Friday, October 31, 2014

You Choose Your Own Destiny

Proverbs 1:20-33

“Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets: She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying, How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?  Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.” (Proverbs 1:20-23)

Wisdom is defined as Judging rightly and following the soundest course of action based on knowledge, experience, and understanding according to Webster’s New World College Dictionary, frequently referred to as common sense.  Unfortunately, as has been stated repeatedly, “there is nothing so uncommon as common sense.”

It is not like the necessary teaching and experience is not available.  Everywhere we look in life we see examples of what happens as a result of different actions.    If we just pay attention, we can see what happens when a person places too much weight on a shelf or how people react when we hit them.  We can then predict what will happen when the same things are done in another situation and decide whether that is what we want to happen. 

Thoughtless and foolish people go through life without paying attention to things around them.  Because they had not observed that the tree had died and begun to rot, they are caught unprepared when it falls on their house.   Because they ignore the fact that an ice storm may knock down the power lines they are caught with no heat during winter storms.    Foolishly they make fun of those who try to warn them of the consequences of their actions, and refuse to learn from the things they see around them.  

There is a saying that life is hard, but it is a lot harder when you are stupid.  When you refuse to learn from the things around you and from other people’s experiences, you force yourself to go through unnecessary hardship.   The natural events continue to happen and give us examples that we can learn from, enabling us to develop a new attitude or spirit toward what is happening and making it easier to learn.  It is impossible to teach people who don’t want to learn.

“Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you.” (Proverbs 1:24-27)

Because people have deliberately ignored the examples and experiences they have had, refusing to learn from them, joking about it and mocking those who try to warn them, nature itself will make a joke of them.  When they panic over what is happening they will be unable to find effective answers because they have refused to learn.  Ultimately they will be destroyed by their failure to learn.

“Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof.” (Proverbs 1:28-30)

When disaster strikes and they finally realize they could have avoided the problems, it will be too late to resolve them.  Because they have refused to recognize God’s power and principles and assumed they could make thing s work as they wanted them, all they can do at that point is suffer the consequences of not having taken proper action earlier, waiting until things recover.    

“Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.  For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.   But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.” (Proverbs 1:31-33)

People tend to develop a victim mentality that the things they go through are not their fault, but of those around them.  The reality is that while bad things may have happened to you, it is your choice how you react to them and how they affect you.   No matter what you were taught or how you were treated as a child or what happened to your ancestors, it is your own choice whether you continue to follow that same way of acting.  If you want real change you have to learn to do things differently.  You can’t just change the rules.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Introduction to Proverbs

Proverbs 1:1-19

“The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel; To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; To give subtlety to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.” (Proverbs 1:1-4)

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon describes the human state and what is required to make people happy.  After a great deal of study and observation he concluded “…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 12:13-12)

He had observed that the things done here on the earth were only temporary and their only real value would be in how they were judged by God.  Because he cared about the people he condensed the things he had learned about what is required to have a happy and good life into various easily remembered proverbs to enable future generations to learn without having to find out everything the hard way.  Ecclesiastes 12:8-10 explains.  “Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.  And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs.  The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth.”

He has written the book of proverbs to enable a person distinguish between legitimate information or advice and hyperbole. To recognize the difference between a person who knows whereof he speaks and one who tries to make people think he knows.  They are intended to teach him to make wise choices, to learn what real justice is, and how to make proper judgments, and to be truly fair. 

Solomon is writing this book from the stand point of a father teaching his son, but it is important to understand these teachings are just as relevant for a young woman.   Contrary to what some would like us to believe, it is not chauvinistic.

“A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.  The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:5-7)

A truly smart person will listen to and learn from other people, taking the time to understand both the proverb and its meaning, even when the meaning is obscure.  The fool, on the other hand, isn’t interested in what others could teach him.  In his pride, the fool believes that he is smart enough that he can make things happen others couldn’t do because they are not as smart as he is.   

Real wisdom starts with an understanding that there is a power and wisdom greater than our own, a God who controls all things.  All of modern science originated in the understanding that there was a god who logically designed the world to follow certain predictable rules without fail.  It is that logic and consistence that makes any science possible.  If things can occur at random, it is impossible to predict the outcome of any action.  Thus, the belief in some kind of god is the very basis for learning and wisdom, and the god you choose will affect how much you learn and develop, determining how you approach different subjects.    Solomon advises to start with God as a basis for our learning. 

“My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.” (Proverbs 1:8-9)

The first teachers should be one’s parents.  Unfortunately, as children grow, many times outside influences lead them to believe their parents beliefs and standards are not as good as those of others.  Solomon says that it is those original teachings and standards that will one day make us stand out from those around us like a nice hat or a beautiful necklace. 

“My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.  If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause: Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit: We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil: Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse: My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path: For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood.” (Proverbs 1:10-16)

This piece of advice is especially apropos for our day.  He advises that young people avoid associating with groups such as gangs, or rallys that advocate violence and looting.  While it sounds justified and worthwhile, ultimately they are just criminals, looking for an opportunity to commit a crime. 

“Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird.  And they lay wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives.  So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof.” (Proverbs 1:17-19)

We sometimes refer to a foolish person as a birdbrain, but even a bird will avoid an obvious trap.  Looting and violence are obvious traps that lead to arrest or death of those who commit them.  It is stupid to get involved.  Ultimately, anyone who gets greedy runs the same risk.  I Timothy 6:9 warns, “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.”  The promises aren’t worth the cost. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Summation Of Man’s Responsibility

Ecclesiastes 12:1-14

“Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain: In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened, And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low; Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets: Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.  Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1-7)

Many young people think being a Christian is for old people.  Solomon says the time to serve the Lord is while you are still young enough to do something worthwhile, before it gets to the point where you cannot enjoy life.   Serve him while you can still enjoy the brightness of the sun or the moon and are not always depressed, feeling like the trouble just never ends. 

