by Carl Ballestero
“It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting; for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the
countenance the heart is made better, the heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” Ecclesiastes 7:2-4
At first glance, it appears that Solomon has confused the two, but it takes only a few moments meditation to see his wisdom. Have you noticed how often the Bible puts things into two groups? We find two gates, two ways, two covenants, two masters, two resurrections, two destinies, two groups of five virgins, two men built houses that were tested by a flood, two decisions, for or against Christ, etc. We must choose or make
a decision. There is no neutral ground. God’s way, like the first glance at the paradox in the text, seems utterly foolish to the carnal mind, but it is the only wise choice.
Solomon did not say that a wise man can never go to the house of mirth, any more than a fool may not at times go to the house of mourning. The thing in question is not which place these characters went occasionally, but to which of them their hearts are inclined. If we would listen to some folks today, we would dwell in the wrong house–the house of mirth. God’s man must never go to the worldly place of mirth, but there are times and places where he can laugh and even as they say, “have a good time.” But danger is there.
The church is the “house of mourning.” But sad to say, the spirit of mourning and even the “mourner’s bench” are not found in most churches these days. The pulpit is fast becoming a “fool-pit” where you can hear the latest joke. If you are still one of those folk who are always wondering why we do not have the blessings the conviction and power of God like they had years ago, then I’ll tell you why–there is not enough mourning in the house of God these days.
The members talk and laugh before service and then wonder why they can’t get into the meeting. A little trip to the prayer room would have conditioned them so that they could have been a blessing. While the
faithful few struggle with the seekers at the altar, to many sit back and “fellowship” and contaminate the atmosphere with their mirth.
What’s so funny? Salvation certainly isn’t! Hell is no joke! The church should be just what the text declares–a house of mourning. No travail or mourning? Then we will have no sons and daughters born. No mourning? Then we shall not have our prayers answered. There is no Holy Ghost conviction in a play house or in a church whose program offers no more than a T.V. giveaway show. God only blesses and endorses the house that mourns. “Blessed are ye that mourn, for ye shall laugh.” And what a laugh that will be–when we have conquered all and overcome and sit at His heavenly table!
But, really now–just what is so funny Mr. Christian? When we see that the Apostolic standard is refused today and we currently endorse and tolerate so many things the early church would have condemned, we should hang our harps on the willows and wail before God. Our church gatherings and conferences are nothing but a fashion parade as far as some are concerned. We would be better off dressing up in gunny sacks instead of gabardines, in sackcloth instead of satins. How pitiful that the chosen people of God have degenerated from the true Apostolic glory to a lazy, Laodicean, make-believe sham affair and are trying to palm themselves off on this old perishing world as Christians.
Where is the old fashioned conscience smiting, soul shaking, heart searching, hell-fire preaching? Where are the tears in God’s house? But you say, “Yes, I believe in tears, but I would rather dance.” We all
believe in demonstration, or rather we should. But don’t forget, that so many have run the aisles and then run out on God, but if we can get folks to get under the burden and “mourn” for souls and conditions then
God is pleased.
When saints are permitted to marry sinners, when the bride of Christ is encouraged to bring into heart and home by means of worldly amusements and television, then it is time to rend our hearts and ask God for a
shaking. There are too many in our midst these days whose bodies may be in the house of mourning, but their hearts are in the house of mirth. It seems that consecration has no place in today’s church program. We are making God’s house of prayer and mourning, a den of thieves and a house of mirth. The world, the flesh and the devil are not laughing with the church so much as they are laughing at it. Some sobering thoughts about the pit we came from, the task ahead and the flippant attitude of too many delicate daisies in our pews ought to erase the smiles from all faces and make us fall on our faces before God. . .lest we fail.
The world seeks a feast. The Christian seeks the house of mourning. The world loves his chosen house because it is there that he can lose himself in hilarity and escape from reality. The Christian loves his
chosen house because there he meets, enjoys and honors God. Here, the saint finds his soul food and spiritual strength, while at the feast the fool finds everything his animal nature craves. At one house, the fool is applauded for his neglect of God, of Christian duty and of his own soul, but at the other house, the wise saint is singing through his tears, is encouraged by faithful church members and is cheered by
There is safety in the house of mourning, but danger lurks in mirth’s house. It is at these places of pleasure and levity, where the lines of restraint are lowered and vice dethrones virtue. Nero, the fool becomes
intoxicated with pleasure and behaves abnormally. There is a different spirit about the world’s feasts. People do things then that they would never dream of ordinarily. Here, good men and women may lose reason, and righteousness.
There was feasting when the Titanic sank a number of years ago. Couples glided across the dance floor while the band played a popular tune, but calamity brought them back to reality when they struck the iceberg. At Pearl Harbor, defenders of our naval base were invited to the house of feasting and on Saturday night, they drank to their heart’s content. Liquor and beer offered was offered them free of charge. Our boys really had a wild party and were living it up big until the drone of bombers and the scream of falling bombs sobered them up again on Sunday morning. They found, when hundreds of our boys were killed outright and hundreds more wounded, and the pride of the Navy lay belly up in the bay or sunk, that disaster often strikes when we are at the hour of mirth.
The world was feasting in the days of Noah and had no time for an old fashioned calamity howler with his sad message of mourning, but it took the lighting and the cloud bursts and the rising waters to bring them to reality–all too late! Destruction came to Job’s children when they feasted in the eldest son’s house. Judgement came to King Jeroboam when he was drunk with power and praise and forgot the true God. But the Lord sent His message of rebuke and while he attempted to thwart Divine judgement, the king’s hand withered and he begged for mercy. All this having happened at a feast for golden calves.
The glory and strength of Sampson departed at a glance of mirth. He had no good business there and notice how he throws all caution to the winds and plays games with Deliliah and eventually Sampson dies with the Philistines at a feast. In the times of David while he was pursued by Saul, there lived a beauty who was married to a beast. His name was Nabal and he refused to assist David’s hungry men, but because of a
feast, this drunken beast, lost his beautiful wife and lost his life. Beware, the house of mirth!
We find that thew plaque smote Israel when they feasted. There was eating and drinking and the people rose up to play. Then came the stroke of judgement. Amon, David’s son, was slain by Absalom at a feast because of his terrible sin. There is no watching and praying at the house of mirth. Everyone is careless and reckless so that danger is not realized. No marvel that the scripture calls him a fool whose heart is there.
Wine flowed like water. The cooks prepared meals around the clock. Attendants made certain that all the guests at the feast lacked nothing. Songs were offered and dancers were brought in. A thousand drunken lords applauded their every movement. Then they all entered into the spirit of Belshazzar’s feast. One type of food was not enough, they would try another. One type of wine was not enough, they would drink another. One type of vessel was not enough, they would drink out of sacred vessels. But all the laughter of that mirthful house was silenced by the solemn writing of a Hand on the wall.
Trouble just as surely is coming upon theirs world and they will be eating and drinking and feasting in the house of mirth when Jesus comes back again. Will we be so taken up with the pleasures and cares of this
life that we will not hear the midnight cry, “Go ye out to meet Him?” Or will your heart ever be in the house of mourning, as you weep between the porch and the altar for perishing humanity and you are prepared for
Him who comes as a thief in the night. Men wondered where Jesus lived and He told them to “come and see.” Would you be willing to take others to the house you frequent?