December 22nd, 2013
Bible Memory Verse for the Week: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” — Luke 2:14 Background Information:
- Solomon’s kingdom, Israel, was in its golden age, but Solomon wanted the people to understand that success and prosperity don’t last long (Ps 103:14-16; Isa 40:6-8; Jas 4:14). All human accomplishments will one day disappear, and we must keep this in mind in order to live wisely. If we don’t, we will become either proud and self-sufficient when we succeed or sorely disappointed when we fail. Solomon’s goal was to show that earthly possessions and accomplishments are ultimately meaningless. Only the pursuit of God brings real satisfaction. We should honor God in all we say, think, and do. (Tyndale House Publishers, Life Application Study Bible, 1135)
- Men consume on themselves whatever they produce, and nothing is left over from their labors. Neither are men satisfied with this, for, having eternity in their hearts, they know inherently that they are made for something more permanent.
If it were not so, if there were not some things that have more lasting value than others, what advantage would there be for a man to be wise rather than a fool? Yet, under the sun, men seem to know implicitly that wisdom is to be preferred to folly; however, they cannot account for this apart from reference to God. Solomon is trying to help his son think through the folly of seeking to enjoy life apart from God. He is answering the fool according to his folly, hoping that, by this method of “indirect” reasoning, he might help Rehoboam see and embrace the wisdom of God (Prv 26:4, 5). (T. M. Moore, The Christian Worldview Journal, June 9, 2011)
- Ecclesiastes 6 is one of the Bible’s darkest chapters. (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 140)
- (v. 2) Enjoy. The Hebrew is literally “eat” (and so the King James Version). The usage is an anticipation of a common idiom in rabbinic Hebrew, in which the verb “eat” (’akhal) means to enjoy the fruits of something. (Robert Alter, The Wisdom Books, 366)
- (v. 3) Back in ancient times large families were considered special blessings from God. Solomon mentions this in one of his Psalms, “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them” (Ps 127:3, 4). (Roland Cap Ehlke, The People’s Bible, Ecclesiastes, 58)
- (v. 7) “All a man’s efforts are for his mouth…” Everything a man does is for his self-preservation. We must remember that Solomon is describing life under the sun. Everyone looks out for himself. The term “mouth” can refer to all of man’s physical needs, just as when Jesus talks about “daily bread” in the Lord’s Prayer to signify whatever we need for our bodily welfare. (Roland Cap Ehlke, The People’s Bible, Ecclesiastes, 60-61)
- (v. 8) To walk before (conduct himself – NIV) someone is to live so as to please him (cf. 1 Kgs 2:4). (Michael A. Eaton, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 107)
- (v. 9) The word translated “appetite” here as in verse 7 literally means “soul.” The soul, as one commentator puts it, is the “seat of the appetite.” When we come right down to it, most of our “roving” desires are spiritual problems. Many married men are not satisfied with their own wives but, to use Jeremiah’s expression, they are like “well-fed lusty stallions, each neighing for another man’s wife” (Jer 5:8). (Roland Cap Ehlke, The People’s Bible, Ecclesiastes, 61)
- (v. 10) What was has already been called by name. To call something by name in biblical Hebrew and other ancient Near Eastern languages is to designate its nature and define its being, so the entire clause expresses Qohelet’s sense of determinism. He is man and cannot deal with one more powerful than he. Because of the context of determinism, many see “one” as a reference to God, though it could just as well refer to a human being who exercises power, given Qohelet’s sense of political hierarchies and the social limitations of freedom. (Robert Alter, The Wisdom Books, 367-68)
- Only the God who has created man knows what is best for man. Only that same eternal God can tell what the future holds.
The answers to these questions will take up the rest of Ecclesiastes. In the first half of the book the Teacher has dramatically depicted man’s meaningless life under the sun. For the rest of the book he will emphasize the way life is meant to be lived–under God. (Roland Cap Ehlke, The People’s Bible, Ecclesiastes, 63) The question to be answered is . . . Why does Koheleth keep hammering away at mankind’s discontentment, and lack of satisfaction with our meaningless, empty and futile life under the sun? Answer: Koheleth is trying to force you to ask the questions of yourself, “What would it take to have significance in your life?” and “What would you rather have, a billion dollars and no contentment or peace, or nothing at all with full contentment and peace? How you answer that question will go a long way to assisting you to find what you are looking for and will also be credible evidence of your spiritual maturity or lack of it. He has not attached his name to it, but there is little doubt that Ecclesiastes 6 is a picture of Solomon as he sees himself. This portrait is a disturbing one, not only because of how it depicts a God-fearing leader, but also because it drives us to seriously examine our own lives. (Charles R. Swindoll, Living on the Ragged Edge, 59) The Word for the Day is . . . Con•‘tent (but not ‘Con•tent) What does Koheleth want us to see in chapter 6 of Ecclesiastes?: I- There is no contentment when God gives you everything but doesn’t allow you to enjoy anything. (Eccl 6:1-6; see also: Jam 1:17) The key to all this is in the phrase, “God does not enable him to enjoy.” This book pounds home that lesson over and over again. Enjoyment does not come with increased possessions–it is a gift that God must give! If He withholds it, no amount of effort can gain it. That is a difficult lesson for some to learn. We are constantly bombarded with alluring pictures in catalogs and in commercials that relentlessly advocate the opposite message. Enjoyment, however, is a gift from God. (Ray Stedman, Is This All There Is to Life?, 81) There are many possible reasons for his lack of enjoyment of things. It could be that, as we have seen, things in and of themselves have no capacity for causing happiness. The lack of enjoyment may be because of