What Did the Wise Man Mean?
Wisdom Is Not Always Appreciated
In this world, things often turn out quite differently from what a person might expect. As King Solomon noticed: ‘The wise may be without food and those having knowledge may be in disfavor.’ (Eccl. 9:11) A basic reason for this is that humans often judge by outward appearance instead of by the actual state of affairs.
Wise King Solomon provided a notable illustration of this, one that was “great” to him. We read: “Also this I saw as respects wisdom under the sun—and it was great to me [“made a deep impression on me,” New Berkeley Version]: There was a little city [a very insignificant place], and the men in it were few [hence, with little manpower available to defend it]; and there came to it a great king, and he surrounded it and built against it great strongholds. And there was found in it a man, needy but wise, and that one provided escape for the city by his wisdom. But no man remembered that needy man.” (Eccl. 9:13-15) Had it not been for that needy wise man, the city would have fallen into the hands of the “great king.” As it was, that poor man’s wisdom proved to be superior to the king’s siegeworks and fighting men. Nevertheless, the people, instead of feeling indebted to the needy man, forgot all about him after the danger had passed.
Solomon drew the following conclusion from this: “Wisdom is better than mightiness; yet the wisdom of the needy one is despised, and his words are not listened to.” (Eccl. 9:16) Yes, when a man does not have an elevated position or prominence, his words are all too often ignored. Little weight is attached to them. Sometimes, perhaps as a last resort, the wise words of a needy person are acted upon, but once the crisis is past he is granted no honor.—Compare 1 Corinthians 1:26, 27; 2:8-11.
Still, wisdom is of great value and certainly is not always disregarded simply because of its having an unpretentious source. Solomon continued: “The words of the wise ones in quietness are more to be heard than the cry of one ruling among stupid people. Wisdom is better than implements for fighting, and merely one sinner can destroy much good.”—Eccl. 9:17, 18.
As the wise man here pointed out, it is far better and more logical to listen to the calm, dignified expressions of wise persons, however lowly, than to the shouts of a ruler who draws his popular support from subjects who demonstrate, in their ways and actions, a stupid outlook on life. As illustrated in the case of the needy wise man, far greater benefit can be gained with wisdom than with fighting equipment. However, just one sinner or foolish man can cause untold trouble. By his wrong reasoning, perhaps loudly expressed, or by his bad acts, he may frustrate the best of plans, ruin the reputation of a community or squander energies and resources. (Compare 3 John 9-11.) Truly, wisdom is to be preferred even when men fail to appreciate those who have it.