“Advancement” – Ecclesiastes 10:8-20

March 2nd, 2014

Ecclesiastes 10:8-20

“Advancement”

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Bible Memory Verse for the Week: You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. —  Ephesians 4:22-24

 

Background Information:

  • Creative Power of the Word: Genesis chapters 1-3 revisited.   Man was to “rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Gn 1:26; cf. v. 28).  James in customary biblical style divides the creation kingdom into four groups: those that walk, fly, crawl, and swim (cf. Ps 8:7-8; 1 Cor 15:39).
  • The domesticating of wild animals is a sign of the Messianic Age (Isa 11:6, 9).
  • (v.8 ) The verbs of verse 8 should be read as possibilities not predictions: “may fall” not “will fall”; may be bitten” not “will be bitten.”  (David Hubbard, Mastering the OT: Ecclesiastes, 215)
  • (v.11) The verse about the snake charmer has a double meaning.  Of course, a snake charmer is going to lose business if his snake bites someone before it rises for the charmer.  Interestingly, the words translated “charmer” literally mean “a master of the tongue.”  Understood in this way, Solomon is also saying, “Watch that tongue of yours.  Don’t speak before you think.”  David expressed a similar thought.  “Rescue me, O Lord, from evil men;…they make their tongues as sharp as a serpent’s; the poison of vipers is on their lips” (Ps 140:1, 3).  We should learn to charm our tongues before they bite.  James says it very strongly.  “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless” (Jas 1:26).  (Roland Cap Ehlke, The People’s Bible, Ecclesiastes, 107)
  • This whole section (and the entire Bible) can be reduced down to these two competing worldviews: Your life for mine or my life for yours.

 

The Book of Proverbs reveals at least four characteristics of the foolish in this regard.  First, fools traffic in deceit (Prv 14:8).  They habitually lie with hardly a guilty pang in their conscience.  Second, fools mock sin (v. 9).  They make light of wrongdoing.  Sometimes their attitude toward sin emerges in dirty jokes, foul language, or vicious cynicism.  But whatever the mode of expression, fools make it clear that they do not consider sin to be sinful.  Third, fools treat wickedness like it is a sport (10:23, 15:21).  They find pleasure in committing sin and exhorting others to do likewise (cf. Rom 1:32).  Fourth, fools rage against the Lord (Prv 19:3).  They sneer with malice and vindictiveness at God and His ways.  It stands to reason that people with these traits will have difficulty changing their ways.  It takes a very stern and severe hand to turn fools toward wisdom.  (Charles R. Swindoll, Living on the Ragged Edge, 104-05)

 

Over the years, teachers have been asked to identify the top problems in America’s schools. In 1940, teachers identified them as talking out of turn; chewing gum; making noise; running in the hall; cutting in line; dress code infractions; and littering. When asked the same question in 1990, teachers identified drug use; alcohol abuse; pregnancy; suicide; rape; robbery; and assault. These are not good things to get used to, either. Consider, too, where the United States ranks in comparison with the rest of the industrialized world. We are at or near the top in rates of abortions, divorces, and unwed births. We lead the industrialized world in murder, rape, and violent crime. And in elementary and secondary education, we are at or near the bottom in achievement scores. (William J. Bennett,Getting Used to Decadence: The Spirit of Democracy in Modern America”)

 

The questions to be answered are . . . What in the world is Koheleth trying to say here at the end of chapter 10 of Ecclesiastes?   What is to be gained by this shotgun approach to communicating wisdom?

 

Answer: Koheleth is still trying to get us to realize what life is like without God.  Since we are created in the image of God (Gn 1:26-27) and since He has placed within us eternity in our hearts (Eccl 3:11) and we possess an innate desire to take dominion (Gn 1:26-28; 2:19-20); we are innately inclined to make advancements, both within our own lives and in this Fallen world.   It is the presence of sin, the Fallen world, and listening to the Devil that causes us to ignore or neglect this inclination and live instead like the beasts (Rom 1:18-32).  I believe his widespread use of illustrations is designed to get us to integrate this idea into a variety of contexts and force us to begin to understand the comprehensive implications of trying to live a life without God.