If he lives that long, one day the young person will reach a point where his hands begin to tremble and his legs can hardly support his weight.   His teeth will fall out or break, making it hard to eat, and cataracts or other eye problems will make it difficult to see.   His hearing will deteriorate so that he can hardly hear the noises of everyday life, while hearing other sounds so loudly they cause a moment of panic even though he can barely follow a conversation or hear music.  As they age, they become less sure of their balance and strength, and even a couple of stairs become a frightening affair.  Fear becomes a constant companion, and hair turns white like almond blossoms.  Weights they didn’t even think about become heavy burdens because he is nearing his entrance into eternity.  It is just a matter of time before he loses muscular control, or his mind goes.  Heart valves may stop functioning so there is not enough blood flow, or the heart may just stop. 

Since we don’t know when the time will come that we will be unable to serve God, the time to turn to him is while we are young and we are still able.  If we wait, we may never get another chance to turn, or we may be unable to do anything when we do.

“Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.  And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs.  The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth.” (Ecclesiastes 12:8-10)
Realizing how temporary everything man does is, Solomon says it is vain to think we can really change the world.   All we can do is effect temporary changes for the benefit of ourselves and those around us.  Because he was wise enough to understand that he couldn’t effect those changes permanently, he spent the time to teach the people what they would need to know to obtain the best life possible.  He tried to put that wisdom in the form of short, easily learned and remembered statements or proverbs that they could teach their children.   The teachings were the result of observation and had been tested and were expressed in the clearest and most precise words he could find to avoid misunderstanding.
“The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.  And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” (Ecclesiastes 12:11-12)

The proverbs and teaching of wise men are like a stick used to direct a team of oxen, or like a peg for hanging weights on for weighing things, that are passed from one shepherd to another to be sure they get the same weight.  In addition there are an endless supply of writings by other men, from which we can learn but understand that we will never know it all, and trying to will be frustrating and exhausting. 

“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)

What it all boils down to is that man’s whole responsibility is to fear (respect) God enough to keep his commandments.  Revelation 4:11 states, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”  Like everything else, mankind was created to please God.  If a man does not, he has failed, and when he is judged for what he has done his life will be meaningless.  The judgment will not just be of the public things, but of every secret thing he has done.  Matthew 12:36 makes it clear it will not only be the physical actions but even the things we thought about and said.  “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.”

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Living This Life

Ecclesiastes 11:1-10

“Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.  Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.  If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.  He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.” (Ecclesiastes 11:1-4)

There is no way of telling how many people have been afraid to make an investment because they might need or want the money for something else.  Solomon says to go ahead and take the chance because sooner or later it will pay off.  He does say to diversify those investments because one never knows what will happen and which investment will pay off.  Just as the clouds produce rain if conditions are right, the investment will pay off, and will not if they are not right. 

Unfortunately, we can’t change the result once things have happened, any more than we can change where a falling tree landed after it hits the ground.  A person who spends all his time worrying about what might happen and trying to avoid every possible risk will never make the investment or reap the benefits.  In II Corinthians 9:6, we are told, “…He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.”  It is impossible for the person who never plants to harvest a crop.  It is impossible to produce a profit without investing something. And how much is produced will be directly related to what was invested. 

“As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.  In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.” (Ecclesiastes 11:5-6)

Even though they can clone an animal or plant, and can fertilize a woman’s egg to produce a baby, scientists and doctors still have to start with a viable egg because they do not know how to produce life itself.  Though they can map the genetic code for a person, they still don’t understand exactly how the code causes some cells to become bone cells and others to become brain or muscle cells.  We don’t understand how God has made the rest of the world to work any better.  As a result, all we can do is go ahead with our life and do our best.  We have no way of knowing which efforts will work and or which ones will not. 

“Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun: But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity. ” (Ecclesiastes 11:7-8)

Death is a part of life, as Hebrews 9:27 says.  “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”  No matter how well we have lived or how much we have enjoyed our life, we are still going to die, and after death, will be judged for how we have lived.  Many people get focused on getting more things as they get older,  We need to remember that we are going to die, and as Paul states in I Timothy 6:7, “…we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.”  that focus on having so many things is just a waste of time. 

“Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.  Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity. ” (Ecclesiastes 11:9-10)

Many young people are not thinking about death, but only about having a good time.  While it is really stupid not to enjoy life, they need to understand that they also will die, and that they will be judged for what they have done as well.   With that in mind, they need to avoid dwelling on the things that have hurt them or their regrets for what they have done, making them right when possible.  They need to avoid anything that is evil or cruel, recognizing that being young is only temporary and is wasted if they don’t mature. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Contrasting Wise And Foolish Behavior

Ecclesiastes 10:12-20

“The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.  The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness: and the end of his talk is mischievous madness.  A fool also is full of words: a man cannot tell what shall be; and what shall be after him, who can tell him?  The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the city.” (Ecclesiastes 10:12-15)

One of the easiest ways of telling whether a person is wise or foolish is to listen to their talk.  A wise person’s words are polite, kind, and in good taste.  The fool says things that are rude, offensive and cruel, resulting in fights and people avoiding him.  Their opinions have little relation to fact, and tend to ignore or even gloat in the trouble they cause other people.  They always have an opinion and never question whether it is right, assuming everything will continue just as it is at the moment. 

Because he doesn’t know what he is doing and will not admit he doesn’t know, the fool exhausts his resources unnecessarily.  He will not accept other people’s suggestions or ask advice when he doesn’t know something.  Literally, they won’t even ask directions or check a map to see how to get where they want to go, often driving miles out of the way, even after they realize they are on the wrong road.

“Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning!  Blessed art thou, O land, when thy king is the son of nobles, and thy princes eat in due season, for strength, and not for drunkenness!” (Ecclesiastes 10:16-17)

An inexperienced or Immature leader devotes his energies to accomplishing relatively minor tasks or ineffective programs, neglecting far more important things.  Legislators who place their own comfort or agenda ahead of the state, going out for breakfast instead of getting down to business pass laws that benefit small special interests at the expense of the majority of the people.   The results are disastrous for the nation or state. 

 When the ruler of leader has a background of high moral character and leadership qualities, he tends to devote his energies to things that matter, and use his resources wisely.  When the legislators and bureaucrats are focused on what is needed rather than on their own greed, taking only what is necessary rather than trying to become rich, the nation prospers greatly. 

“By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through.” (Ecclesiastes 10:18)

The second Law of Thermodynamics essentially states that everything deteriorates.   Buildings deteriorate just like everything else, but the process is fairly slow so regular maintenance can keep it in good shape.  Serious decay and deterioration indicates that needed maintenance has not been performed for a protracted period.   A collapsed roof indicates the owners have been too lazy to do even minimal maintenance for many years.  Houses that were built hundreds of years ago are still standing because the owners took care of them.    Taking care of business can prevent most problems.

“A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things.” (Ecclesiastes 10:19)

People hold parties to have fun, and a few drinks of wine can make person feel really good for a little while.  Money has a far greater impact than either one, and can divert people’s attention, even from far more important things.   In I Timothy 6:9-10, Paul warned, “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.  For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” 

To see why something is being done it is always wise to “follow the money” to see who is benefitting from a specific action.  Doing so often reveals that the intent of the action was not what was described.  The desire for money can totally disrupt what you are trying to do.

“Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.” (Ecclesiastes 10:20)

Understand that a secret isn’t secret once someone else knows it.  Things that were said in a private conversation may be overheard and repeated, and things that were written in a private diary may become public knowledge.  It is better not to say things other people might take offense about because there is no way to be sure they will not find out you said them.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Pay Attention To hwat You Are Doing

Ecclesiastes 10:1-11

“Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.” (Ecclesiastes 10:1)

An apothecary or pharmacist mixed the various medications, salves lotions and perfumes people used.   Flies were attracted to the smells of his perfumes and if they were able to get into the container, the smell of their decaying bodies would often overpower the odor of the perfume or lotion making it worthless.  In the same way, a little foolish behavior can destroy people’s respect.  Just as dead flies can ruing a wonderful perfume a little bit of sin can destroy a great endeavor.  Ecclesiastes 9:18 warns, “Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.”  One adulterer or thief can destroy a church or business.

“A wise man's heart is at his right hand; but a fool's heart at his left.   Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way, his wisdom faileth him, and he saith to every one that he is a fool.” (Ecclesiastes 10:2-3)

Traditionally, the Kings most important advisor or general sat at his right hand, giving us the term “right hand man.”  This placed the king was on the right of the person approaching him, but on the left of the advisor.  To reverse the positions symbolically implied that the advisor was the final authority rather than the king.  A wise man considers his heart, and feelings but does not let them control him.  The foolish man allows his feelings to control his actions, and as Jeremiah 17:9 warns us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

Because the fool depends on his emotions rather than his intelligence, the lack of thought is revealed by the results of his actions and speech.  It’s almost like he goes around with a sign saying look how dumb I am.  Unfortunately we have a world that is telling our children to just follow their heart, resulting in a lot of stupid decisions.

“If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding pacifieth great offences.” (Ecclesiastes 10:4)

Even when they are unfair, complying with government demands is usually a better choice than resisting.  Resistance builds resolve while yielding sometimes leaves them with nothing to fight, frequently resulting in consideration of your position.    
“There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, as an error which proceedeth from the ruler: Folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in low place.  I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth.” (Ecclesiastes 10:5-7)

A major problem is the result of government action.  Far too often men with no understanding or practical experience are placed in important and powerful positions, while men who have been successful in similar positions are ignored.  As a result, low level bureaucrats and unemployed people drive around in more expensive vehicles than successful business owners.   

“He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it; and whoso breaketh an hedge, a serpent shall bite him.   Whoso removeth stones shall be hurt therewith; and he that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby.   If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct.  Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler is no better.” (Ecclesiastes 10:8-11)

Any action we take produces various effects beside the particular one we were interested in.  These unintended consequences can be quite severe.  One can accidentally fall into a hole they just dug or the edges can collapse.  In pushing through a hedge or dense shrubbery one may disturb a poisonous snake.  The axe can glance off and injure a person who is chopping wood or a piece of metal or stone embedded in it may fly up and injure him.  Failure to sharpen a knife or other tool forces one to exert more force, increasing the danger of slipping.  Wisdom can enable a person to avoid many of those unintended consequences, but just as a deadly snake will bite you unless action is taken to prevent it, action without adequate thought will result in frequent injuries. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Enjoy What You Have While You Can

Ecclesiastes 9:1-18

“For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God: no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them.” (Ecclesiastes 9:1)

As Solomon pondered the these things he realized that ultimately God was in control of those who did what was right and were wise, directing them in the proper way.  He realized that prejudices and attitudes were not handed down genetically but are learned.  Mankind chooses what they wish to believe and do.   It is why the same family can produce a drug addict or murderer and a police officer.  They made different choices.

“All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath.

