Ecclesiastes 10:9
The one who quarries stones may be injured by them, and he who splits logs endangers himself.
Raising Stones and Cleaving WoodJ. H. Moulton, D. D.Ecclesiastes 10:9
The Wholesome Influence of Wisdom and the Baneful Effects of FollyJ. Willcock Ecclesiastes 10:2-15
The Rebound of EvilD. Thomas Ecclesiastes 10:8, 9
Good Workmanship - Ourselves and Our ToolsW. Clarkson Ecclesiastes 10:9, 10

This much-debated passage may suggest to us some lessons which may not have been in the mind of the Preacher, but which are appropriate to our time and our circumstances. The question of how much work a man can do is one that depends on two things - on his own strength and skill, and on the quality of the tools he is using. A weak and untried man with poor tools will not do half as much as a strong experienced man with good ones in his hand.

I. THE FIELD OF WORK. This is very broad; it includes not only:

1. All manual labor, to which the passage more immediately applies; but:

2. All business transactions, all household activities, all matters of government in which men are often "the tools" with which work is done. And it includes that to which our attention may be especially directed:

3. All Christian work. This is a great field of its own, with a vast amount of work demanding to be done. Here is work

(1) of vast magnitude;

(2) of great delicacy;

(3) of extreme difficulty,

for it means nothing less than that change of condition which results from a change of heart and life. In view of this particular field we regard -


1. Good tools. Of these tools are:

(1) Divine truth; and to be really good for the great purpose we have at heart we need to hold and to utter this truth in

(a) its integrity, not presenting or exaggerating one or two aspects only, but offering it in its fullness and symmetry;

(b) its purity, uncorrupted by the imaginations and accretions of our own mind;

(c) its adaptation to the special spiritual needs of those to whom we minister.

(2) An elastic organization; not such as will not admit of suiting the necessities of men as they arise, but one that is flexible, and that will lend itself to the ever-varying conditions, spiritual and temporal, in which men are found, and in which they have to be helped and healed.

2. Good workmen. Those that have:

(1) Wisdom "profitable to direct," that have tools, skill, discretion, a sound judgment, a comprehensive view.

(2) Strength; those who can use bad tools if good ones are not at hand, who can work on with sustained energy, who can "bear the burden and heat of the day," who can stand criticism and censoriousness, who will not be daunted by apparent failure or by occasional desertion, who can wait "with long patience" for the day of harvest.

1. Seek to be supplied with the most perfect tools in Christian work; for not only will good tools do much more work than poor ones, but bad tools will result in mischief to the workman. "He that cleaveth... is endangered." Half-truths, or truth unbalanced by its complement, or a badly constructed organization, may do real and serious harm to those who preach the one or work through the other.

2. Put your whole strength - physical, mental, spiritual - into the work of the Lord. With the very best tools we can wield, we shall wish we had done more than we shall have accomplished, when our last blow has been struck for the Master and for mankind. - C.

Whoso removeth stones shall be hurt therewith; and he that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby.
The precise meaning of the maxim is not quite clear. Some think the stone is part of a cairn that marks a neighbour's property, which a man tries to move. The tree, likewise, belongs to a neighbour; and the teaching is, that one who commits acts of aggression upon the property of others will receive his punishment out of the acts themselves. Others find a political reference. The reformer tries to move stones, to remove ancient grievances, or to cut down trees, the upas-trees of hoary abuses, and finds that ancient and deep-seated evils have a deadly power of striking at those who dare to meddle with them. Or, again — and this, the simplest explanation, is to me at least as likely as any other — the cynical author who has found vanity of vanities in every successive sphere of human life observes in these homely words that ordinary honest labour must pay its due of misfortune in this sad world: a man cannot quarry stones to build his house, or cut logs to make up his fire, without risking the misfortune which a cruel fate seems to bring alike on the evil and the good. This interpretation fits in well with the Preacher's view of life. Christ came to teach that in His right hand were pleasures for evermore. He came to join in every kind of innocent enjoyment, to teach men that the Father in heaven rejoiced in His children's joy. He lifted stones and cleft wood in the builder's workshop at Nazareth for more than twenty years out of His short life, to show that honest toil brought something else besides danger — that the stone could become a Bethel, and the wood an altar which raiseth the consecrated soul.

(J. H. Moulton, D. D.)

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