additional responsibilities or the troubles that usually accompany them. It may be because of the envy that arises in the hearts of others. Sickness or theft could have played a part. It may be because the person dies before he is able to appreciate what he has. (Jay E. Adams, Life under the Son, 61) The emphasis of the book, remember, is that nothing lasts, nothing satisfies, nothing in this world is sufficient once and for all. That truth, pursued to the nth degree by Solomon, is again driven home by this repeated litany of hunger/work/food, hunger/work/food. True satisfaction may be found only in the world to come, in the presence of the Lord. (Jay E. Adams, Life under the Son, 64) In the case here supposed two of nature’s fondest desires are alluded to–a quiver full of children, and the days of many years. Yet if the soul is not filled with good, nothing would be of avail for our happiness. (Charles Bridges, The Geneva Series of Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 123-24) It is his grace, not our gain, that leads us beyond the frustrations of earthly wealth to the riches that bring full satisfaction: the riches of fellowship with God now and forever. (David Hubbard, Mastering the OT: Ecclesiastes, 158) At the end of his great act of creation the Lord said, “It is finished,” and he could rest. On the cross at the end of his great act of redemption Jesus said, “It is finished”–and we can rest. On the cross Jesus was saying of the work underneath your work–the thing that makes you truly weary, this need to prove yourself because who you are and what you do are never good enough–that it is finished. He has lived the life you should have lived, he has died the death you should have died. If you rely on Jesus’ finished work, you know that God is satisfied with you. You can be satisfied with life. (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 43) The man under the blessing of God (5:18-20) has passed from view. We see instead one to whom God has given wealth, though there is no indication that he recognizes the source of his wealth. The previous man was given ‘power to enjoy’ what he had (5:19); this one is not, and accordingly is unable to be contented. (Michael A. Eaton, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 105) Better to miscarry at birth than to miscarry throughout life. (Michael A. Eaton, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 106) It is not length of life that matters; however long you live, in the end you go the way of all flesh. It is the quality of life that is important, and life is meaningless unless it brings joy, satisfaction and happiness. (Robert Davidson, The Daily Study Bible: Ecclesiastes, 41) Unless God grants it, man can have nothing. Contrary to the American dream, there is no such creature as the “self-made” man. Regardless of how hard a person may work, it is God who “gives a man wealth, possessions and honor.” Human effort or labor is merely the channel through which the Lord gives his “good and perfect gifts” (Jas 1:17). (Roland Cap Ehlke, The People’s Bible, Ecclesiastes, 57) Not only must God give us what we have, but only he can enable us to enjoy it. Possessing things does not necessarily mean enjoying them. In fact, it often happens that the two do not go hand in hand. Both must come from God. When people have possessions without enjoyment, it amounts to “another evil under the sun.” A person’s own fears can keep him from enjoying his possessions. Popular TV soap operas frequently depict this kind of individual. He’s rich and powerful, but because of his selfishness and greed he’s caught in one frustrating situation after another. The viewer rarely, if ever, sees him enjoying his vast possessions. (Roland Cap Ehlke, The People’s Bible, Ecclesiastes, 58) Everything that exists, Solomon insists, has its unique nature and purpose before it comes to be. This is because God is the Author of all existence; He alone gives things meaning and purpose. Things are not, as Kantian rationalism insists, merely “things” without any meaning until men come along and impose on them whatever meaning suits their purpose. Everything that is exists to serve God’s purposes (Ps 119:89-91); the wise man accepts that and seeks to receive all of life as a gift to be used for God’s glory. (T. M. Moore, The Christian Worldview Journal, June 11, 2011) Enjoyment must be taken as a gift from God’s hand. The decree is as unalterable as the law of gravity. You may not agree with God about it, you may not like it, but there it is; it cannot be changed. You cannot dispute with one who is stronger than you. (Ray Stedman, Is This All There Is to Life?, 85) Again the Preacher asserts that a believer, whether he be rich or poor, can obtain pleasure in eating, drinking, and the regular blessings of life, because he knows they come from his heavenly Father. (Richard W. De Haan, The Art of Staying Off Dead-end Streets, 97) He has not power to reason himself out of this absurdity, to conquer his covetous humor. He is weak indeed, who has not power to use what God gives him, for God gives him not that power, but withholds it from him, to punish him for his other abuses of his wealth. Because he has not the will to serve God with it, God denies him the power to serve himself with it. (Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. III, 1013) In verse 3 Solomon seems to be describing a wealthy man who puts off his own enjoyment and saves up for his children. They, however, are ungrateful and do not even honor their father with a proper burial, a matter always considered of importance in the Jewish community. In life and even in death the man is frustrated. (Roland Cap Ehlke, The People’s Bible, Ecclesiastes, 58-59) They are better off than the man who lives a miserable life without God and without being able to enjoy his gifts. “Thus the wicked begin their hell in this life,” remarks Luther. (Roland Cap Ehlke, The People’s Bible, Ecclesiastes, 59) One study claims that instant millionaires have about the same level of happiness as accident victims. Story after story can be cited of people whose newfound fame and fortune have made them more miserable than when they were just average citizens. (David Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven on Earth, 134 – red bold 10 pt emphasis Pastor Keith) If anything good can come from this unfortunate