Friday, August 15, 2008

Ecclesiastes, Chapter 5

We know that Jesus taught that the accumulation of wealth is meaningless. One of his more famous sayings is that it is easier for a rich man to pass a camel through the eye of a needle than to get into heaven. Chapter 5 of Ecclesiastes has a lesson on the accumulation of wealth, but it is more of a lesson about stewardship, as opposed to a warning about seeking after wealth. Like many things in this book, it depends on our perspective. Wealth is fine as long as we do not make it our sole purpose of being. That is when it becomes dangerous because it turns our eyes from God. Wealth is fine as long as we view ourselves as merely taking care of it instead of living for it.

10 Whoever loves money never has money enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.
This too is meaningless.
11 As goods increase,

so do those who consume them.
And what benefit are they to the owner
except to feast his eyes on them?
12 The sleep of a laborer is sweet,

whether he eats little or much,
but the abundance of a rich man
permits him no sleep.
13 I have seen a grievous evil under the sun:
wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner,
14 or wealth lost through some misfortune,

so that when he has a son
there is nothing left for him.
15 Naked a man comes from his mother's womb,

and as he comes, so he departs.
He takes nothing from his labor
that he can carry in his hand. – Ecclesiastes 5:10-15

We all want more stuff. That is our human nature. As we achieve this stuff, however, it only benefits ourselves. We know that wealth can be a sign of God’s favor, but when we are given much, there is much responsibility expected of us. We are expected not to be frivolous with our wealth, and this includes more than physical money. This includes the spiritual gifts and talents that we are given. We can be sure that if we use these to serve the Lord, we are doing what is intended of us.

The most important thing are our spiritual gifts. They are not mentioned here, but to me it is more important that they are used properly than any form of wealth. For years I squandered my own talents as I pursued interests that I enjoyed for a time, but they rarely held my attention for long. In the past two years I have come to see that I am put on this earth to write. I don’t know what I am supposed to write, but I have feverishly followed this passion since discovering it and it gives me no greater joy. I know it is what I was put on this earth to do, so I am honing my craft until such time as the next direction of it is revealed. I want to be ready, so I will not squander this responsibility that I have been given.

18 Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him—for this is his lot. 19 Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God. 20 He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart. – Ecclesiastes 5:18-20

It is good to end this week on a positive note, just as yesterday’s chapter ended on a positive note. This passage is a good example of what my old pastor would call the zone of blessing. The author of this book has been quite clear so far that life is meaningless. When we are living in God’s grace with what we are given, however, we are distracted because we are occupied with gladness provided by God. As frustrating as life can be, I find that those frustration melt away when they are replaced with the deep seated joy of living in God’s zone of blessing. There is absolutely nothing better than those rare, perfect moments where you thank God for simply being alive.

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