OT: Ecclesiastes 10:1-12:14
I'm just gonna be honest and say that I barely understood a word of this today. Here is a sampling of some of the proverbs that confused me:
10:2--"The heart of the wise inclines to the right,
but the heart of the fool to the left."
10:8--"Whoever digs a pit may fall into it;
whoever breaks through a wall may be bitten by a snake."
10:10--"If the ax is dull
and its edge unsharpened,
more strength is needed
but skill will bring success."
10:15--"A fool's work wearies him;
he does not know the way to town."
And so on.
Also, what is with the exaltation of riches? In 10:5-7, the Teacher contrasts fools with rich people. Are those really opposites? Similarly, in 10:16-17, he mourns nations whose kings came from poverty and blesses those who were born into wealth. And then in verse 19, did he just say that "money is the answer to everything"? I think he did!
Needless to say, I am absolutely baffled at how to read this collection of the "words of the wise" (12:11).
And while I'm at it, here is yet another confusing passage:
"Be happy, young man, while you are young,
and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.
Follow the ways of your heart
and whatever your eyes see,
but know that for all these things
God will bring you to judgment.
So then, banish anxiety from your heart
and cast off the troubles of your body,
for youth and vigor are meaningless" (11:9-10).
I feel incredibly dense, but if God is going to bring us to judgment for following the ways of our heart and whatever our eyes see, then shouldn't we not do that? And if He is going to bring us to judgment, then why should we banish anxiety from our heart? Shouldn't we be worried about God's judgment? Is he just being incredibly fatalistic here, or what?
Anyhow, the book wraps up today by assuring us that these are all very wise sayings and that no one should add to them (12:9-12). And then at the end, quite abruptly, the book concludes,
"Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil" (13-14).
Now, that makes sense to me, though it seems like a distinct change in tone from the material before it. But whatever--we are done with Ecclesiastes, and I think I'm just going to take with me the idea that life is meaningless without God and that we were put here to follow His commands and to find joy in our life, come what may.
NT: 2 Cor. 8:1-15
In a Lord's Supper talk a few weeks ago, the speaker quoted a woman from our congregation who said, "Give until it hurts, and then give until it stops hurting." I loved that idea. I am very, let's just say, money-minded, and I am extremely aware of my family's financial state. And yet, I was always taught by my parents to be generous, which is also what I have read throughout the Scriptures. And sometimes, to follow those instructions, I have to give until it hurts. And I have found that when you keep giving through the "pain," you do get to a point where it no longer hurts to stretch yourself financially. That seems to be what happened with the Macedonian churches. Even though they were strapped, they gave generously. Specifically, Paul says, "Out of the most severe trail, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity" (2). In the next verse, he testifies "that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability." I find their example to be both inspiring and challenging. I have this vision of fiscal responsibility. And sometimes my vision of fiscal responsibility contrasts with what I feel called to give. In those times, I know that I need to follow the Macedonian example, to not rely on myself, but on God's promises. In the times where giving seems necessary and yet irresponsible, I just have to remember that "without faith, it is impossible to please God." I have to try to always act on faith and follow God's commands, even though my practical side wants to save the money for my family's future.
In light of the NT passage, I found it interesting that today's psalm describes the wicked as people "who trust in their wealth" (6a). I know that I have been tempted to believe, as the Teacher in Ecclesiastes apparently did, that "money is the answer to everything." And yet, of course, money isn't the answer to everything. God is the answer. It is He whom I am to trust, not money. Again, that sounds incredibly obvious, but I can often be a foolish person who forgets such simple truths.
Seems to be affirming the value of the proverbs as a whole.