God is Setting All Things Right. So I am Blogging Through the Bible in a Year.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

June 19 - Ecclesiastes 1-6: Solomon Chases Smoke

Today’s Reading: Ecclesiastes 1-6

The Message

English Standard Version

Today's reading is the first half of Ecclesiastes, the writings of Solomon about the meaning of life. I'll discuss more about the book in the comments below. We will finish the book tomorrow.

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Thought to Guide Your Reading

Whether you exert yourself in life or not the end is the same—death.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

These are the words of Solomon, who's been around the block.
Life is vanishing smoke.
Nature is a broken record.
Striving to be happy is chasing smoke.
I became the wisest around. Chased smoke.
I tried pleasure. Chased smoke.
Life became meaningless. People who are wise, hard working, successful, and rich chase smoke. Only God ultimately directs life.
There is a time for everything. So what?
Animals and man—both die.
Hard work without enjoyment—chasing smoke.
Injustice will never end. Only God's earth works every time.
Eat, drink, and make the most of your work—that's God's ideal life.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

The book of Ecclesiastes is a book of warning against taking life too serious.

"Smoke, nothing but smoke. … / There's nothing to anything—it's all smoke" (1:2, The Message). Solomon is warning everyone not to spend their entire lives focused on the wrong thing. Everything on the earth happens the same way every year. Nothing humans do can change it. Human "accomplishments" are silly. Right now the NBA is crowning a champion. Why get excited? Next year they'll give another one. The lack of meaning in life can lead a person to despair. However, Solomon's purpose is not to take away all meaning of life, Solomon warns that people miss the forest of a godly life for the trees of life seemingly independent of God.

God's earth provides the greatest contrast to the smallness of human accomplishment.

Humans have been through several great ages of development. The past 20 years has seen more innovation than the previous 100. What do we have to show for it: great technology, great healthcare, and discontent? We are waking up to find that all we have accomplished is changing the definition of "busy" as we go toward the grave—from spending all of our time trying to survive to spending all of our time trying to live. On the other hand, Earth continues to go around the sun. The seasons change exactly as they have for centuries. Animals give birth and die in the same ways they did before. Earth still "works" in the same way it has for centuries before us and will for centuries to come. Human's greatest accomplishments pale in comparison to God's average accomplishment—a working world.

Injustice will never end because humans will never be as faithful and honest as the earth.

I chaff when I hear groups spout platitudes about ending hunger, poverty, and the injustice flavor of the month: bullying, human trafficking, global warming, etc. I sneer at their suggestion that a group of people (mostly middle class Americans and Europeans) can change the hearts of every person in the world. They will never be able to "end" hatred in people's hearts, the source of injustice and violence. Our teachings may be great, our practices sound, and our aim high; but in the end only God can set things right on this earth. I support any and all attempts to broker peace between groups. I do not support ideas that humans can completely end injustice independent of or with God limited to a supporting role.

Wisdom, pleasure, hard work, successful careers, and/or riches are meaningless independent from God.

Solomon tried to make a huge deal out of everything: wisdom, pleasure, hard work, success, and riches. Eventually he realized each of those things were meaningless in themselves. Only God gave ultimate meaning, since He is the only sentient being who is fully faithful. His conclusion is troublesome to the driven,
After looking at the way things are on this earth, here's what I've decided is the best way to live: Take care of yourself, have a good time, and make the most of whatever job you have for as long as God gives you life. And that's about it. That's the human lot. Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what's given and delighting in the work. It's God's gift! (5:18-19, The Message)
The disciplined, wise person and the foolish, pleasure-seeker both end up dead and forgotten. Hard working, honest, successful businesspeople and their employees die and give other people their money/businesses just like dishonest, lazy people. Rich people and poor people end with exactly the same thing—nothing. Balance hard work and good pleasure. Both are needed to enjoy a godly life.

What do you make a big deal over?

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