At the beginning of 2018 we set a lofty goal: to study through one book of the Bible each Sunday morning. These messages have been well-received & our understanding of the Story of God has grown. My prayer as we study is that you would also grown in the understanding of how your story fits into what God is doing in our world today.
Each week my preparation for these messages is intense. From reading, watching & transcribing Bible Project videos, reading webpages, listening messages while cutting the grass to reading & crafting meaningful illustrations, some weeks are easier than others &, indeed some books are easier than others as well. This week’s message on Ecclesiastes proved to be one of the hardest messages to so far. Maybe it’s my normally-optimistic personality that struggled with the cynical tone or maybe it was me trying to be conscious of time, but as I thought about how I gave the invitation, I wanted to write this & re-emphasize a few points of application that I wasn’t sure I said.
Summing up the ultimate point of the narrator in Ecclesiastes is not really difficult (considering the way he does in in the last verses of chapter 12). Nevertheless, if anyone ever asked you what the Preacher’s goal is, I would say it this way:
Love God — Love People — Live Generously
With all of the thought experiments that the Preacher of Ecclesiastes invites us to engage in, the God-centered purpose of each is to kick over the areas of idolatry we have built in our lives. This prophetic purpose is extremely relevant for us today. Throughout the Bible, we see this truth reign supreme from Moses (Deuteronomy 6:5) to Jesus (Matthew 22:37). But the idols we struggle with are not Baal or Molech, but work, pleasure, hobbies, sports, or just our own preferences. The Preacher in Ecclesiastes, & indeed God Himself, doesn’t want us to be fooled that somehow it is okay to let these achieve divine status in your life. So, he tells us hard things like “More work is only going to stress you out more,” “You won’t live long enough to enjoy all that money you are seeking to accumulate,” “You will be forgotten one day on earth, so live to make your mark on eternity,” or simply “Don’t think that you will escape death.” These are not morbid thoughts, but tough wisdom to draw out the reason for which we were created: To love God with all of our hearts.
As I mentioned in the message, out of all of the things that are criticized in the book of Ecclesiastes, criticism about relationships is markedly absent. Why is this? I would persuade you that the reason is because the people God puts in your life are your most important calling. From your family, your Sunday School class, your coworkers, & your neighbors, you won’t ever go wrong in developing God-centered relationships where you pour yourself out for the edification & spiritual growth for others. From an eternal perspective it is a win-win. So, love people with the love of Christ & don’t be distracted by money, sex or power.
Money is a tool, but many people treat it like a god. Just as loving God will rightly order your earthly relationships (to help you love people), so also loving God first will guard you from putting too much weight on money. Loving money more than people will turn you into Ebenezer Scrooge. Loving money more than God will left you spiritually bankrupt. Living generously should mark the Christian life. John Wesley said, “When a man becomes a Christian, he becomes industrious, trustworthy and prosperous. Now, if that man when he gets all he can and saves all he can, does not give all he can, I have more hope for Judas Iscariot than for that man!”
Ultimately, these three applications of the book of Ecclesiastes should sound very familiar. They are woven into our purpose as a church: to love the Lord God & spread His glory by intentionally making disciples of Jesus Christ in Abbeville & throughout the world. God is the supreme affection, people are the goal, & money is the tool. Let us work diligently to keep these in their right order!