There is a sickening tragedy I have seen under the sun: wealth kept by its owner to his harm. That wealth was lost in a bad venture, so when he fathered a son, he was empty-handed. As he came from his mother’s womb, so he will go again, naked as he came; he will take nothing for his efforts that he can carry in his hands. This too is a sickening tragedy: exactly as he comes, so he will go. What does the one gain who struggles for the wind? Ecclesiastes 5:13-16 HCSB

When Debbie and I were looking for a home in Shepherdsville, Kentucky, we went to see a home where a lady lived who was a hoarder. Every room was filled with different items. She had Christmas decorations, Halloween decorations, clothes in the closets, clothes on the bed and even clothes on the chairs. Obviously, we could not really see the house for all of the “stuff” she was hoarding.

Solomon recognized the dangers of hoarding. He referred to it as a sickening tragedy. Someone who attains wealth and just holds on to it and pursues getting even more is a hoarder. Jesus provided the same warning when He told the parable of the rich fool who built larger barns to store his possessions and then thought he would take it easy and enjoy life. Suddenly that very night the man died and did not benefit from any of his hoarding of possessions.

I have heard it said, “You can’t take it with you”. There are no trailers behind a hearse. Accumulating more and more does not accomplish anything. If God has blessed a person with many possessions, he should look for ways to bless others.
Challenge: The Bible says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Look for ways to use the many blessings God has provided to be a blessing to others. Try paying for the person’s meal who is in the drive-thru lane behind you or do some other unexpected blessing for someone today. Watch the video “Trailers Behind the Hearse” at http://www.stewardshipministries.org/chet-and-diana-stewart-trailers-behind-the-hearse/

The Search for Significance

The one who loves money is never satisfied with money, and whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with income. This too is futile. Ecclesiastes 5:10 HCSB

Everyone needs money. We may need money to pay an electric bill, water bill, garbage bill, cable television bill, a house mortgage, a car payment, gas for a car, clothes, and last but not least, food. These may be some of our basic needs. Additionally, we may believe we need money for a boat, hunting gun, golf clubs, or other recreational interests or hobbies. The list of ways we can spend money could be endless. Some people have more money than others due to the jobs they have, the culture they live in, or a sum inherited from relatives. Although money is certainly necessary, it seems that too many people have made money their god. They relentlessly pursue earning more money often at the cost of relationships and health. No matter how much money a person has, he seems never to be satisfied; there is always a desire for more.

Solomon was the wealthiest man alive and had everything anyone could possibly want, but he came to realize that money and wealth did not satisfy. No matter how much he gained, it did not bring any true happiness or satisfaction. He understood that the pursuit of money was futile. There is nothing wrong with having money. Often God blesses people with money so they can bless others. We need to be careful however, that we maintain our priorities and that money does not become a god in our lives.
Challenge: Make a list of the things you value most. Surely you will include your family, God, and your church, but what you spend your money on is usually what you really hold in high esteem. You will spend money on those things you value. Examine your heart and determine if you pursue the acquisition of wealth more than you pursue God. Paul warned us in 1 Timothy 6:10 that the love of money is the root of all evil. Pray that God will help you keep your priorities straight and to use your money wisely to bless others when you have an opportunity.

Dishonesty in Government

If you see oppression of the poor and perversion of justice and righteousness in the province, don’t be astonished at the situation, because one official protects another official, and higher officials protect them. Ecclesiastes 5:8 HCSB

There seems to be an epidemic of dishonesty and scandal in government today on every level. There is a councilwoman who serves locally that is facing charges of misuse of government money and conflict of interest in several decisions over which she had influence with her government position. On the state level there are governors who have been caught taking bribes and influencing decisions that benefit friends and relatives. The national level seems more extreme with presidents caught in compromising situations and government agencies conducting illegal actions.

It seems by this verse that in Solomon’s time there were similar problems. Corruption was commonplace in government. Dishonest people were taking advantage of others and using their political positions to justify what was done. It seems that one official covered another and even their supervisors covered them and made sure that the government officials did not get caught. The end result was that injustice was often overlooked.

Challenge: We need to elect officials who use good judgement, make wise choices, and live a life of integrity in every area of their lives. Pray for our elected officials. Get involved in politics and make a positive impact.

Making a Vow

When you make a vow to God, don’t delay fulfilling it, because He does not delight in fools. Fulfill what you vow. Better that you do not vow than that you vow and not fulfill it. Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 HCSB

This year I will celebrate 37 years of marriage with my wonderful and beautiful wife. On September 18, 1976 we made a vow to each other. We stood before God, a minister, and witnesses and vowed to love one another, to be faithful to each other, and to honor our marriage until death. In today’s culture, far too often it seems that vows are not taken seriously. It is as if we make a vow until it is no longer convenient or comfortable, then we take the liberty to break it. Scripture teaches that it is important to keep our vows or our promises.

Solomon admonished the people to live up to their vows to God. If a person made a vow or promise to God, he needed to fulfill it. God honors people of integrity who practice what they preach. My father always taught me, “You are only as good as your word.” If one’s word does not mean anything, then who can trust him?
Challenge: If you make a promise, make sure you fulfill it. Be a person of integrity and always do what you say you will do.

Guard Your Steps

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Better to draw near in obedience than to offer the sacrifice as fools do, for they ignorantly do wrong. Do not be hasty to speak, and do not be impulsive to make a speech before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 HCSB

The thunder was clapping, the lightening was flashing across the sky, and the rain seemed to be coming down in buckets. Parking the van in the parking lot of the church where I was to attend a conference, I pulled out my old umbrella and proceeded to try to keep dry as I made my way to the door. One of my biggest obstacles was the rain running across the parking lot. I had to be careful where I was stepping or I would have had water in my shoes. I was careful to step over the stream of running water.

