Ecclesiastes 7:19-29

There are many things that compete for our attention and not all of them are good. In fact some of them will do us a great deal of harm if we let them. The trouble is, those things don't always seem like bad things at all at first. We think of them as normal and harmless... and then we get sucked in! Today Solomon shows us what can happen when we focus our attention on the wrong things at the wrong time or in the wrong way...

'Do not pay attention to every word people say' (v21). Wisdom will help us to be discerning when we hear things from others. Some things we would do well to remember and act on whilst other things we should quickly ignore or forget. The example Solomon gives is of gossip. People talking (usually in a negative way) about others behind their back. It can seem harmless but it's one of those things like quicksand that will suck us in and then the damage starts to appear later when someone is slandered falsely or really hurt. We need to ignore gossip. Let's not give it any airtime.

Solomon has turned his attention to wisdom and understanding and in this section this leads him to speak of another thing that attracts his attention - women! We know that Solomon had many wives and his relationships with them were perhaps his biggest downfall. They led him to worship others gods. It's not surprising that he says women can be like a snare or a trap (v26) or that he says he could not find any upright women. Solomon's attention was quickly attracted to women and for him, this was another thing like quicksand. It's not that women are more evil than men - It's the fact that Solomon found women to be more dangerous for him than men and he probably knew that he's not the only guy who faces this issue. For all of us, we should consider what airtime we give to the opposite sex, particularly when we're attracted. Are we getting stuck in something wrong and harmful, or is it a healthy relationship that will please God?

You would expect that by now, Solomon has found out many different and useful things by examining them closely but at the end of this chapter he summarises everything he's seen by saying he's found just one thing - 'God created humankind, but they have gone in search of many schemes' (v29). It's telling that this is how he summarises everything he's observed.

So what gets your attention? What do you give airtime to? Let's ask God to help us avoid our tendency to be 'in search of many schemes' and to focus our attention on the things he is leading us into instead.

A prayer - Father please help me to know when to switch off from something and tune into something else instead. Help me to avoid gossip and lust. Give me the strength to focus my attention on good things that are worthy of my time. Amen!