Why funerals are better for you than parties!

A good reputation is more valuable than
costly perfume.
And the day you die is better than the day
you are born.
Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties.
After all, everyone dies —
so the living should take this to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
for sadness has a refining influence on us.
A wise person thinks a lot about death,
while a fool thinks only about having a good time.

Ecclesiastes: 7:1-4

I was listening to a sermon on Sunday which had to do with Ecclesiastes 5. I could not resist reading more and came upon the above bit of wisdom. I had to read it twice before it finally made sense to me. At first I thought it either sarcastic or just plain morbid. Who wants to think that laughter is worse than sorrow? Don’t most of us want to have a good time? Who would rather go to a funeral than a party? What does the writer mean that sorrow has a refining influence on us?

The more I reflected on these words, the more I realized the wisdom of the author. Our times are now full of people who think only about having a good time. The common person today wants to have it ALL NOW and furthermore feels entitled to it. Once upon a time, it seemed only the young had such grandiose notions of their rights and entitlements. Today, it is equally the old and young. It is no longer a generation definer. Old and young alike want more and want it now. They know their rights but sadly have no clue or idea as to their responsibility. Perhaps we need more signs or information so people can understand that as Sister Giovanni once told me “John, there are no rights without responsibilities.” Parents, students, teachers, lawyers, politicians and just about everyone in our culture today knows their rights but how many could tell you what their responsibilities are?

By the way, this is not a class thing, not an ethnic thing, not an age thing, not an income thing and not an education thing. Young and old, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, all clamor for their rights. Rights without responsibility are the sine qua non of “having a good time.” It is the proverbial free ride through life. Work easy, rest a lot and get rich. It used to be that getting rich meant: hard work, education and good moral values. Today the path seems to be more often through one of the following:

• Sue someone
• Win a lottery
• Get a government subsidy

Recently, you could add “get discovered” by some TV reality show to the above list.
Maybe it is not such a bad thing to think that “we can have it all and not get hooked.’ On the other hand, maybe a better guide to life would involve finding a balance in how we spend our time. What if we spent as much of our cultural and social time on responsibilities as we did on rights? I can only dream:

• Crime would plummet
• Students would respect their peers and teachers
• Road rage would disappear
• Politicians would all be honest
• Greed and avarice would become things of the past
• The old would respect the young and vice versa
• People would spend as much time on politics as on sports
• Eggheads would be as valued as Jocks

Well, I just woke up from my dream. Pure fantasy. I am afraid the clock will not go back and as the writer from Ecclesiastes said in the next verse:

“Don’t long for ‘the good old days.’ This is not wise.” Eccl 7:10

What will it take to restore the obligations of responsibilities to our national conscience? Will we be able to get people to think more about death and less about having a good time? Do you feel that we have a problem here? Do you know your social, ethical, and moral responsibilities to others? How many of the people around you do? Do you value your soul as much as your possessions?

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