situation, it is the recognition that our possessions can never bring us lasting joy. The gifts that God gives us and the power to enjoy those gifts come separately. This is why having more money can never guarantee that we will find any enjoyment. Without God, we will still be discontent. It is only when we keep him at the center of our existence that we experience real joy in the gifts that God may give. The fear of the Lord is not just the beginning of knowledge; it is also the source of satisfaction. (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 141) Long life and abundance of offspring are characteristic indicators of God’s blessing in the Bible (e.g., Job 42:12-17; Ps 127:3-5; Prv 28:16). Yet of what use is the mere possession of multitudes of days and offspring if a person cannot be satisfied (Heb. śbc, as in 5:10; NIV “enjoy”) with these good things (Heb. toba, as in 5:11, trans. By NIV as “goods”), if “he cannot enjoy his prosperity [toba]” (6:3)? (Iain Provan, The NIV Application Commentary: Ecclesiastes, 129) Certain passages of the OT (e.g., 1 Sm 31:11-13; 1 Kgs 14:10-11; Isa 14:19-20; Jer 16:4-5) illustrate the importance of burial to the ancient Semitic peoples, as the community of the living sent the deceased person to be at rest with the community of the dead. A good life came to an end in a good death. Here in Eccl 6:3, a miserable life comes to an end in a bad death. (Iain Provan, The NIV Application Commentary: Ecclesiastes, 129) Solomon reminds us that God’s blessings don’t guarantee man’s happiness or satisfaction (Eccl 6:3). Under the OT law of Moses, children were considered a tangible expression of God’s blessing, and barrenness was considered a curse (cf. Gn 30:1-2; Dt 28:4, 11, 18). Material prosperity and divine protection from enemies were also considered evidences of God’s blessings upon His people (cf. Dt 28:8, 10, 12). (John A. Stewart, Lamplighters Self-Study: Ecclesiastes, 20) II- There is no contentment whenever desire trumps reality. (Eccl 6:7-9; see also 1 Tm 6:6-19) One in the hand is worth two in the bush For the wise men of old, the cardinal problem of human life was how to conform the soul to objective reality; and the solution was wisdom, self-discipline and virtue. For the modern man, the cardinal problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of man, and the solution is a technique. (C. S. Lewis; The Abolition of Man, quoted by Tim Keller in a sermon entitled, “Power for Facing Trouble”) We are so overcharged with desire that it is hard to come to simple rest. Desire is always stronger than satisfaction. (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 139) Instead of letting our appetites roam, we should learn to control them. An old English proverb states, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” This is what Solomon is saying with his words, “Better what the eye sees than the roving of the appetite.” We can learn to appreciate what we have when we live in humble thankfulness for God’s gifts. (Roland Cap Ehlke, The People’s Bible, Ecclesiastes, 62) Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor. — Benjamin Franklin A mercy–a special mercy is it to be delivered from Mammon idolatry!–to be restrained in our worldly desires–and, above all things, to “lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven”–treasures, that we can never lose–that never spend, and never perish. (Charles Bridges, The Geneva Series of Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 123) The eyes are one part of man’s physical equipment with which to enjoy life and find contentment (cf. 1:8 contrasting with 11:9). But though there may be plenty to see, an inward wandering desire prevents man from ever being entirely content. (Michael A. Eaton, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 107) The closest English equivalent to this proverb is probably, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Be content with what you have–your work, your food, your family; do not count on what is beyond your reach. What you see with your eyes you can deal with; what you crave with your soul you may not attain. (David Hubbard, Mastering the OT: Ecclesiastes, 154-55) Rehoboam’s problem was that he was coveting his father’s fame, wealth, and power. Covetousness is, in many respects, the gateway of all other sin. Whoever allows covetousness free rein in his soul will tumble through all kinds of temptations into the snares of sin (Jas 1:13-15). That’s why, Solomon implies, it is better to be content with what one has than to let his appetite wander to the possessions of others (cf. 1 Tm 6:6-10). (T. M. Moore, The Christian Worldview Journal, June 10, 2011) Undoubtedly such a man consumed his passion on his possessions, having very little for his many children. At his death they will reciprocate in kind. Love is not to be spent on things; God calls us to love Him and our neighbors–beginning with those closest to us. But if we waste our affections on things, which can never satisfy, those relationships we should have been nurturing won’t hold up for us when we need them most. (T. M. Moore, The Christian Worldview Journal, June 7, 2011) Contentment is not freedom from desire, but freedom of desire. (John Eldredge; The Journey of Desire, 182) The human heart produces desires as fire produces heat. As surely as the sparks fly upward, the heart pumps out desire after desire for a happier future. The condition of the heart is appraised by the kinds of desires that hold sway. Or, to put it another way, the state of the heart is shown by the things that satisfy its desires. If it is satisfied with mean and ugly things, it is a mean and ugly heart. If it is satisfied with God, it is a godly heart. As Henry Skougal put it, “The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its desire.” (John Piper, Future Grace, 277-78) Hybris is the first and most popular form of idolatry. But all forms of idolatry involve us deeply in folly. All idolatry is not only treacherous but also futile. Human desire, deep and restless and seemingly unfulfillable, keeps stuffing itself with finite goods, but these cannot satisfy. If we try to fill our hearts with anything besides the God of the universe, we find that we are overfed but under-nourished, and we find that day by day, week by week, year after year, we are thinning down to a mere outline