and His ways. May we find ways to spend this time of meditation on God and His gospel of salvation, always being careful to use His Word as our guide.

Passages for Further Study

Joshua 1:8
Psalm 1
2 Corinthians 13:5
1 John 2:15–17

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