This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead.” (Ecclesiastes 9:2-3)

Hebrews 9:27 says, “…it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”  Solomon points out that every person dies, whether good or bad, regardless of their religion, moral standards, or sincerity.  On the surface it seems unfair, but in reality, evil lurks in the heart of the best.  Romans 3:10-12 declares, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.  They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”   As Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death.”   Once they die, man is unable to change anything.     

“For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion.  For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.   Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 9:4-6)

As long as a person is alive, there is hope that he can do something, regardless how weak he may seem.  Once he is dead his strength vanishes regardless how strong he once was.  Even a Chihuahua can eat a dead lion.   Living people, are aware of the possibility of death, but those who are dead don’t even have that much awareness.  A posthumous award means nothing to a dead man.  He is soon forgotten and his attitudes and actions no longer affect people on the earth.  Their part on earth is finished.   Contrary to what many believe, their spirits are not hovering around guiding or terrorizing the living.  Their not turning over in their graves.

“Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.  Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment.  Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 9:7-9)

If one is to enjoy their life they need to do it while they are healthy and can.  At the same time, they can still do things to please God.  The family and belongings one has are what God has provided and are what he wants the person to have,  We can either be thankful for what we have, and enjoy our lives or we can complain about not having as much as others and be miserable. 

“I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.  For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11-12)

There is an old saying that there never was a horse that couldn’t be ridden or a cowboy that couldn’t be thrown.  The point is that no matter how skilled or wise one is, things can happen that prevent success.  A fire or other disaster can destroy a home.  A new technology can make a business obsolete, or a change in government regulations can force a successful business out of business.  Nobody can guarantee how long they will be successful.  Instead of depending on future success, we need to enjoy what we have at the moment. 

“This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it seemed great unto me: There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it: Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.
Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.  The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools.  Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.” (Ecclesiastes 9:13-18)

A wise man can accomplish a great deal, even defeating a powerful army because of his wisdom, even though he has little money. Ultimately, wisdom is more valuable than money or power, but it tends to be ignored because people are more impressed with power or money.  Quiet thoughtful people are more likely to listen to a wise person than foolish and thoughtless people are to even a great and powerful king.  Wisdom is better than a powerful and well equipped army, but one wicked person can make even the best plans and weapons fail.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Finite Minds Must Learn To Trust God

Ecclesiastes 8:1-17

“Who is as the wise man? and who knoweth the interpretation of a thing? a man's wisdom maketh his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed.” (Ecclesiastes 8:1)

Wisdom gives people a different aspect than other people.  It changes a person’s attitude so that Instead of pride or fear, he has confidence that he can figure out what needs to be done, dealing with whatever problems arise.  He doesn’t panic or get angry when something doesn’t go as expected because of his confidence.  As a result people tend to come to him for leadership.

“I counsel thee to keep the king's commandment, and that in regard of the oath of God.  Be not hasty to go out of his sight: stand not in an evil thing; for he doeth whatsoever pleaseth him.  Where the word of a king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What doest thou?  Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man's heart discerneth both time and judgment. ” (Ecclesiastes 8:2- 5)

Romans 13:1-4 commands, ”Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.  For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.  Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.  For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”

In rebelling against those who are our rulers, we are rebelling against God’s power.  Ultimately his power comes from god and he is responsible to God for how he uses it.   We should not rush into civil disobedience or doing wrong and should be careful about challenging his authority.    If we are doing what is right, we are unlikely to be punished for it.  While government rules are frequently arbitrary and counterproductive, a wise man will consider whether a refusal to obey is really worthwhile. 

“Because to every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore the misery of man is great upon him.  For he knoweth not that which shall be: for who can tell him when it shall be?  There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war; neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it.” (Ecclesiastes 8:6-8)

Every action produces consequences and even a good action done at the wrong time or place can cause a great many problems.  Frequently these problems are unforeseeable so that what was believed to be a solution turns out to cause bigger problems instead.  Man’s power is limited so that he cannot prevent death, despite even the best doctor’s efforts.  He cannot even guarantee that attempts to commit suicide or delay his death will be successful, and no one can escape death.  Not even selling oneself to the devil will enable one to escape death.   

“All this have I seen, and applied my heart unto every work that is done under the sun: there is a time wherein one man ruleth over another to his own hurt.” (Ecclesiastes 8:9)  

Many people think that if they could just make other people do things their way they could solve all their problems.  Frequently the opposite is true.  A controlling spouse or parent almost always causes resentment and rebellion, and frequently ignores the suggestions and thought s of their mate or children, leading to serious mistakes.  Controlling employers or political figures ignore people who know far more about the situation than they do with the result that they hurt their business or country. 

“And so I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of the holy, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done: this is also vanity. ” (Ecclesiastes 8:10)  

Wicked people often make a big deal about going to church.  Solomon is saying id didn’t benefit them.  They died just like everyone else and nobody even remembered their going to church.  Even their own neighbors and city forgot about them. 
“Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” (Ecclesiastes 8:11)

When wrong doing is not immediately dealt with there are several things that happen.  First, the guilty party is left with the impression that what they have done is not serious.  When they finally are punished, they have trouble associating the punishment with the action, sometimes even forgetting about what they have done, and feel that they are being unjustly treated.  And since it wasn’t important enough to deal with immediately, the punishment seems excessive.  This results in a rebellious attitude and deliberate sin.

“Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him: But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God.

There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just men, unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men, to whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous: I said that this also is vanity. ” (Ecclesiastes 8:12-14)  

Many times we are unable to do anything about the wrongs we see being committed and become frustrated.  We need to realize that they are not getting by with what they are doing.  Even if they live many years and commit the same sin repeatedly, eventually God will judge him, and his life will be very short compared to the time of judgment.  Those who have obeyed God will be blessed despite the suffering they are experiencing at the moment.  Many times those who do right suffer on earth as if they were doing wrong and those who do wrong do as well as those who try to do right.   It seems so wasteful and hopeless, but we can trust God to make it right.

“Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun. ” (Ecclesiastes 8:15)  

Since the world had nothing more to offer than to enjoy the life one has, Solomon decided laughing and having fun would be the best way to go.  All that he will have left of his accomplishments will be his memories so he should make them as happy as possible.   

“When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth: (for also there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes:)  Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea farther; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.” (Ecclesiastes 8:16-17)  

No matter how intelligent a person is, ultimately they will never be able to understand all god’s plans and actions, even if they spend night and day trying.   God is so much smarter than we are that we can’t even comprehend how much he knows, much less know it all. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Value Of Wisdom

Ecclesiastes 7:11-29

“Wisdom is good with an inheritance: and by it there is profit to them that see the sun.  For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.” (Ecclesiastes 7:11-12)

Either wisdom or money provide a level of security in an unstable world.  When they are combined they provide a high level of protection from most of the world’s problems, almost ensuring success.  Knowledge is composed of the facts about a situation, for example knowing the different letters and the sounds the make.   Wisdom is the understanding of how to combine the facts to accomplish a goal, for example combining the sounds of the letters in order to read what is written.   Without the ability to combine the letters the person will never learn to read, but without the knowledge of the various letters, his reading ability will be severely restricted.  The more knowledge a person has the better they can use their wisdom to extend and improve their life. 

“Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?  In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.” (Ecclesiastes 7:13-14)

It is critical that we recognize our human limitations if we are to be happy or find meaning in our lives.  There are things mankind has little or no power to control.  Only god can control the weather or the motions of the planets for example.  Our efforts to control global warming are more likely to cause other, equally serious problems than they are to stop climate change.  If they can’t even fix our economy, how can they fix a far more complex system over which they have even less control?

Instead of getting frustrated over the lack of control, we need to enjoy the things that go well.  When things are out of our control we need to realize they are under God’s and that he has deliberately made them so that we can’t control the future, because, as Genesis 6:5 says, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”  If man could control the future, he would build it according to what he imagines and evil would grow in a never ending cycle.  Instead of being frustrated, we ought to be relieved that man can’t control everything. 

“All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness.

Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?  Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time?  It is good that thou shouldest take hold of this; yea, also from this withdraw not thine hand: for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all.
Wisdom strengtheneth the wise more than ten mighty men which are in the city.  For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.” (Ecclesiastes 7:15-20)

Life isn’t fair.  Sometimes people who do everything properly die young and sometimes evil people live long healthy lives.  If we can understand that, we can stop blaming ourselves for everything that goes wrong.  We can escape the treadmill of trying to be perfect.   Many times those who are trying to be perfect go to the other extreme when they can’t measure up to their idea of perfection.  Solomon says a middle course is more satisfactory, with no extremes of either good or evil.  Those extremes will eventually destroy us.

Learning to trust God will prevent us going to either extreme, protecting us from destruction.  There is no human on the earth who does not sin, whether Christian or not.  Understanding that It is God who saves us from our sin and keeps us saved does more to keep us on track and happy than the strength of ten men to do what is right could ever do for us.

“Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee: For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others.” (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22)

Learning not to pay attention to what others are talking about avoids a lot of emotional distress.  If we pay attention, we are likely to hear things, even from those who are close to us that hurt our feelings.  When we do, we need to think about how badly others would have been hurt had they heard things we said about them, even when we had no intention of hurting them.  Happiness is dependent on learning not to take offense over such things.

“All this have I proved by wisdom: I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me.  That which is far off, and exceeding deep, who can find it out?

I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness: And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her.” (Ecclesiastes 7:23-26)

Solomon set out to find answers to every problem, but found out that there was so much involved that he wasn’t able to understand the complexities of many of the things.    One thing he did learn was that even death was preferable to coming under the control of a selfish or greedy person.  Fortunately, the efforts to please God will enable one to escape such people’s power, both by their attitude and because God will help them.  Those who forget about God fall under such people’s influence. 

“Behold, this have I found, saith the preacher, counting one by one, to find out the account: Which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found.” (Ecclesiastes 7:27-28)

A proper attitude toward God is exceedingly rare.  In a survey of a Thousand man and a thousand women, Solomon found one man and no women who had a proper attitude toward God.  Humans are by nature selfish.   

“Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” (Ecclesiastes 7:29)

When God created mankind they were without sin, and every baby is born the same way, but it doesn’t take long for them to begin to adopt the selfish and sinful attitudes of those around them.  Socialism inevitably fails because it is based on the lie that selfishness is a learned reaction and not the underlying attitude of people.  Capitalism succeeds because it is based on greed.   Neither system is good, but capitalism works after a fashion.  Socialism soon becomes a perverted form of capitalism, benefiting only the leaders.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Better Things

Ecclesiastes 7:1-10

“A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth.   It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.” (Ecclesiastes 7:1-2)

We live in a world where appearance is considered more important than substance.  We are often reminded you never get a second chance at making a first impression.  As a result, vast amounts are spent of designer clothing, makeup and hair styling products and deodorants and colognes to produce the desired impression.  Solomon makes the point that what a person is really like is far more important than how he looks or smells.  His reputation based on what people who know him believe him to be rather than on the first impression, and is far more important in determining a person’s worth.

Understanding that reality is more important than illusion, he says the day of death is better than the day of birth because when a child is born, no one knows how he will turn out but at death they know what he really is.  Going to a funeral or home where someone has died is better than going to a party, because the party is based on an illusion that everything is wonderful while the family that is grieving has to face reality, that everyman will die one day and will have to give an account one day.

“Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.  The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” (Ecclesiastes 7:3-4)

People seldom think seriously about things when they are laughing and joking about them.   Jokes and comedy are designed to get our minds off serious matters.  Only fools ignore reality and pretend it is all a joke.  Intelligent people face reality and try to make it better.  By facing the reality, he is able to to change his attitude and actions to make things better.  The popularity of comedy in our society is a disturbing commentary on the lack of maturity and

“It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.  For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 7:5-6)

No one likes to have be corrected, but it is better to have a man who knows what he is talking about tell you that you are wrong than to have lots of people who don’t have a clue saying you are right, even though is its pleasant to hear them.  All the laughing and encouragement from people who know nothing about the subject is as worthless as the exploding of trapped pockets of moisture in weeds when they are thrown in the fire.  All they accomplish is making some noise.

“Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad; and a gift destroyeth the heart.” (Ecclesiastes 7:7)

Forcing people who have plans and ideas of their own to do things somebody else’s way always creates resentment and frustration, implying they are too stupid to make their own decisions.  Although nobody likes being told they are stupid, most politicians and bosses never seem to understand that it is their approach that has caused revolution throughout history.   

People who took care of their own health would resent the Obama care program simply because it takes away their ability to make the choices they felt were best, even if it provided better care than they could get for themselves.   If it had been presented as a possible alternative, people would have examined it and if it seemed like a better deal would have flocked to it, but because they were forced to accept it with no chance to compare it to other alternatives they have rebelled.   The entire conflict is the result of politicians who are more concerned with demonstrating their power than with what the people need or want.   The same principle applies at every level of life.  A reputation for disregarding other people’s opinions makes life a lot harder.
For most people a gift causes a sense of moral obligation to the giver, and some people play on that sense of obligation.  A salesman may offer a gift to get you to listen to his spiel, or a fund raising organization may send a free pen or some mailing labels to make you feel obligated to donate.    Lobbyists donate vast amounts of money to political candidates in hopes of gaining their support for some desired legislation.  Solomon warns that that gift, even if not specified as a bribe, interferes with one’s objectivity and moral standard.   Accepting gifts destroys one’s reputation.

“Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.   Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.” (Ecclesiastes 7:8-9)

Nearly everyone realizes how much better the completion of a highway construction project is than the beginning.  Finally one can use the new road instead of having to deal with the orange barrels and traffic delays.   In the same way, when a stage of life is completed, we no longer have to constantly deal with the same problems. 

People who rush into a decision without finding out the facts make poor decisions.  Pride leads them to believe they know more than other people s don’t need the information.  Anger distorts one’s judgment, leading to bad decisions.  Unfortunately foolish people depend on their anger to get their way rather than on logical solutions. 
“Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this.” (Ecclesiastes 7:10)

A lot of people go through life complaining that things were better in the past.  Solomon says it is not wise to focus on the past.  We can learn from the past, but we can’t change it.   Since then other things have happened and we have to deal with the results.  Much as my grandfather resented automobiles and machinery, it had been invented, and if he was to successfully compete, he had to adapt to using those machines.  Horses simply could not pull a wagon as fast as a truck could go.  

Every technological advance has both positive and negative aspects.  The trucks created more dust and pollution, required better roads, and cost more to operate, but they also hauled more for longer distances, greatly expanding the available markets and potential profit.    While technology has eliminated a lot of job opportunities, it has also made life easier in many ways.  We no longer have to carry water or cut firewood to heat our homes.     While some aspects of modern life are worse, others are better.   Instead of fighting it try to make the best of it.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Making A Better Choice

Ecclesiastes 6:1-12

“There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men: A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honour, so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it: this is vanity, and it is an evil disease.” (Ecclesiastes 6:1-2)

Many times things happen to a person who has been successful and gotten enough so he doesn’t have to worry before he gets to enjoy them, and someone else gets all the benefit.   It doesn’t matter whether it is the result of theft, sickness or a death, natural disasters, or government regulations and taxes, it seems like a waste of time to even try.  It is unfair and evil that those who are doing what is right lose so much.

“If a man beget an hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he.  For he cometh in with vanity, and departeth in darkness, and his name shall be covered with darkness.  Moreover he hath not seen the sun, nor known any thing: this hath more rest than the other.  Yea, though he live a thousand years twice told, yet hath he seen no good: do not all go to one place?” (Ecclesiastes 6:3-6)

Solomon says that a baby that was born before it could survive is better off than a person who goes through life and doesn’t enjoy it, no matter how long he lives.  The stillborn baby hasn’t seen the sun and in eternity, will have no memories of unhappiness.  The person who has never learned to enjoy what he has will have nothing but memories of unhappiness throughout eternity.  Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.”  Our attitude and thoughts determine whether we are happy or miserable, not our circumstances.  Some of the most miserable people are better off than those who are happy.  Imagine being stuck with that attitude for eternity.

“All the labour of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled.  For what hath the wise more than the fool? what hath the poor, that knoweth to walk before the living?  Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this is also vanity and vexation of spirit.” (Ecclesiastes 6:7-9)

Ultimately every person is working to meet his own desires and needs.  He doesn’t work just to have something to make time pass faster.  He keeps on doing the things he does because his desires are not satisfied, and that is true whether he is wise or foolish, rich or poor.  The poor person realizes the dead have nothing to offer, and seeks living people who can help him.   It is better to enjoy what you have than to be thinking about what you would like to have. 
I Timothy 1:7-9 reminds us, “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.  And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.   But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.”  Focusing on things we don’t have makes us unhappy and leads to doing things that will ultimately destroy us. 