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Advance

 

What is Koheleth trying to say here at the end of chapter 10?:

 

I-  To make advancements in a fallen world involves risk. (Eccl 10:8-9)

 

If the people have not vision, they shall surely perish.  No man has a right to live who has not in his soul the power to die nobly for a great cause.  (Theodore Roosevelt, Fear God and Take Your Own Part, 136)

 

Until we put honor and duty first, and are willing to risk something in order to achieve righteousness both for ourselves and for others, we shall accomplish nothing; and we shall earn and deserve the contempt of the strong nations of mankind.  (Theodore Roosevelt, Fear God and Take Your Own Part, 378)

 

These men, whether politicians, publicists, college presidents, capitalists, labor leaders, or self-styled philanthropists, have done everything they could to relax the fiber of the American will.  They teach our people to seek that debasing security which is to be found in love of ease, in fear of risk, in the craven effort to avoid any duty that is hard or hazardous–a security which purchases peace in the present not only at the cost of humiliation in the present but at the cost of disaster in the future.   (Theodore Roosevelt, Fear God and Take Your Own Part, 382)

 

Dig a pit in order to trap another, and you yourself may be the one caught in it.  Dig through a wall or hedge where a snake is likely to be lurking and, instead of pulling off the intended theft, the breaking and entering leads to the thief himself becoming the victim–of a snake bite.  While the consequences of sin are not always so readily explained, these two proverbs imply that one always takes an unnecessary risk when he determines to do evil.  (Jay E. Adams, Life under the Son, 104)

 

II-  To make advancements in a fallen world involves preparation. (Eccl 10:10-11)  

 

The skilled craftsman makes sure that the axe he uses is sharp before he begins his work.  It is easy to see when it is put like that, but perhaps not so easy to recognize in our lives.  Don’t we often go rushing into things, barging ahead, justifying ourselves that we are busy, that we are doing something, without first stopping to think whether this is really the right way to handle this situation to deal with that person?  (Robert Davidson, The Daily Study Bible: Ecclesiastes, 73)

 

Here the painstaking aspect of wisdom is presented: a wise man prepares his tools.  Thoughtfulness brings success more than brute force.  (Michael A. Eaton, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 136)

 

Skills unused are worthless.  (Jay E. Adams, Life under the Son, 105)

 

Immense effort may end in nothing but tired feet if the traveler does not know his road.  A man lost in the woods may run till he drops, and find himself at night in the place from which he started in the morning.  The path must be known, and the aim clear, if any good is to come of effort.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, 2 Kgs – Eccl, 382)

 

The metaphor of my text says that the reason why the “fool” is so wearied after the day’s march is that he does not in the morning settle where he is going, and how he is to get there; and so, having started to go nowither, he has got where he started for.  He ‘does not know how to go to the city’–which, being translated into plain and unmetaphorical English, is just this, that many men wreck their lives for want of a clear sight of their true aim, and of the way to secure it.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, 2 Kgs – Eccl, 386)

 

There are two things obviously necessary for success in any enterprise.  One is, that there shall be the most definite and clear conception of what is aimed at; and the other, that there shall be a wisely considered plan to get at it.  Unless there be these, if you go at random, running a little way for a moment in this direction, and then heading about and going in the other, you cannot expect to get to the goal.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, 2 Kgs – Eccl, 386)

 

If you do not think through what you are going to do, and sharpen the edge of your approaches by pondering carefully how you are going to go about something, you will only expend a lot of effort and find yourself worn out in the process.  But the wise man, understanding the need for sharpness and clarity, will whet the edge of his thought before he tries something, and will thus succeed.  (Ray Stedman, Is This All There Is to Life?, 152)

 

The damage is already done.  Do not go seeking counsel or help to remedy a situation after it has happened.  Go for help before it is needed.  Seek the counsel of one who can defuse the situation, one who can calm the serpent which is within all of us, before you get into trouble.  That is the point of wisdom.  (Ray Stedman, Is This All There Is to Life?, 153)

 

I don’t care how much Bible you know, it’s meaningless if you don’t know how to charm the serpent before it gets to you.  Life is loaded.  (Tommy Nelson, A Life Well Lived, 166)

 

