“There was a small town with only a few people, and a great king came with his army and besieged it. A poor, wise man knew how to save the town, and so it was rescued. But afterward no one thought to thank him. So even though wisdom is better than strength, those who are wise will be despised if they are poor. What they say will not be appreciated for long.” (Ecclesiastes 9:14-16, New Living Translation)
I’ve always found the above verses in Ecclesiastes interesting. I realize random verses aren’t put into Scripture just to fill space, so I’ve pondered what lesson I should learn from this man’s actions. Bible scholars seem to have different opinions—it was an actual event, a parable, a foretelling of Jesus. Maybe a combination of these things? Whatever the passage means, I’ve always felt sorry for the poor man who did not receive recognition from those he saved.
Here is what I’ve personally gleaned from these verses: Do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.
To put it in simple terms, the poor but wise man in the story had integrity. He knew what to do to save the city, and he did it. Had the enemy king captured his city, it may have made little difference to his circumstances. He was already poor, perhaps even struggling to keep up with day-to-day necessities. He could have ignored the entire situation with a shrug of the shoulders and “what does it matter” attitude. Or he could have displayed a vengeful spirit toward those who either ignored his very existence or treated him with contempt. “It’s what they deserve. Let them suffer for a change!” Or he could have ignored helping with the excuse that if others didn’t care, why should he.
But he chose to do the right thing because it was the right thing to do.
He knew how to save his small town, so he did. He wasn’t concerned about his name being placed on a plaque at city hall or if his photo was printed in the newspaper as a hero. He didn’t need speeches or banquets. In fact, as soon as everything settled down to normal, everyone forgot all about him. But that was okay with him. His conscience was clear. His motives were pure.
A person of integrity:
- stays true to his moral compass, regardless of personal consequences.
- is more concerned with character than status.
- does what is right even when no one sees or cares.
Doing the right thing is not always easy nor even pleasant. I have known of those who chose to leave their employment rather than become involved with questionable or dishonest business dealings. Whatever the circumstance, others may not understand our actions and even think we are foolish.
You may be facing a challenge in your life now. Do you choose the easy thing or the right thing? Do you walk away from those who would pressure you to go against your personal convictions and principles? Does your decision align with God’s Word? Like the poor wise man, do you do the right thing because it is the right thing?
“For we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man” (II Corinthians 8:21, ESV).
Lord, help me in all of life’s decisions to act with integrity. Even when others seem to prosper while doing wrong, I know the wise choice is to live in a way that is honorable and pleasing to You.