of a human being. (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 122-23) The desires of the soul find nothing in the wealth of the world to give them any satisfaction. The soul is not filled, so the word is. When God gave Israel their request he sent leanness into their souls, Ps 106:15. He was a fool who, when his barns were full, said, Soul, take thine ease. (Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. III, 1014) We need to stop dreaming about what we don’t have and be content with what we do have. Dreams can give us goals to strive for, but they cannot fill empty stomachs, pay outstanding bills, and provide lasting satisfaction. We cannot begin to discover contentment until we face reality. (Charles R. Swindoll, Living on the Ragged Edge, 61) If the advertisers are right, we have a lot to feel discontent about. We don’t have enough possessions, and we don’t have them soon enough or up to date enough. Fulfillment is equated with wearing the right kind of clothes, driving the right kind of car, drinking the right kind of beverage. This lifestyle of discontent held similar sway for many of the Teacher’s contemporaries. In this section he challenges his reader to stop seeking satisfaction from accumulating things. Instead he offers an alternative, one that leads to a “lifestyle of contentment.” (Bill & Teresa Syrios, Ecclesiastes, Chasing after Meaning, 27) Usually we think we can find satisfaction in everything that life has to offer–food and drink, music and beauty, family and friends. Yet desire is a tramp. Never content to stay at home, it always wants to go out wandering. (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 143) Our desires are always traveling, but never arriving. This is the wanderlust of the human soul. (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 143) Best not to expect too much and you will not be disappointed. Don’t waste your time longing for what you can never have. This seems to be the point of the saying in verse 9. (Robert Davidson, The Daily Study Bible: Ecclesiastes, 42) III- There is no contentment in striving against God. (Eccl 6:10-12; see also: Job 33:12; Isa 45:9-12; Dan 4:34-35; Rom 9:20-21) Talking a lot (“many things” is more lit. “many words”) is one way we try to transcend our limitations. We rationalize, apologize, overexplain, beg, and argue–only to make things worse (“increase vanity”). Even our ability to talk gives human beings (“man”) no real advantage. Who can outargue God (v. 10), especially since he knows our hearts? (David Hubbard, Mastering the OT: Ecclesiastes, 156-57) To ‘give something a name’ is to study or (as here) to appoint its character. Both the world (what is) and man have settled characters. One who is stronger than he is God. Thus the Preacher is underlining the impossibility of changing the basic character of life. Man cannot escape his limitations nor can he completely unravel the world’s anomalies (cf. 1:15). (Michael A. Eaton, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 107) If we are unhappy with the way things are, there is no sense arguing with God about it. This seems to be what the Preacher means when he talks about disputing with someone stronger than we are. The “one stronger” is Almighty God. (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 145) A being–thus fraught with infirmity and corruption–a very worm in utter weakness and helplessness–can he contend with his Maker–infinitely mightier than he? (Isa 45:9). Can he impede him, and call him to account? “Nay, but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?” (Rom 9:20). Learn the lesson of prostrate submission. Take thy proper place–“laying thine hand on thy mouth” (Job 40:4), and thy mouth in the dust. To contend is to add madness to folly. To submit is thy security and thy rest. (Charles Bridges, The Geneva Series of Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 130) If anyone tries to argue about it he finds himself arguing with “one stronger than he” (v. 10), ie God, and that is like battering your head against a brick wall. Life is short. There are no certain and absolute values in it. We don’t even know what lies round the next corner. (Robert Davidson, The Daily Study Bible: Ecclesiastes, 42-43) Our lot, whatever it is, is that which is appointed us by the counsel of God, which cannot be altered, and it is therefore our wisdom to reconcile ourselves to it and cheerfully to acquiesce in it (v. 10): That which has been, or (as some read it) that which is, and so likewise that which shall be, is named already; it is already determined in the divine foreknowledge, and all our care and pains cannot make it otherwise than as it is fixed. (Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. III, 1015) It is therefore folly to quarrel with that which will be as it is, and wisdom to make a virtue of necessity. We shall have what pleases God, and let that please us. (Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. III, 1015) The “one” most likely refers to God. How foolish it is to try to go against God’s will. How foolish for modern man to think he can ignore the lessons of the past. God still punishes sin. Try as we might, we simply cannot overcome God and his plans. (Roland Cap Ehlke, The People’s Bible, Ecclesiastes, 62) The Teacher was prepared to listen to objections. He said that man should do the will of God by being content to take his daily life from God’s hand. But is man really free to choose? Since God is supreme, he has surely predestined everything and has made man too weak to resist (v. 10). Reasoning, complaining, and arguing bring no answer and lead to further frustration (v. 11). What value are categories such as “good”? Life is too short to worry about behavior. Even if moral standards have some bearing on the future, no one knows what the future will bring (v. 12). (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, 1172) Everything that exists has already been “named” in accordance with its true character (e.g., Gn 2:19-20). This includes “man” (’adam), who comes from the “dust” (’adama, Gn 2:7) and will return to the dust (Eccl 12:7). Human beings prefer to make a name for themselves (Gn 11:4); but in fact they already possess one, and it is a name that signifies weakness (“dust”) in the face of the almighty Creator God, with whom no one can “content” or dispute, as Job