The final sayings in the chain (vv. 10-11) make even more clear the virtues of wisdom: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” would probably be our English equivalent, or “a stitch in time saves nine.”  Wisdom helps us save energy–like the wisdom to sharpen the axe ahead of time.  The axe blade would have been iron in Koheleth’s time and the sharpening would have involved rubbing on other iron, as the saying in Prv 27:17 reveals.  (David Hubbard, Mastering the OT: Ecclesiastes, 216)

 

Lack of caution proves costly is the point.  (David Hubbard, Mastering the OT: Ecclesiastes, 216)

 

There is nothing for the snake charmer to do once the victim is dead (v. 11).  The early Christians were eager to charm the serpent and rescue his victims before it was too late (e.g., 1 Cor 9;22; 2 Tm 2:24-26).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, 1186)

 

In a fine note of sarcasm, this proverb says that a person may be so involved in arguing about the universe that he misses what the ordinary person is concerned about, namely, finding the way home (cf. Isa 35:8-10).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, 1187)

 

III-  To make advancements with a fallen nature involves self-discipline . . . especially your mouth.  (Eccl 10:12-15, 20)  

 

The tongue inflicts greater wounds than the sword.  — St. Augustine

 

Death and life are in the power of the tongue.  -Proverbs 18:21

 

God takes words seriously.  —Tim Keller

 

A careless word may kindle strife.

A cruel word may wreck a life,

A bitter word may hate instill;

A brutal word may smite and kill,

A gracious word may smooth the way;

A joyous word may light the day.

A timely word may lessen stress;

A loving word may heal and bless.

 

Words create reality.  More lasting and significant than the physical reality.  It was words that spoke the universe into being

 

The tongue is you in a unique way.  It is a tattletale that tells on the heart and discloses the real person.  Not only that, but misuse of the tongue is perhaps the easiest way to sin.  There are some sins that an individual may not be able to commit simply because he does not have the opportunity.  But there are no limits to what one can say, no built-in restraints or boundaries.  In Scripture, the tongue is variously described as wicked, deceitful, perverse, filthy, corrupt, flattering, slanderous, gossiping, blasphemous, foolish, boasting, complaining, cursing, contentious, sensual and vile.  And that list is not exhaustive.  No wonder God put the tongue in a cage behind the teeth, walled in by the mouth!  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 144)

 

We can train any animal but we cannot train the tongue

 

Words are the windows to the mind.  Socrates said, “Speak, young man, that I may know you.” 

 

Koheleth draws our attention to another mark of the fool.  A fool, he says, “multiplies words” (v. 14).  He does not know when to keep quiet.  He goes on and on spouting nonsense (cf. Prv 15:2) quite oblivious to the fact that it is nonsense.  The trouble is that he believes what he says.  The more he talks, the more he convinces himself that he knows.  He has got all the answers.  He has eliminated the unknown from his vocabulary.  Any sense of bowing humbly before the mystery of life has gone.  It takes a wise man to know when to say, “I don’t know.”  (Robert Davidson, The Daily Study Bible: Ecclesiastes, 74)

 

The last thing a fool can do is to recognize his own limitations.  (Robert Davidson, The Daily Study Bible: Ecclesiastes, 75)

 

The Preacher now points to the arrogance of the fool’s speech.  His verbosity is not founded on any esoteric wisdom or knowledge.  He has no knowledge of the present, let alone the future.  Nor can any man give him any knowledge of the future.  Yet he speaks with conviction on such things.  (Michael A. Eaton, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 136)

 

The lips of the fool swallow up himself.  Adonijah’s self-willed proclamation was to his own ruin (1 Kgs 1:5, 2:25).  Rehoboam’s foolishness–giving grievous instead of gracious words to his people–made “his own tongue to fall upon himself” (1 Kgs 12:1-19 comp. Ps 64:8).  Wisdom guides the nearest way to our own security (Prv 10:9)–folly the surest road to our own ruin.  (Charles Bridges, The Geneva Series of Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 250)

 

Nor are the fool’s lips only a curse to himself.  They become a pest to all around him–from beginning to end.  The beginning of his words is foolishness.  But he goes from bad to worse–often as if he was worked up to a frenzy.  If his oracular voice does not command attention, he is all on fire–all is a blaze and smoke–till his anger becomes a sort of mischievous madness.  Thus this combustible talker spreads mischief wherever he goes–in his family–in society, stirring round about him “envy and strife, confusion, and every evil work.”  (Charles Bridges, The Geneva Series of Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 250-51)