“That which hath been is named already, and it is known that it is man: neither may he contend with him that is mightier than he.  Seeing there be many things that increase vanity, what is man the better?  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 6:10-12)

I Corinthians 10:13 declares, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man…”  The struggles we face are not new, but have been experienced by people throughout history.  Job 5:7 says, “Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.”  Trouble is part of being alive and there is no way of avoiding problems but there are a lot of things that make them worse.  Even our biggest advances in technology create new problems so that it becomes a question whether they really helped or not.  Many who have made vast amounts of money and moved in prestigious social circles seek out secluded areas where they farm or do various arts and crafts to get away from the rat race.  They are no longer willing to devote their lives to such unsatisfactory pursuits, understanding they won’t matter in the long run. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Developing A Meaningful Life

Ecclesiastes 5:1-20

“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.   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.  For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool's voice is known by multitude of words.” (Ecclesiastes 5:1-3)

Many times people go to a church or cathedral at an emotional time of their lives.  Other times the speaker or music program evokes a tremendous emotional response.  Under the grip of their emotions people frequently make promises they would not otherwise have made.  Solomon warns not ot allow such emotional feelings to cause us to make such promises because doing so is evil.    It is better to not say anything than to commit to something without a real commitment to do it.  Only a fool makes promises without being sure he can and will keep his promise.  Proverbs 10:19 warns, “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.”  Dreams reveal what a person is thinking about, and a lot of words show a lack of careful thought.

“When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed.  Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.  Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?  For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.” (Ecclesiastes 5:4-7)

God is not pleased with foolish promises.  He expects people to keep them and will punish those who do not.  It is better not to make the promise than to make it not keep it.   I made a mistake or I didn’t realize what it would require is not an acceptable excuse.   Why deliberately do things that make God angry and cause him to reject what you have done?    Dreams and words are worthless without action.

“If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they.  Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field.” (Ecclesiastes 5:8-9)

It is frustrating to watch people being taken advantage of by those in power, but frequently one is unable to do much to prevent it, especially when political figures or governmental agencies are involved.  No matter how much power they have, he has more, and will hold them to account one day.    Frequently those in power forget they are dependent on those who do the most menial of jobs for their very life.  Their food is produced by the laborer thy abuse.   Any profit is for all the people, not just the ruler or boss. 

“He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.  When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?” (Ecclesiastes 5:10-11)

A hoarder or miser will never have enough to satisfy him.  There will always be something he doesn’t have yet or some situation he hasn’t planned for.  The more he owns, the harder it is to take care of it all,  It becomes necessary to have storage facilities and security guards, accountants and lawyers to keep track of everything, which are quite expensive.  Eventually much of the stuff is no longer useful, and becomes just something to gloat about but serves no useful purpose. 
“The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.” (Ecclesiastes 5:12)

The man who has to work for his living is physically tired and sleeps well, even if he didn’t get enough to eat, but the rich man had someone else do all the work and isn’t tired enough to go to sleep.  Instead he spends the night worrying about someone taking what he has or where he is going to put it. 

“There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt.  But those riches perish by evil travail: and he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand.  ” (Ecclesiastes 5:13-14)

People can get so caught up in saving things they hurt themselves.  When a woman died of starvation in Missouri, they found a can with ninety thousand dollars in cash under her sink.  She chose to die rather than spend her money.  A man I know spent so much moving things he has=d collected over the years that he was forced to file bankruptcy.  Others have had their homes condemned as unsafe because of the amount of things they have hoarded.  New designs and deterioration make the things they have saved worthless, and they have nothing left of value to pass on to their children. 

“As he came forth of his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand.  And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind?  All his days also he eateth in darkness, and he hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness.” (Ecclesiastes 5:15-17)

It is a terrible thing that a person would waste their entire life accumulating belongings, because when they die, they will take no more with them than they brought when they were born.  At birth they weren’t even wearing any clothing.  When they die, the old clothes and personal belongings will be left behind with their body, to be disposed of as others see fit.  Everything he has accumulated will be worthless to him in that day.  The world has the idea that the man who dies with the most toys wins, but the reality is he is just as dead as anyone else, and somebody else gets all his toys.  His obsession with getting things is like disease that causes him to sacrifice his happiness and health getting and worrying about all the things he had, but he just as well have been trying to save the wind. 

“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.  Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God.  For he shall not much remember the days of his life; because God answereth him in the joy of his heart.” (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20)

It would be far better for a person to spend his earnings for food or drink and enjoy what he earned than to hoard it.  God has given him the things he has to enjoy them as a reward for his effort.   He can choose to remember the blessings and his life will seem short and sweet, or he can focus on the problems and his life will seem long and hard.  It is the person’s choice.  

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Why Bother?

Ecclesiastes 4:1-16

“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)

Having tried to find peace and happiness through education, through public service, through pleasure and self-indulgence, and through accumulating wealth, and finding them unsatisfactory, Solomon decided to see what would happen if one exercised control over other people.

Throughout history political and religious figures have insisted that people are not capable of making good choices for themselves and want or need others to make those choices for them.  It is the basic premise of every dictator or totalitarian regime.  Solomon discovered that such regimes ignore the concerns and plight of their people, focusing on their own agenda, leaving their people crying for relief, with no hope of receiving it because the oppressors don’t have to live with the consequences of their decisions. 

Those who exercised such power were frustrated that the people resented being forced to do what they were told and didn’t appreciate what the ruler was trying to accomplish.  Neither the subjects nor the one in power were satisfied with the result.  As history proves, people begin to rebel and the ruler uses force to make them comply.  Eventually things spiral out of control.  Nobody is happy when people are being controlled.

“Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.  Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 4:2-3)

At this point, Solomon concluded that those who had died were better off than those who were still alive because they were no longer seeking to be happy.  Those who had never been born were even better off, because they had never had to struggle to find happiness.    Trying to find happiness is a futile and frustrating pursuit that often ends in depression or suicide.

“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.

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

Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit. ” (Ecclesiastes 4:4-6)

When he stopped and looked those who were successful and did what was right, many times, instead of learning from or following their examples, people were jealous of their success.   Foolish people expected the same success without having to do the work, and either stole or destroyed what they had or maligned those who succeeded.  Many times it is easier or better to settle for a little less than to have to deal with the jealousy and hatred of others.   

“Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun.  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.” (Ecclesiastes 4:7-8)

One of the biggest wastes of time Solomon found was for a person who had no friends or relatives to spend his entire life trying to get more money or things, and never taking time to enjoy them.  He misses most of the pleasures of life to get those things yet doesn’t even have anybody to give them to when he dies.   He never even stops to think what he is missing in his pursuit of belongings.  It is a total waste and yet it consumes some people.  Misers are not happy people.

“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)

Companionship is a wonderful thing that those who refuse to get involved with people miss.  While a person may be strong enough o act on his own, nearly everything is easier with a little help and encouragement, and if something goes wrong, a second person may be able to provide physical help or suggest another idea.  In any case they can provide encouragement and may make the difference between success and failure.  A third friend increases one’s chances of success even more.

“Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished.  For out of prison he cometh to reign; whereas also he that is born in his kingdom becometh poor.” (Ecclesiastes 4:13-14)

A little boy from a poor home who knows he learns to listen to others and think about what they tell him is better than a rich and powerful man who thinks he knows everything and refuses to listen to anyone.  Such a man will eventually destroy everything he gets control of.
I considered all the living which walk under the sun, with the second child that shall stand up in his stead.  There is no end of all the people, even of all that have been before them: they also that come after shall not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and vexation of spirit.” (Ecclesiastes 4:15-16)

Every person has only a limited amount of time, sooner or later somebody else will take his place, just as he took somebody’s place that lived before him.   While the person who takes one’s place may know who he was or what he did, in many cases, the second one will have no clue how they have benefitted from his work.  It is frustrating that our accomplishments and efforts can be so quickly forgotten.   It makes his life seem wasted.

Solomon has tried most things other people try in their quest for happiness and meaning.  All of them result in frustration and depression.  Giving up just makes the depression and frustration worse.  Something different will be required if a person is to be truly happy and satisfied with their life.   

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Man Has Little Lasting Impact

Ecclesiastes 3:9-22

“What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?  I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.  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.” (Ecclesiastes 3:9-11)

As a result of sin, just surviving demands constant work. Genesis 3:17-19 tells us, “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” 

Man’s ability to get ahead so he doesn’t have to constantly struggle to survive is limited because as second law of thermodynamics tells us, everything deteriorates.  Food spoils, clothing and wooden things tend to deteriorate, metals rust, and stone and brick weather away without constant efforts to maintain them.  Proverbs 27:23-24 advises, “Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.  For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation?”  Ecclesiastes 10:18 warns, “By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through.”  Ultimately, no one can get ahead. 

As he stated in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, there is a proper time and place for everything, and in the proper time everything is beautiful and good.  Because man is limited by the natural laws of this world, he cannot fully understand how God works or what his plans are.   As a result. He is unable to plan or prepare completely for the future. 

“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.” (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13)

Knowing that man’s best efforts are only temporary, and eventually will have to be redone, Solomon says a person should enjoy his life and do what is right and good.  Being able to enjoy the fruits of one’s own efforts and having enough to eat is a gift from GodI Timothy 6:8 instructs us, “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”  Instead of fretting about what we don’t have, we need to enjoy what we do have as a blessing from 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.” (Ecclesiastes 3:14-15)

Unlike man. God’s actions and works last forever.  Despite popular opinion man has little effect on the climate or nature,  There is a great deal of talk about climate change and global and how much carbon dioxide emissions are changing world weather, melting the polar ice caps and raising the ocean level.  Eighteen years of research by the US Geological Survey indicates that the average temperature world wide has fluctuated less than one half degree during the entire time.  A single volcanic eruption releases more carbon dioxide than all the fuels used for industrial and residential in the world combined would produce in a hundred years. 

While we have a responsibility to care for the planet, the impact of human activity is far smaller than many people believe.  In Genesis 8:22, God promised, “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.”  Ultimately what happens will be determined by God rather than by man’s efforts. 

While we have a lot of seemingly new technology, the basic principles of nature have not changed and the things we have are just refinements of what has always been present.  There really is nothing that is truly new.  As a result mankind will still be held to Gods original standard as to what they have done.
“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 3:16-17)

There is no place on earth that one can go to escape the effects of evil.  It is present in the best courts or governments, and in the most devout religious organizations.  As a result, God will judge every person for what they have done, whether their purpose and actions were right or wrong. 

“I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts.  For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.  All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?” (Ecclesiastes 3:18-21)

People need to understand that compared to God they are nothing more than one of the animals.  Their body dies and reverts to dust just like that of the animals.  Physically there is not much difference.  The real difference is the spirit which cannot be seen or observed.   While the bodies of both go to the same place the spirit of man goes to God rather than into the ground like that of an animal.   Death is a certainty that will come for every person, but people tend to ignore it, assuming it won’t happen to them.  As a result they focus on the wrong things.    

“Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?” (Ecclesiastes 3:22)

The best thing a person can do is to learn to enjoy what he is presently doing because he doesn’t know how long he will live or what will happen when he is gone.   Now may be all the time he gets to enjoy his life, and he can’t change God’s plan.