It's All About Perspective.

Ecclesiastes 4-6

Then I observed that most people are motivated to success by their envy of their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless, like chasing the wind. ­– Ecclesiastes 4:4 NLT

Remember, the real theme of the book of Ecclesiastes seems to be about havinga God-centered worldview than a me-focused one. It is about learning to see life from God's perspective, not our own. We are limited in what we can see. We don't know what God is up to or what He has planned. So when we try to live our lives focused only on the horizontal, we end up with a warped perspective, and it skews just about everything we do. For instance, even our motivation to succeed in life is based on envy and jealousy. We take a look around us and see what others have achieved and the lifestyle their achievements have made possible, and we decide to work harder so that we can enjoy the same things. In the end, this kind of motivation proves futile and meaningless. It's a vapor that fades away. Why? Because our perspective is wrong. Solomon goes on to warn us,  "Those who love money will never have enough. How absurd to think that wealth brings true happiness! The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what is the advantage of wealth -- except perhaps to watch it run through your fingers! People who work hard sleep well, whether they eat little or much. But the rich are always worrying and seldom get a good night's sleep. There is another serious problem I have seen in the world. Riches are sometimes hoarded to the harm of the saver, or they are put into risky investments that turn sour, and everything is lost. In the end, there is nothing left to pass on to one's children. People who live only for wealth come to the end of their lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day they were born" (Ecclesiastes 5:10-15 NLT). So is Solomon saying hard work and wealth are wrong? No, he was a very wealthy man who worked hard at being the king of Israel. But he had learned that his wealth and hard work didn't bring him joy and fulfillment. When he made those things his focus and demanded that they meet his needs, he discovered that they could never deliver.

But with a slight change in perspective, things can take on a different light. "Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat well, drink a good glass of wine, and enjoy their work -- whatever they do under the sun -- for however long God lets them live. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life -- that is indeed a gift from God. People who do this rarely look with sorrow on the past, for God has given them reasons for joy" (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 NLT). The ability to work is a gift from God. Any wealth I gain from working is a gift from God. Any pleasures that my hard work afford me are a gift from God. The food I eat, the home I live in, the friends I have, are all gifts from God. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life – that is indeed a gift from God. How many of us work, but rarely enjoy it? How often do we complain about how hard we work and how little time we have to relax and enjoy the benefits of our labor? When we sit down and eat a meal, we probably don't stop and think about the fact that the food we are eating was made possible by our hard work. We don't make that connection. We don't savor the moment. If we lived in an agrarian culture where we labored all day to plant, tend, and harvest the food we eat, we would probably more readily enjoy the consumption of the fruit of our labors. God used our labor along with His creative power to produce the food we are eating. It is a gift from Him.

I love Solomon's advice in chapter six: "Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don't have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless; it is like chasing the wind" (Ecclesiastes 6:9 NLT). One of the curses of this world is our constant dissatisfaction and desire for more. We are in a constant pursuit for the next thing. The next job, the next relationship, the next new technological toy, the next great book, the next new diet, the next great vacation spot, the next …  And when we get that next new thing, we rarely sit back and enjoy it, because we are immediately distracted by something else we don't have. So Solomon says, "Enjoy what you have!" Savor the moment. Enjoy the meal you're eating, the friendships you have, the moment you're in, the home you're living in, the health you're enjoying. Remember that everything is a gift from God. The next new thing will never satisfy, if the old thing never did. Only God can bring satisfaction. Keep your eyes focused on Him.

Father, what a temptation it is to keep looking for more and never enjoy what we already have. I spend so much time thinking about what I don't have instead of enjoying what I do have. Help me to rest in You and be satisfied with what You provide. The constant quest for more is not only tiring, it is ultimately unfulfilling. It can't deliver. Thank You for all You have already given me. Help me learn to enjoy every moment of life as a gift from You. Amen


Chasing the Wind.

