I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
and this was the reward for all my toil.
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun. – Ecclesiastes 2:10-11
Let me point out I didn’t copy that from my personal journal! It’s from Ecclesiastes Chapter Two, and the text is remarkable for a number of reasons.
First, the entire chapter is one hundred percent relevant to the values, aspirations, misunderstandings, confusion, fears, and failings of the modern Western World.
Then, my Wednesday evening men’s group has just started an ongoing study of Ecclesiastes. That is why I was reading this chapter this morning.
Finally – and one more reason I’m not sure there ever is such a thing as a “coincidence” – I opened a letter from an investment group literally 30-minutes before reading from Ecclesiastes. Here are a few quotes:
It takes skill, perseverance and savvy to accumulate $500,000 in investments… It’s likely you’ve landed yourself among the wealthiest Americans… To have out-saved and out-invested your peers speaks to the kind of individual you are. It should also explain the exclusive nature of this communication.
It’s “exclusive” because we select so carefully the individuals we invite…
And it continues… blah, blah, blah….
What were they thinking!!!!
Here goes the obvious. Evidently, they don’t “select so carefully” as they think. Talk about barking up the wrong tree!
And you know what “speaks to the kind of individual you are” – that I am? Rebekah and I may work hard but we live modestly, we tithe, we support a lot of charities, and we help whenever and wherever possible. We understand that any resources we may have are ours simply in trust.
Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t invest wisely and take care to manage our resources properly. But I can’t help but note how the things we value as a culture and what we “chase after the wind” to acquire, secure, celebrate, and defend are as meaningless today as they were when the biblical wisdom literature book of Ecclesiastes was written around 2,500 years ago.
Jesus was less subtle when he told the parable of the man who was so pleased with his material success that he kept building bigger and bigger barns to store his wealth when he could have used much of it to help those in need of encouragement.:
Jesus said – “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” – Luke 12:13-21
I love the phrase, Rich toward God. That Jesus! He could take the entire sum of the wisdom collected in Ecclesiastes and condense it into one sentence.
What do we value? We like to say we value family, and our relationship with God, and freedom, and the work of our church. But then we give up our freedom (in exchange for debt), we neglect our families, we give scant lip-service to God, and we fail to invest in our church.
We have what I would call values conflict or values dissonance. What we espouse does not line up with how we actually live.
Jesus can help us with this.
The good news is that it is never too late to recommit, to redirect, and to rediscover – DEREK