What Did the Wise Man Mean?
Beware of Becoming Corrupted
No one, not even a wise man, is immune to becoming corrupted. King Solomon wrote: “For mere oppression may make a wise one act crazy, and a gift can destroy the heart.”—Eccl. 7:7.
When subjected to prolonged oppression, even a wise person may act rashly. He may lose self-control and give vent to frustrated feelings by lashing out against others, or he may attempt to get relief through unlawful means.
On the other hand, the text might describe oppression that the wise one himself engages in. When a person lets an oppressive spirit dominate him, no matter how wise he may be, he acts in a way that is contrary to human decency and consideration. He ignores the feelings of people and blinds himself to their plight. All he can see is himself and his position. He imagines himself to be a great benefactor and therefore as having the right to crush anyone that dares to make a criticism of his policies.—Compare 2 Chronicles 16:10.
A gift in the form of a bribe can be just as corrupting as oppression, ‘destroying the heart’ or good motivation. The poor and needy, who suffer because of discrimination and partiality, may be treated heartlessly by those who accept bribes.
How to Endure Injustice and Oppression
What can a person do when faced with injustice? Solomon’s next words are most helpful: “Better is the end afterward of a matter than its beginning. Better is one who is patient than one who is haughty in spirit. Do not hurry yourself in your spirit to become offended, for the taking of offense is what rests in the bosom of the stupid ones.”—Eccl. 7:8, 9.
There is wisdom in being patient, confident that the way things finally turn out will be in the best interests of God’s servants. Yes, the end of a matter may contrast sharply with the gloomy start. That was certainly true of the Israelites enslaved in Egypt. When Moses first asked for the release of the Israelites, Pharaoh responded with intensified oppressive measures. (Ex. 5:1-9) But, in the end, Jehovah God made a great name for himself by effecting the liberation of his enslaved people.—Ex. 12:31, 32.
The patient person is far less likely to take matters into his own hands and thereby to bring trouble upon himself or others. But one of haughty spirit finds it hard to maintain self-control and is prone to act rashly, to his own hurt. Anger flares up rapidly in the case of the impatient man whose expectations do not materialize. He is quick to take offense or to build up intense resentment. Such offense or resentment he nurtures, keeping it close to him as if in his own bosom. For doing this, he is rightly spoken of by Solomon as “stupid,” since his course produces bad results in the form of rash words or actions.
A realistic view of the past is yet another valuable aid in putting up with unpleasant situations of the present. Solomon counseled: “Do not say: ‘Why has it happened that the former days proved to be better than these?’ for it is not due to wisdom that you have asked about this.”—Eccl. 7:10.
The person who yearns for the ‘good old days’ forgets about the fact that they, too, were filled with their own problems and troubles. Life in this imperfect system is never ideal. Some things in the past may have been better but others were not. A nostalgic view of the past can be very unrealistic. Besides, no one can turn back the clock. So it is most unwise to think of any time in this world as having been better in every respect and then to become discontented. Such thinking is of no help in putting up with a trying but humanly unchangeable situation.