 

Words are too often the substitute for thinking, rather than the medium of thought.  In the use of them men think they know their own wisdom.  But how few comparatively know their own foolishness!  The fool passing from his words to his daily business–his labor wearies every one connected with him.  Impertinently busy, without any object; yet so extreme is his ignorance upon the most ordinary matters–such a total want of common sense–that it is as if he knew not the plainest track–how to go to the city, close at hand.  We wonder not that man should be wearied with his intercourse, yielding as it does no profitable result.  Thus ‘men, who neglect to employ Christ for “eye-salve, that they might see” (Rv 3:18) things of greatest concernment for his glory, and for the salvation of their own souls, are often, for their so doing, left to miscarry in their most common affairs.’  Man’s wisdom becomes his foolishness, if he is content to live without dependence upon his God.  (Charles Bridges, The Geneva Series of Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 251)

 

The Mosaic code forbade to curse the Ruler of the people “even by evil speaking.”  (Comp Ex 23:28 with Acts 23:5).  The rule here goes deeper, and chains even the thought.  (Charles Bridges, The Geneva Series of Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 260)

 

Fools go through life using and abusing other people, often to their own detriment.  And yet, the pain fools receive seldom leads to significant changes on their part.  Solomon urges us to see the stupidity in this kind of lifestyle and to turn from it by living wisely.  (Charles R. Swindoll, Living on the Ragged Edge, 101)

 

Have you ever found yourself “multiplying words” to try to get out of an awkward situation?  Or simply to assert your presence?  Saying too much is not wise, for it can lead us to say things we shouldn’t.  (Roland Cap Ehlke, The People’s Bible, Ecclesiastes, 109)

 

The fool makes his plans, talks on and on, and endlessly carries on his labors, even to the point of exhaustion.  He may have very definite ambitions and plans.  In reality all his work is meaningless, because his endeavors are without God.  So the fool aimlessly wanders through life.  In this sense, “he does not know the way to town.”  (Roland Cap Ehlke, The People’s Bible, Ecclesiastes, 109)

 

Intemperate, ungracious speech in the end brings ruin upon him who speaks it by consuming him.  His words drive others away, cause them to oppose him, and thus bring about his downfall.  As one chews up and destroys whatever he eats, so does a student’s thoughtless words eat him up (destroy him).  Here is a verse for many of your students who have developed sharp tongues and who create problems for themselves by their use of them.  They must be taught instead to cultivate gracious speech before they utterly destroy themselves (cf. Gal 5:15; Col 4:6).  (Jay E. Adams, Life under the Son, 106)

 

In verse 13 Solomon continues to speak of the fool who, even when he attempts to moderate his speech after having lashed out at another (for instance), can do no better.  In trying to make up for his hurtful, foolish words, he only digs the hole into which he has plunged himself all the deeper.  His words, from beginning to end, are stupid.  His pretense at being repentant, since it is false, only makes things worse.  (Jay E. Adams, Life under the Son, 106)

 

. . . the stupid person thinks that if he speaks enough that will make the difference; he will be able to make up for his foolishness.  So he goes on talking.  But his many words (v. 14) are stupid, as everyone can see, since he doesn’t know what he is talking about any more than if he were attempting to predict the future (of which, of course, he knows nothing).  (Jay E. Adams, Life under the Son, 107)

 

How often gossip has caused one to lose his job, to destroy friendships, or to turn another into an enemy.  There is always someone who will gossip, Solomon is saying, so be careful what you say about another.  It is never safe to speak negatively about him.  So don’t.  (Jay E. Adams, Life under the Son, 109)

 

One of the riskiest things for foolish people to do with their words is to criticize people in authority–in this case, people with power and political influence.  In some countries, criticizing the government is tantamount to treason.  That is especially true in an absolute monarchy, which in Biblical times would have included most nations.  Gossip about the government–even in secret–and your words may well get you into trouble.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 244)

 