discovered (Job 38-42). (Iain Provan, The NIV Application Commentary: Ecclesiastes, 130-31) Acceptance of reality is a necessity. “For who knows what is good for a man in life” (v. 12) other than God, who creates the good and blesses mortals with it (cf. 5:18)? No mortal being is in a position to challenge God on this point (“Who can tell him what will happen under the sun after he is gone?” No mortal being knows! We are ignorant and weak creatures, passing through life “like a shadow” that flits here and there and is gone after a few “meaningless” (better, “brief, insubstantial”) days. It is certainly therefore not a rational course of action to seek anything other from life than harmony with creation as it really is and with God who made it thus. Life lived in any other manner can only end in tears. (Iain Provan, The NIV Application Commentary: Ecclesiastes, 131) Solomon is basically saying that we can talk back to God all we want, but we will just end up frustrated. God says it will give you no advantage to argue. God has stacked the deck of life and is the dealer. He owns the casino. He has determined that “life is to know Me.” (Tommy Nelson, A Life Well Lived, 89) The more a person complains to God about existing conditions in this present cursed world, the more the vanity of what he has to say becomes apparent in his abundance of words (v. 11). Arguing with God is the supreme vanity; the more one attempts it, the more vain he shows himself to be. (Jay E. Adams, Life under the Son, 66) When people complain about circumstances, point out that they are complaining about God’s providence and that they certainly will not win the contest. Since they don’t know what is good for them, how can they have a case? On what is their complaint based? Help them to bring their debate with God (and, as Solomon says, that is exactly what it is) to a close. They can’t win. (Jay E. Adams, Life under the Son, 67) In Scripture, the act of naming something is a sign of sovereignty over that thing. For instance, when Adam gave names to all the animals, he was exercising his God-given right and responsibility to rule over the earth (Gn 2:19-20; cf. 1:26-28). However, God has named man, each of the stars, and everything else that was not placed under man’s rule (5:2; Ps 147:4; Eccl 6:10a). Therefore, the Lord is the King over all of creation. As a result, everything is under His perfect, all-knowing control; nothing that happens takes Him by surprise or causes Him to modify His plan (cf. Gn 45:4-8, 50:19-20; Job 14:5; Ps 2; Dan 2:20-23, 4:17; Acts 4:27-28). Of course, we might doubt God’s sovereignty when a “foreigner” invades our lives and robs us of joy. But then we must rest in the fact that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28). (Charles R. Swindoll, Living on the Ragged Edge, 61) CONCLUSION/APPLICATION: How does a relationship with Christ bring us the contentment we seek?: A- Only God can bring contentment and Christ is the bridge back to God. (Psa 16:11; 103:2-5; 104:28; 116:7; 145:16; 147:14; Mt 11:28-30; Lk 12:15-21; Rom 3:21-28; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:6-9; Phil 3:8-11, 18-20; Heb 4:1-11; 5:9) Contentment is a gift from God to be gratefully received, not a triumph of self-discipline or acquisition to be attained. — Pastor Keith God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing. -C.S. Lewis Sin is what you do when your heart is not satisfied with God. No one sins out of duty. We sin because it holds out some promise of happiness. That promise enslaves us until we believe that God is more to be desired than life itself. (Ps 63:3). Which means that the power of sin’s promise is broken by the power of God’s. All that God promises to be for us in Jesus stands over against what sin promises to be for us without him. (John Piper, Future Grace, 9-10) We must conclude that even the most mundane and earthly things of life do not lie within man’s grasp to donate to himself. The source of all good, contrary to the expectations of most systems of humanism and idealism, cannot be located in man. “He doesn’t have it,” as the saying goes. It is all beyond him. Rather, it must come from God. Man must get accustomed to realizing that if he is to receive satisfaction from his food and drink, that satisfaction, like all satisfaction, will have to come from the hand of God. (Kaiser, Walter C. Jr., Everyman’s Bible Commentary: Ecclesiastes, 45) “Evil” is the first and last word in this thought. Solomon means it. It’s not just “too bad” that people don’t come to know the Lord; it’s an eternal tragedy, one that consigns them to misery here and now and unrelieved suffering hereafter. Perhaps, in this increasingly secular world, if we as believers saw the plight of our lost neighbors as “evil” holding them in its grip, we might be more moved to reach out to them with the love and Truth of Christ (2 Tm 2:24-26). (T. M. Moore, The Christian Worldview Journal, June 6, 2011) We have been made for relationship with God. Therefore it is not surprising that we long to meet and know God. But the God we seek is the God we want, not the God who is. We fashion a god who blesses without obligation, who lets us feel his presence without living his life, who stands with us and never against us, who gives us what we want, when we want it. We worship a god of consumer satisfaction, hoping the talismans of guitars and candles or organs and liturgy will put us in touch with God as we want him to be. (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 65-66) Itching for glory from other people makes faith impossible. Why? Because faith is being satisfied with all that God is for you in Jesus; and if you are bent on getting the satisfaction of your itch from the scratch of others’ acclaim, you will turn away from Jesus. But if you would turn from self as the source of satisfaction (repentance), and come to Jesus for the enjoyment of all that God is for us in him (faith), then the itch would be replaced by a well of water springing up to eternal life (Jn 4:14). (John Piper, Future Grace, 94) To be satisfied by the beauty of God does not come naturally to sinful people. By nature we get more pleasure from God’s gifts than from himself. (John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, 9) When we take God at his word and believe the promises he has made in the Bible, then we know there