Solomon, The Teacher/Preacher, dealt with a subject in Ecclesiastes 7, which has been a hot topic of conversation in every century. Ecclesiastes 7:10 reads, “Don’t ask why the old days were better than now, because that is a foolish question.” (CJB) Everyone has certainly heard someone speak longingly of the “good old days”. Everyone who is old enough to remember former times has most likely at one time or another said it himself. On the negative side, all of us hear from time to time, someone pointing out that things are so much worse today than in the past and getting worse by the day. It is popular to state as fact, that young people have it a lot harder today in terms of staying morally pure because of an increase in the number and intensity of temptations. I am guilty of saying that myself. Maybe we should change our thinking. Solomon clearly has a different viewpoint. He asserts all throughout Ecclesiastes that nothing changes, all remains the same. Certainly, technology has changed the way we do everything, both for the good and the bad. Technology is only a tool. It can be used for Godly or devilish things. Thus, it would seem that the level of temptation itself has not changed.
Others have well pointed out that our pining away for the good old days is most often a result of a poor memory and a good imagination. We simply think the former times were better because we have some fond memories and want to remember the former times as the “good old days”. Maybe we shouldn’t feel too bad about doing that. Ancient writers like Homer and Horace did it, so it is not a new development.
Certainly, moral behavior in various societies shifts from better to worse and back again from time to time. Certainly, Noah’s Flood and the destruction of Sodom, bear that out. However, we know that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. It seems that man is pretty much the same yesterday, today, and forever as well. All have fallen short of the glory of God. There is none righteous. There is no one who seeks after God or does good. Those Biblical truths apply to all people, in all places, in all times. Since God has not destroyed us as He did Sodom and the people in Noah’s day, does that mean that we have not sunk to their level yet? I don’t know, but I think we must be awfully close if we have not descended beyond them yet.
Maybe the main point of Ecclesiastes 7:10 is that we ought not to spend time worrying about or comparing ourselves to the past. Certainly, we ought to learn from the successes, mistakes, and failures of times past, but we should not attempt to live in the past. It would be very easy to spend so much time longing for the past and worrying/complaining about the future that we forfeit the present. I think Solomon is encouraging us to make the most of today, to live in the moment, to make the best of the present, to accomplish that which God has called us to do now. That would remove many of our excuses. Many people waste their very lives longing for the “good old days” that are likely only a figment of their imagination.
By the way, the opposite viewpoint is just as detrimental to us. Hilaire Belloc wrote, “While you are dreaming of the future or regretting the past, the present, which is all you have, slips from you and is gone.” Solomon wants us to understand that neglecting the present is a very foolish thing to do.