Beware of Foolhardy Finagling

April 16, 2014 at 10:24 am | Posted in The Fives | 1 Comment
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Have you ever found yourself in a great deal of unexpected trouble? At times like these, when the pressure is on, and our options seem limited to the frying pan versus the fire, we may be tempted to try to bribe our way out of trouble.

out of the frying pan

For example, there may have been times in the middle of an ill-conceived and horrifying roller coaster ride when I made some promises to God about changing my ways if He would cause the ride to stop (at the bottom!) so I could safely escape.

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Or, perhaps, sitting outside the principal’s office as an elementary school student, I might have been tempted to propose a bargain concerning my future behavioral issues, if the Lord would somehow arrange it so that my parents didn’t find out about my (recent!) past behavioral issues.

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The Bible warns against making these types of rash, or foolhardy, vows:

Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.

Ecclesiastes 5:5

The Lord God Almighty is not someone with whom we should trifle. Vows and promises made before Him or to Him are serious matters. While we are encouraged and commanded to call upon the Lord in prayer whenever we are in trouble, we should be extremely cautious of trying to bribe Him with promises we have no intention of keeping, or even with ones that we might lack the ability to keep.

Working for a Living

July 13, 2012 at 9:10 am | Posted in Ecclesiastes | 5 Comments
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In Chapters 4 and 5 of Ecclesiastes Solomon examined earthly institutions and came to the following conclusions:

The government: corrupt
The economy: unbalanced
Church: vain

We have a tendency to adopt a very worldly attitude about our labor. Even though we work for wages – even though we say that we “earn a living” – everything we have that’s any good is really a gift from God. It is important that we do not try to exclude God from certain areas of our lives. God demands faithfulness and His view of faithfulness is pretty extreme. Imagine a husband going away on a business trip and returning home to his wife. “Were you faithful while you were out of town, Dear?” she asks. “I sure was,” he replies. “I was 90% faithful!” I don’t think the wife would be too happy with that response. In God’s opinion, “faithful” means 100% faithful.

Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion.

Ecclesiastes 5:18

Enjoy what God has given you, but remember that God gave it to you.

Why is there such a thing as labor? Why do we “work?” God gave Adam work to do in the Garden of Eden even before sin entered the world, but labor can be frustrating. No matter how many dishes you do, there are always more dirty ones. No matter how many times you mow the grass, it always grows back.

All the labour of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled.

Ecclesiastes 6:7

It can be dissatisfying, but our contentment, our satisfaction, will never come from without.

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

Philippians 4:11

We spend so much time planning and calculating and working and scheduling our time based on what we’re going to eat, what we’re going to wear, where we’re going to live. But Christ Jesus said to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness – and all those things will be taken care of by God. If I do what God says, then God will take care of me.

For who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?

Ecclesiastes 6:12

King Solomon, writing in the Old Testament, asked these questions rhetorically. But, living on this side of the Cross – under the New Testament – we can answer these questions definitively. Who knows what’s good for us in this life? Jesus does. Who can tell us what’s going to happen to us after this life on earth is over? Jesus can.

We can answer these questions with our mouths. Now let’s answer them with our lives.

Order in a Fallen World

June 25, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Posted in Biblical friendship, Ecclesiastes | 61 Comments
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God created everything ex nihilo (out of nothing). This does not mean, however, that God created Himself, for this would be an impossibility. God is self-existent and eternal. There has never been a time when God did not exist. Therefore, the statement, ex nihilo nihil fit (out of nothing, nothing comes), is also true. God created everything out of “nothing,” in the sense that He did not find external matter outside of Himself which He then began to fashion and mold. No, He created everything that exists out of Himself, and in this sense He is “all in all” (Ephesians 1:23; Colossians 1:16-17).

King Solomon, in his wisdom, understood more about the eternal nature of God than most of us, but even he could not truly fathom its depths.

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end. I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God. I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him. That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past. And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there. I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.

Ecclesiastes 3:11-17

In Ecclesiastes Chapter 4 Solomon moved from looking at the natural order of life and things in nature, and he began to look at man’s institutions to see if there is anything man has organized under the sun that is not vanity.

1. Government

God has ordained government for the purpose of making society more peaceful than it would otherwise be, especially in a sinful world. However, human beings have been given the “charge” or “stewardship” of earthly governments, so, naturally, earthly governments are corrupt.

So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.

Ecclesiastes 4:1

2. Economy

Solomon sees one man who is hard-working, but who has no time for anything but work.

Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbour. This is also vanity and vexation of spirit.

Ecclesiastes 4:4

This man is working just to keep up with the neighbors. He is motivated by envy.

Then Solomon sees another man who enjoys the pleasures of life, but is lazy and does not work.

The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh.

Ecclesiastes 4:5

This person is too lazy even to provide for himself! He’s like one of my old friends who used to say, “I just love hard work – I could watch it all day!”

Finally, Solomon finds a man who is more balanced.

Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.

Ecclesiastes 4:6

This man doesn’t have both hands full, but he’s not empty-handed either. The Bible teaches that a balanced life is important.

Then Solomon addressed the pros and cons of working alone versus working together

There is one alone, and there is not a second; yea, he hath neither child nor brother: yet is there no end of all his labour; neither is his eye satisfied with riches; neither saith he, For whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good? This is also vanity, yea, it is a sore travail. Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

It’s strange to me to think that we live a world with something like 7.7 billion people in it, and yet supposedly one the greatest mental health problems is loneliness. If you ever feel lonely, you can call my house and I’ll put you on speaker-phone. I have a wife and a five year old daughter, and it’s hard to be lonely in the middle of constant talking! But, seriously, God has put something in us that cries out for companionship – for togetherness – for fellowship. Social workers and child abuse experts will tell you that newborn babies in a neglectfully dysfunctional environment, who are not held, and who are kept in cruel isolation for long periods of time, have some of the worst problems and mental disorders later in life.

A summation of Solomon’s view on companionship in labor is that there is vanity in working for the wrong reasons, but it’s better to work hard than to be lazy, and that many hands make light work and lighter hearts.

3. Church

We would expect vanity and corruption in man-made institutions such as government and economy, but we should work hard to keep it out of our church congregations. There is no place for vanity in worship.

Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.

Ecclesiastes 5:1

Keep thy foot = watch your step. Don’t take going to church lightly. When you get there, put more emphasis on listening to what God is saying to you, than on telling others what you want to say. We are guilty of “the sacrifice of fools” if we come to church and make an outward show of worship while we have unconfessed sin in our lives. It’s the sacrifice of fools because we are fools if we think we can deceive God.

… to obey is better than to sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

I Samuel 15:22

Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.

Ecclesiastes 5:2

This is a reminder to us to be reverent before God, and to take worshiping Him seriously.

Lord, I thank You that life is emptiness and vanity only from the perspective of “under the sun.” Please help us to keep our focus on things above (Colossians 3:2) – things that are good and edifying and Godly – and keep us from becoming preoccupied with the things of this world. Help us to put away our idols. If we can’t do it, Lord, tear them away. They’re only hurting us, anyway, by keeping us from You. In the Name of the Lord Jesus I pray. Amen.


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