is a life to come. After he died for our sins and rose again, Jesus ascended into Heaven. He is there to prepare a place for us with him in the presence of God. The way to that blessed place is simply to trust in Jesus. (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 146) Our hearts are restless until we find our rest in thee, O Lord. — St. Augustine There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any other created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus. — Blaise Pascal Remember that when the Preacher says all of this, he is leaving God out of it for the moment. He is thinking mainly in terms of life under the sun, but not in terms of life after death and all the promises God has made about the coming of his kingdom. This life is not all there is. Jesus proved that when he died and rose again, bringing the light of the resurrection out of the darkness of the grave. (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 142) Where did you ever get the idea that there would be lasting or even satisfying benefits to what you do here?” Life under the sun is life in a world cursed by God and plagued by sin and misery. What enables one to move through it in a reasonably contented manner is to live this life not merely under the sun but also UNDER THE SON. He alone can turn this present life into a life that affords joy and happiness in the midst of sin and the curse. But even then, because of imperfect sanctification, no Christian can avoid entirely the disappointments and pitfalls of this world. (Jay E. Adams, Life under the Son, 5-6) B- Contentment is something that must be learned by the Spirit of Christ and being discontented with the world, our flesh and the Devil. (Phil 4:11-13; 1 Tm 6:6-19) Strange delusion, to suppose that more of this world would bring increase of happiness! This is indeed to seek where it is impossible to find, and where the insatiable appetite is continually crying “Give, give” (Prv 30:15). This lust is indeed an universal disease. (Charles Bridges, The Geneva Series of Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 126) Karl Marx assailed this idolatry in these terms: “Money is the Jealous God of Israel before whom no other god may exist…Money is the general, self-sufficient value of everything. Hence it has robbed the whole world, the human world as well as nature, of its proper worth. Money is the alienated essence of man’s labor and life, and this alien essence dominates him as he worships it. (M. Habertal and A. Margalit, Idolatry, 243) Those who have tasted transcendental reality can never again be convinced that this world and the society that regulates them can satisfy their needs. Those who have tasted of the heavenly gift will always hunger because they know there is more to life, and that something more is not controlled by the system but lies beyond anything that the rulers of the system can provide. Out of such holy discontentment new movements are born. The sense of what is absent makes us discontented with what is present. (Tony Campolo, Carpe Diem, Seize the Day, 144-45) In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight–a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be. (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 10) If we magnified blessings as much as we magnify disappointments, we would all be much happier. (John Wooden, Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court) Some situations are hopeless in human terms, but we can remain under and endure them because our hope lies elsewhere. Instead of despairing over such situations, we find our Hilarity in that which really matters. This is a victory of a different sort. We don’t overcome the situations, but we overcome ourselves and learn to rest in God’s grace, which is sufficient to carry us through the tribulations that don’t ultimately matter. In the things that do, our hope is sure to give us Joy. (Marva J. Dawn, Truly the Community: Romans 12, 197) Show me a thoroughly satisfied man, and I will show you a failure. —Thomas Edison I find it terribly difficult to understand a person who is so satisfied with their present accomplishments that they have no desire to risk attempting something new. There is nothing wrong with spiritual contentment with our possessions and resources, but each of us should carry to our grave a holy dissatisfaction with our achievements. (John C. Maxwell, The Power of Leadership, 45) God is not an austere Being who dislikes it when His children are happy. He does not gain pleasure from tantalizing us by offering something that appears attractive but is harmful and disappointing when we get it. He has placed us on a planet that offers abundance, and He wants us to enjoy it. The hermits and ascetics had the mistaken idea that God is pleased when His children choose a life of hunger, privation, and needless suffering. On the contrary, the Lord is delighted when He sees a happy family. He is pleased when people joyously partake of the good things of this world. It is not His fault that men are greedy for wealth and power. He is not to blame when cravings or lusts drive them to destroy their own characters and being miserable upon themselves and their fellows. (Richard W. De Haan, The Art of Staying Off Dead-end Streets, 97) Many people demolish their integrity and self-esteem in the process of obtaining materialistic goals. True happiness is impossible when greed and ambition dominate. Then, too, the lust for wealth and power enmeshes men in a futile round of earning and spending, even though they are not finding the satisfaction they expected. (Richard W. De Haan, The Art of Staying Off Dead-end Streets, 98) There is a very real sense in which you will never be fully content in this world because this world is fallen and you are fallen. Our present reality keeps intruding and interrupting our eternal, authentic reality. So we need to learn to be content in our present discontentment knowing we’ll enjoy contentment. This I call discontented contentment! — Pastor Keith Bertrand Russell once said, “It is preoccupation with possession more than anything else that prevents man from living freely and nobly.” If the object of your life is a great getting–of prestige, wealth, power–you are the victim of an ever-increasing appetite which can never be satisfied. (Lloyd . Ogilvie, The Communicator’s Commentary: