The End is Better

For almost the 30th time since I began teaching seminary I turned the calendar page only to come face-to-face with August!!  Even though “August” makes a good name for the eighth month on our calendar, for me “August” means (i) summer is over and (ii) fall semester is imminent.  With the turn of one calendar page, the panic of ‘how does what I have left to do in preparation match up to the number of days left to do’ sets in.

This year in the days following the appearance of August on my calendar, my mind echoed with Ecclesiastes 7:8a, “The end of a matter is better than its beginning . . .”  So what is the significance of that — platitude, promise, mantra . . .?

Four thoughts on this verse and its significance:

  1. One reason I think this verse resounds in our hearts, though surely not the most significant, is that “the end is better” because you’ve survived the experience!!  You made it to the end without dying from the experience!!
  2. Another more ‘obvious’ reason is context.   Verse 8b – “Patience of spirit is better than haughtiness of spirit” (v. 8b).  Or as the Israelite proverb goes, “Let not him who girds on his armor boast like him who takes it off” (1 Kings 20:11).  There is a big difference between talking, planning, etc. and actually doing and completing.  It reminds me of a sign on the bulletin board of my country church where I grew up – “The best ability is dependability.”
  3. Another reason is that the product is as important as the path. Christopher J.H. Wright, one of my favorite authors, points out, “A destination is not just the end of a journey, it is also the point of a journey” (Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament, p. 56).
  4. Perhaps most importantly, is that , if you’ve done it right, “the end is better” because you’ve seen God working in your life through the experience!  Proverbs 16:33 “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.”

Chuck McLain

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