Just as I was guarding my steps over the rain running across the parking lot, these Scriptures remind us that as we should be careful when we approach God. We must be careful, quiet, reverent, sincere, and honest as we draw close to God. God is sovereign and is in control. He knows what is best for each of us. It even says that our words should be few, indicating that we should approach God with awe and wonder, because He has wisdom and we are only humans here on earth. Quicksource by Lifeway Christian Resources reports, “Andrew Murray reflects that the very thought of God in His majesty and holiness should silence us.” Often our lives are so filled with the noise of the world that we are distracted from giving God our complete attention.

Challenge: Sit in silence and listen for God to speak to you. He may not speak audibly but He will impress on your heart what you need to know. Listen to Matt Redman’s worship song, “Let My Words Be Few” at YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqIA_l2ypkE, which is based on Ecclesiastes 5:1-3

Two Are Better Than One

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 HCSB

Recently I have spent time supporting and encouraging ministers who have lost their jobs at no fault of their own. I try to call them periodically to see how they are feeling, how their families are doing, and to pray for them as they seek God’s will and direction in their lives. Some have bitter feelings toward people who have caused their pain and others feel that God has abandoned them. Some are angry with God for allowing this to happen in their lives. When we are going through difficult times, we need others to come along side of us to support, encourage, and pray for us.

Solomon realized the benefit of having someone as a friend and supporter. He wrote that two are better than one because if one falls there is someone there to help them get back up. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called to support and help one another. We are to lift each other up, especially when we are facing such things as a job loss, marriage failure, sickness, or death.

Challenge: Get involved in a Sunday School or Bible study group where you can develop some friendships with others who can support and minister to you in times of trouble. Minister to others when they are going through difficult times.

The Work of God

He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also put eternity in their hearts, but man cannot discover the work God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11 HCSB

I have stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon and marveled in the blues, reds, and yellows of the canyon walls. Swimming in the crystal blue waters of the Pacific Ocean in Hawaii I felt I could actually reach out and touch the colorful fish swimming around me. I have stood at the top of a ski run and enjoyed the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains covered with sparkling snow. The beautiful red and yellow fall leaves in Gatlinburg, Tennessee will forever be etched in my memory. I stand amazed at how awesome God is. It is hard for me to understand how anyone can see such beauty and majesty and say there is no God.

Solomon said that man cannot discover or understand the work of God. It is beyond our imagination and capabilities to comprehend the ways of God. Paul wrote about this when he said “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments and untraceable His ways!” (Romans 11:33)

Challenge: Do not attempt to understand the work of God. Accept His ways and trust in His wisdom and guidance. Go take a walk and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. Praise God for who He is and for all the wonderful things He has done and for the majesty of His creation. Listen the song “How Great Thou Art” on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=By0iyTukDkQ

There is a Time for Everything

There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven: Ecclesiastes 3:1 HCSB

I have been playing golf since I was eight years old. Timing is everything in golf. A golfer must take the club back and cock his wrists. To maximize distance he must keep his wrists cocked until just the right time to swing the club through the ball. He must also move his weight from the one side to the other as he swings. Everything must be in perfect timing to hit the ball correctly.

God’s timing is always perfect. Solomon realized that there is an occasion for everything. There is a time for every activity. To everything there is a season. God knows what is best and right in every situation. We often try to control our lives. Some attempt to turn back the clock of time with plastic surgery or anti-aging creams, but God has our days numbered and knows what is best for us.

Challenge: Accept God’s timing in your life. You may be going through some difficult days, but know that God is in control and can bring good out of any situation. Only trust Him and follow His direction in your life.

Eat, Drink, and Enjoy Your Work

There is nothing better for man than to eat, drink, and enjoy his work. I have seen that even this is from God’s hand, because who can eat and who can enjoy life apart from Him? Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 HCSB

I have heard the slogan, “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry.” The world seems to teach that people should pursue more money so they can have more possessions, food, and drink. Everyone seems to want a new car, new house, new job, a promotion, or recognition.

Solomon does not use the term “eat, drink, and be merry” but “eat, drink, and enjoy his work”. Work should not be drudgery. One should enjoy the work he is doing. God has gifted everyone with talents, abilities, and interests so he or she can use them in a way to serve others. In Genesis we find that God created Adam and put him in the Garden to “work it”. Some believe that work was a punishment for sin, but God gave work to Adam before he sinned. Work is a privilege and a gift from God.

Challenge: Solomon was not indicating that eating, drinking, and working are the main purposes of life, but that we cannot enjoy life apart from God. Thank God for your job and look for ways you can use your job to bring glory to Him.

Advantage of Wisdom

And I realized that there is an advantage to wisdom over folly, like the advantage of light over darkness. The wise man has eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. Yet I also knew that one fate comes to them both. Ecclesiastes 2:13-14 HCSB

Wisdom is the subject of many books in the Bible. The book of Proverbs, written by Solomon, has numerous verses on wisdom. Proverbs 2:10-13 says, “Wisdom will enter your mind, and knowledge will delight your heart. Discretion will watch over you, and understanding will guard you, rescuing you from the way of evil – from the one who says perverse things, from those who abandon the right paths to walk in the ways of darkness.” This seems to reflect the same message found in Ecclesiastes.

After his search for meaning in life, Solomon came to realize that there was an advantage to wisdom over folly. A life of folly may provide immediate satisfaction and happiness but it will not bring any lasting purpose or meaning. Just like Solomon, one should seek wisdom from God. Wisdom will help one avoid the pits of sin and will guide one to make right decisions. As reflected in Ecclesiastes and Proverbs, gaining wisdom is like walking in light instead of darkness.

Challenge: The Bible is a great source for gaining wisdom. Avoid the folly our world has to offer and live a life that would be pleasing to God.