I found a scripture in James 4 verse 9-10 that reminded me of what I read in Ecclesiastes 7 verses 3 and 4. James 4:9-10 says: "Be sad and sorry and weep. Stop laughing and start crying. Be gloomy instead of glad. Be humble in the Lord's presence, and he will honor you." Ecclesiastes 7:3-4 says: "Choose sorrow over laughter because a sad face may hide a happy heart. A sensible person mourns but fools always laugh. I first want to know if the Bible you use says differently. Second I want to know if I have to take this literally or otherwise and why or for what reasons, if any should I apply what these two scriptures are telling me. When I first read this message in Ecclesiastes chapter 7, I accepted it as I read it. I understood it exactly as I saw it. Unless there is another meaning to this, I believe that this verse should be taken literally, since this message appears in James as well and it seems simple to understand it.
These are perfect examples of why it is important to know the context of a passage so you don’t come to a faulty conclusion about it. The passage in Ecclesiastes is saying that it is wise to consider that all men die. Understanding that puts other things in perspective. If you understand that you are going to die, then wealth and fame and a lot of other things become of less importance. Based on this, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14) Thus it is stating in general terms a specific thought. It is wiser to think of mourners than revelers, because those who party think only of the present.
The passage in James is also dependent upon its context. In the King James version it says, beginning in verse 8 to set the context: “Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” That part of verse 8 shows that he is talking to sinners in verses 9-10. He is telling them to mourn for their sins rather than rejoice in them, because doing so will make them humble. And God can deal with the humble man, but the man proud of his sins will never turn to God. A similar passage might be found in 2 Corinthians 7:10. “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” Being sorry about sin leads to salvation but being sorry about the things that most of the world considers sorrowful (such as obeying God) leads to death.
So you have to consider these passages in the context. Otherwise, a text out of context may become a pretext for just about anything.