“Do not say, ‘What was in the former days is better than these,’ for that is not from wisdom that you ask this thing.”
You know, Solomon is saying, the “good old days” were probably not as good as you remember them. How tempted we are to look back and reminisce about the things as they were back then…whenever the “then” happened to be for you. We remember the good parts and the joyful parts and we neglect to remember the hard parts and those struggles that took place at the time.
About a decade ago I had the chance to sit and visit with a lady in Florida who was closing in on her 100th birthday. She was born and bred in that county and had watched changes take place over a period of a hundred years. We took many of her stories and turned them into a book of memories. There were memories of washing clothes by hand before the presence of automatic washing machines, memories of slaughtering pigs and pretty much using every part of the pig except for its “oink,” memories of infant mortality and having trouble accessing a doctor or a hospital, and memories of her mother’s first refrigerator — something her mother made out of wood because her father could not see the use of such a thing. It gives perspective.
The reality is that things change. In that change, some good things are lost and some good things are gained. Arguably, the challenge is to preserve more than you sacrifice. With technological advances comes increased ability to communicate and to collaborate on ideas, but with it comes a lot of junk and temptations. With improvements to transportation, we have entered into much more of a global economy, but with that families are spread further apart than they ever have been. Computers process data faster than my grandparents could have ever dreamed, but with computer development there are jobs that have become obsolete (how many of you know someone who operated a telephone switchboard? — I do). All this forces change.
And, whether you like the change or you do not like the change, the change is here and you cannot live in he past. So, you might as well adapt to the changing times, give God thanks for the advancements and improvements that have come with technological change, and preserve those things (like the centrality of the family) that are worth preserving from the way things were done before. Because, though the changes in technology are out of your control, you do still have much to say about the way your family lives and interacts with one another — if only by preserving family devotions and family meals wherever possible.
Solomon’s point is simple. The past has molded you but you live in the present. So, make the most of it because you can only move forward in time, not backwards. Wisdom does not wallow over how good it was back then, it focuses on making the most of what is now. And while technology changes take place at a seemingly exponential pace, we can be assured of one thing that never changes and that never becomes irrelevant — the Word of God. It remains relevant because its relevance is not based on the changes in technology. Its relevance is based on the character of God (who is unchanging) and on the character of man (and while our settings change, our sin and need for redemption never do). So, it remains relevant to every minute of every day you live…back then, now, and forever. So repent of all the times you have lamented that the “good old days” have passed — because that question and idea does not come from wisdom.