Luke, 275) Christian apologist Josh McDowell, speaking on college campuses in the 1960s and ‘70s, often reminded audiences that if education was the key to life, then universities would be the most moral, ethical, and spiritual centers in any nation. Education would equate to contentment. (David Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven on Earth, 24) When you can’t have what you want, it’s time to start wanting what you have. You can’t give a dog an ulcer. He is content just being a dog. He doesn’t try to be anything but a dog. —Steve Brown Emmanuel Mounier, the founder of the French “personalist” philosophical movement, writes that human life is characterized by a “divine restlessness.” The lack of peace within our hearts spurs us on a quest for the meaning of life–a command imprinted on “unextinguished souls.” Pope John Paul II sums up the matter elegantly: “One may define the human being, therefore, as the one who seeks the truth.” (Charles Colson, The Good Life, 10) The crumbs of the Gospel are infinitely richer than the dainties of the world. But this is man’s common delusion–to suppose that happiness is the creature of circumstances. If, therefore, he is disappointed in one course, he will seek it in another. Little does the self-deluded victim know that he carries the principle of his misery in his own bosom. Far, indeed, is he from his object. What he wishes is one thing. What he really needs is another. (Charles Bridges, The Geneva Series of Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 28) “Looking deep inside yourself to find [life’s] answers is like going scuba diving in a septic tank. There’s just not much there and you’re going to be sorely disappointed. If you’re looking for answers in life you don’t look in, you look up to the one who made you. That’s where you look, to the one who gave you life and created life.” – Steve Farror (founder of Men’s Leadership Ministries) “Some time ago, the staff of “The Bible Study Hour” prepared a brochure that compared the world’s thinking and the Bible’s teaching in six important areas: God, man, the Bible, money, sex and success. The differences were striking, but what impressed me most as I read the brochure is how right many of the world’s ideas seem if we are not thinking critically and in a biblical way. This is because we hear the world’s approach so often, so attractively, and so persuasively, especially on television. Here are some of “the world’s” statements we printed: “I matter most, and the world exists to serve me. Whatever satisfies me is what’s important.” “If I earn enough money, I’ll be happy. I need money to provide security for myself and my family. Financial security will protect me from hardship.” “Anything is acceptable as long as it doesn’t hurt another person.” “Success is the path to fame, wealth, pleasure and power. Look out for number one.” How about the Christian way? From the world’s perspective, the Christian way does not look attractive or even right. It says such things as: “God is in control of all things and has a purpose for everything that happens . . . Man exists to glorify God . . .Money cannot shield us against heartbreak, failure, sin, disease, or disaster. . . Success in God’s kingdom means humility and service to others. Because we are so much a part of the world and so little like Jesus Christ, even Christians find God’s way unappealing. Nevertheless, we are to press on in that way and prove by our lives that the will of God really is “good pleasing and perfect” in all things.” (James Montgomery Boice, Mind Renewal in a Mindless Age, 122) To Have More – Want Less. Contentment isn’t getting what we want but being satisfied with what we have. Covetousness is desiring something so much that you lose your contentment in God. The opposite of covetousness is contentment in God. When contentment in God decreases, covetousness for gain increases. That’s why Paul says in Col 3:5 (RSV) that covetousness is idolatry. “Put to death what is earthly in you; fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. It’s idolatry because the contentment that the heart should be getting from God, it starts to get from something else.” (John Piper, Future Grace, 221) Be content with what you have but never with what you are. If people have trouble enjoying life–if satisfaction is not guaranteed, no matter how long we live–then maybe we could avoid disappointment by wanting less out of life. The trouble is that we always have an appetite for more. (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 143) Man’s longings are the very essence of life, that man’s insatiable hunger and his work to satisfy his mouth are essential parts of his existence. (Abingdon Press, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. V, 62) It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about. (Dale Carnage, How to Win Friends and Influence People) Be thankful for what you have—you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough. —Oprah Winfrey The greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances. — Martha Washington He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have. — Socrates Many people lose the small joys in hope for the big happiness. —Pearl S. Buck We are not rich by what we possess but by what we can do without. —Immanuel Kant Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants. —Epictetus A man is happy so long as he chooses to be happy. — leksandr Solzhenitsyn C- Contentment is trusting submission to God. (Psa 4:5; 37:3; 40:3; 78:7; 115:9-11; 125:1; Prv 3:5-6; Isa 26:4; Mk 11:22; Jn 14:1; Acts 16:31 Phil 4:11-13; 1 Tm 6:6-19; Jas 4:7;1 Pt 1:21) With this background we will see more clearly that pride is a species of unbelief. Unbelief is a turning away from God and his Son in order to seek satisfaction in other things. Pride is a turning away from God specifically to take satisfaction in self. So pride is one specific form of unbelief. And its antidote is the wakening and strengthening of faith in future grace. (John Piper, Future Grace, 87) People in every society consistently seek the wrong things. Some look for money, fame, and power. But these things cannot satisfy us. As Solzhenitsyn said about his time in a Soviet gulag, “Bless you, prison. Bless you for being in my life, for there, lying on the rotting prison straw, I came to realize that the object of life