Saturday, June 25, 2016

The End of a Thing

"Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit." —Ecclesiastes 7:8

Mentor’s koan invites a good deal of thought: In what sense is the end of a thing better than it’s beginning? Let’s puzzle it out…

The Hebrew noun here translated "end" literally means "afterward" and refers to an end-product, or the outcome of an action. I would translate the couplet this way: 

Outcomes are better than beginnings; 
patience is better than pride.

If we think about God’s outcomes, they are always better, for, as Paul reminds us, "all things work together for good." The phrase "all things" refers to...well, all things, even the things that annoy us. The “good” He envisions for us is the best possible good: the eternal purpose for which we were created, to show forth the goodness of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28-30).

The antithesis “patient/proud” in the second line of the verse is surprising; You would expect the parallel to be “patience/impatience.”  The juxtaposition of patient and proud suggests that impatience is actually pride—prideful presumption. We think, if God would give us a chance to shape our own destiny, we would do a better job of it than he. 

So…every time I grumble about my lot; every time I'm displeased, hurt, or resentful when things don't go my way; every time I show impatience in the face of delay, I'm thinking that I have a a better plan and purpose for my life than that which God has envisioned for me. 

Is it not better to rest in God's wisdom and love and say to Him in every situation, "Let it be to me according to your word." Then God can continue to work toward the outcome He has envisioned from the beginning.

BTW: The word here translated “end” (afterward) often means the after-life in the Old Testament. And that, of course, is the best outcome of all. 

David Roper

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