Ecclesiastes 1-3

I, the Teacher, was king of Israel, and I lived in Jerusalem. I devoted myself to search for understanding and to explore by wisdom everything being done in the world. I soon discovered that God has dealt a tragic existence to the human race. Everything under the sun is meaningless, like chasing the wind. ­– Ecclesiastes 1:12-14 NLT

Chasing the wind. Futility. Vanity. Meaninglessness. These are just a few of the words the wise man Solomon uses to describe life. At first glance, you would think these are surprising words coming from the pen of a man who seemingly had it all – health, wealth, wisdom, success, fame, and the respect and admiration of men near and far. But Solomon was human. He may have been rich, but he was still susceptible to the conditions that plague all mankind – fear of man, the desire for more, discontentment, dissatisfaction, jealousy, and the ever-present reality of sin. Solomon didn't live in a vacuum. He was surrounded by individuals who tested and tried him, sought to defeat him, played up to him just to get something out of him, lived off of him, and revealed the worst about him. In other words, Solomon lived in a fallen world. He may have been king of the people of God, but his life was not that much different than yours or mine. And when he looked at life from his own human vantage point, things could begin to look dim indeed. He could become disappointed and disillusioned.

But the book of Ecclesiastes is really designed to give the reader a God-centered perspective. It shows the futility of life when viewed from the vantage point of self. If we view life from our limited perspective, we will constantly find ourselves in a state of confusion. This life does not make sense. Good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. We can work hard all our lives and end up with nothing to show for it in the end. Life is not always fair. Justice doesn't always seem to win out in the end. The unjust do not always seem to get their just desserts. In fact, many of the most wicked in this world seem to get away with murder – literally. Evil men rise to power and grow wealthy as they abuse and exploit their own people. Corrupt corporate executives get filthy rich while their investors lose everything. Injustice and inequity are everywhere.

But one of the phrases Solomon uses over and over again is "under the sun." He is basically referring to life on the planet earth. It refers to a temporal mindset that can easily focus on the horizontal and leave out the vertical. Rather than living life with a God-centered worldview, we become fixated on a self-centered, me-focused worldview. It becomes life as I see it – limited, myopic, and incapable of seeing the bigger picture. One of the recurring themes of Ecclesiastes seems to be that life without God lacks real substance. There is no real value or permanence to it all. It's like a vapor or fog that is here one minute, then gone the other. It's transitory and futile. Solomon had all that life had to offer. But he seemed to know that all the wealth in the world was going to satisfy him in the end. You can't take it with you. And you could lose it all in the blink of an eye. Years of hard work and labor could be easily squandered, stolen, or wind up never delivering what you thought they would. It's the house that's never clean. The yard that continues to need mowing. The bills that are never finished being paid. The pain that never goes away. The hurt that never seems to get healed.

Solomon put it this way: " …as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless. It was like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere" (Ecclesiastes 2:11 NLT). But in the midst of all the doom and gloom, there is good news. God is in control. He has a bigger and much larger perspective. He views life from a better vantage point. Solomon says, "God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end" (Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT). We can't see what God can see. We don't know what He knows. We aren't privy to His plans. He doesn't consult or seek our approval for His actions. For Solomon it was a simple as, "I know that whatever God does is final. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it. God's purpose in this is that people should fear him" (Ecclesiastes 3:14 NLT).

Life is like chasing the wind, but only if you choose to ignore God's bigger plan. When we leave Him out of the equation, nothing adds up. It doesn't make sense. Nothing works. Nothing. No amount of money can make us happy. Nothing we can purchase or own can fulfill us. Nothing we eat or drink can fully satisfy us. But God can. It is a life lived without a God-centered perspective that ends up being like chasing the wind. But when we keep God at the focus of life and His will as the motivation for our obedience, life becomes meaning-full. It becomes rich, complete, fulfilling, satisfying, and worth living.

Father, help me to keep You at the center of my thoughts. Give me a growing You-centeredness instead of a me-centeredness. Open my eyes to Your divine perspective. Help me see life from Your higher vantage point instead of my earth-bound one. You are in control. You have a plan. Never let me forget that. Amen