is not prosperity, as we are made to believe, but the maturing of the human soul.” (Charles Colson, The Good Life, 58) The essential issue is between the authority of autonomous man and of the Sovereign God. To allow God into the universe, provided that we open the door, is to say that the universe is our universe, and that our categories are decisive in human thinking. We can accept the Scriptures as inerrant and infallible on our terms, as satisfactory to our reason, but we have only established ourselves as god and judge thereby and have given more assent to ourselves than to God. But, if God be God, then the universe and man are His creation, understandable only in terms of Himself, and no meaning can be established except in terms of God’s given meaning. To accept miracles or Scripture on any other ground is in effect to deny their essential meaning and to give them a pagan import. Thus, the consistent Christian position must be this: no God, no knowledge. Since the universe is a created universe, no true knowledge of it is possible except in terms of thinking God’s thoughts after Him. (Rousas J. Rushdoony, By What Standard?, 17) One of the joys of surrender is a deep peace. Rebellion means war, so it is no surprise that surrender means peace. This peace gives us a new freedom in our relationships. As always, true Christian spirituality has implications for community living in families and churches. Thomas a Kempis said if we are not surrendered to God, we will be at war with others. “He that is well in peace, is not suspicious of any man. But he that is discontented and troubled, is tossed with divers suspicions: he is neither at rest himself nor suffereth others to be at rest…He considereth what others are bound to do, and neglecteth that which is bound to himself.” (Thomas A Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, II:3:1) (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 99-100) Happy indeed are they, who labor in dependence upon him, who alone can bless their work. And thrice blessed are they, who are laboring for eternity, and who yet receive the reward of their labor as the free gift of their Divine Master (Jn 6:27). (Charles Bridges, The Geneva Series of Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 127) The greatest tragedy of all time is that we waste so much of our time trying to be something we are not. —Steve Brown For the man who walks with God, however, happiness is a way of life. He accepts the good things with gratitude, enjoys them, and trusts the Lord for tomorrow. His inner peace and gladness are more precious than all the pleasures money can buy. Yes, misfortune may rob him of his earthly riches, tragedy may take away his family, and disease may deprive him of health, but he will still be joyful. (Richard W. De Haan, The Art of Staying Off Dead-end Streets, 98) Our conformity to the will of God should extend to our natural defects, mental ones, included. We should not, for example, complain or feel grieved at not being so clever or so witty or not having such a good memory as other people. Why should we complain of the little that has fallen to our lot when we have deserved nothing of what God has given us? Is not all a free gift of His generosity for which we are greatly indebted to him? What services has He received from us that He should have made us a human being rather than some lower animal? Have we done anything to oblige him to give us existence itself? But it is not enough just not to complain. We ought to be content with what we have been given and desire nothing more. What we have is sufficient because God has judged it so. Just as a workman uses the shape and size of tool best suited to the job in hand, so God gives us those qualities which are in accordance with the designs He has for us. The important thing is to use well what He has given us. It may be added that it is very fortunate for some people to have only mediocre qualities or limited talents. The measure of them that God has given will save them, while they might be ruined if they had more. Superiority of talent very often only serves to engender pride and vanity and so become a means of perdition. (Jean Baptiste; Trustful Surrender To Divine Providence,: pgs. 65-66) . . . after Chaucer’s character: “We are discontent with our lot, whatever it is, just because it is ours.” (Philip Yancey ; The Bible Jesus Read, 157) Is it possible to have the walls crashing down around you and still experience contentment? I would have never thought so, but I was surprised to learn that we can be content in the midst of suffering—not mere inconvenience, but severe, agonizing suffering. The issue, I learned, is that our circumstances don’t’ determine our contentment, but our faith and trust in God do. (Patrick Morley; The Man In The Mirror, 101-02) Faith is what pleases God! Believing Him, taking Him at His Word, and acting upon that Word is what pleases God. It is obedience based upon faith. To such a man or woman God gives the gift of enjoying whatever he or she has. (Ray Stedman, Is This All There Is to Life?, 82) This book of wisdom exhorts us to receive everything with a grateful heart, realizing that we do not have it coming to us; it is a gift of God. Even if it is painful for the moment, a wise Father has chosen it for us, and it will yield to us great and rich benefits. You can be as grateful for the pain as for the pleasure. That is the lesson of this book. (Ray Stedman, Is This All There Is to Life?, 83) God promises abundant joy to everyone who submits to His will (cf. Jn 15:10-11). To experience this joy, we must see life from God’s perspective (cf. Eccl 1:2-2:26), submit daily to His sovereign plan (Eccl 3:14), and rejoice in whatever God provides. (John A. Stewart, Lamplighters Self-Study: Ecclesiastes, 20) Too Blessed to Complain —Bumper sticker in Chicago Contentment: Realizing that God has provided everything I need for my present happiness. Spiritual Challenge: Endeavor to submit to the truth that God alone can give you peace, rest and contentment (Psa 62:1, 5; Eccl 6:2). Strive to enter God’s rest (Heb 4:11). Endeavor to submit to God Who alone can give you the peace, rest and contentment you seek (Isa 9:6; Mt 11:28-19). Worship point: Worship the One who brings you life, peace and contentment. You are a fool if you don’t.
He who is content with little has everything.