Sooner or later what we say to one person will get repeated to another person, with varying degrees of accuracy.  Once the words leave our mouths, we lose control over where they go.  If the wrong word reaches the ear of the wrong person, there may be serious repercussions.  How easy it is to send a quick electronic message, but how difficult it is to undo the damage done by words that are personally insulting or sexually inappropriate.  It would be wiser not even to think such things, let alone say them, especially because God knows all our thoughts (e.g., Ps 139:4).  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 245)

 

Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.  –Plato

 

Winning the war of words involves choosing our words carefully.  It is not just about the words we say, but also about the words we choose not to say.  Winning the war is about being prepared to say the right thing at the right moment, exercising self-control.  It is refusing to let our talk be driven by passion and personal desire but communicating instead with God’s purposes in view.  It is exercising the faith necessary to be part of what God is doing at that moment.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 246)

 

God gives us our impulses under lock and key.  All our animal desires, all our natural tendencies, are held on condition that we exercise control over them, and keep them well within the rigidly marked limits which He has laid down, and which we can easily find out.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, 2 Kgs – Eccl, 375)

 

Words devoid of content–this is characteristic of our time. There never was such a day in which people were bombarded with so many words, so much literature, so much spouting of words through the media.  Yet much of it is thoroughly empty, unsatisfying, and misleading in the extreme.  (Ray Stedman, Is This All There Is to Life?, 154)

 

Koheleth, like the wise teachers of Proverbs, knew that his students were headed for positions of responsibility, whether in government service or business.  As persons of prominence they had to watch their language.  Success or failure would be determined, in some measure at least, by the winsomeness, accuracy, and frugality of their speech.  Like the snake charmer (v. 11), they had to be “masters of the tongue.”  (David Hubbard, Mastering the OT: Ecclesiastes, 216)

 

We think it bad enough to have to “eat our words.”  How much worse it is when our words eat us!  There could scarcely be a more dramatic description of the dangers of ill-chosen speech.  The follow-on lines in verse 13 describe the process of this self-destruction: It begins with “foolishness.”  How else would a fool begin?  Then from there everything is down hill till it hits bottom (“the end,”, lit. “afterward”).  (David Hubbard, Mastering the OT: Ecclesiastes, 217)

 

Many who are empty of sense are full of words; and the least solid are the most noisy.  (Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. III, 1040)

 

Fools don’t tend to think before they speak; or, if they do, their words betray the corruption of their hearts.  The more they talk like fools, the more they act like them.  Folly is a cancer that fills the soul and spreads to every area of life.  It has to be cut out and controlled or it will destroy a man.  The wise man, on the other hand, finds favor with his words, because they enlighten and edify those with whom he speaks.  (T.M. Moore, The Christian Worldview Journal, July 15, 2011)

 

In our unbelieving, secular age, words proliferate.  Politicians, advertisers, professors, pundits, and policy-makers at every level proliferate words, as though words alone make a difference in reality.  So many of those words are based on equivocation and deceit, that people are left not knowing what to believe or why.  This is why it is so important for believers to choose their words carefully and use them for God’s glory.  The light of wisdom in a dark age of folly and lies can go a long way in helping people find the stability and reliability of truth. (T.M. Moore, The Christian Worldview Journal, July 15, 2011)

 

IV-  To the extent that leaders fight against depravity shalom and advancement are able to take place.  (Eccl 10:16-18)   

 

There are plenty of politicians, by no means as well meaning, who find it to their profit to pander to the desire common to most men to live softly and easily and avoid risk and effort.  Timid and lazy men, men absorbed in money-getting, men absorbed in ease and luxury, and all soft and slothful people naturally hail with delight anybody who will give them high-sounding names behind which to cloak their unwillingness to run risks or to toil and endure.  (Theodore Roosevelt, Fear God and Take Your Own Part, 63)

 

The 20th century is only too sadly familiar with corrupt regimes, basking in the outward symbols and wealth, creaming off personal fortunes into international banks, while their people live in crippling squalor and in fear.  We have the right to expect much from our political leaders; the right to expect that the government will be responsibly run for the welfare of the whole  community, rather than for party considerations or for personal prestige and fortune.  (Robert Davidson, The Daily Study Bible: Ecclesiastes, 76)

 

As many a house owner has found out to his cost, if you neglect a leaking roof you can soon be in serious trouble.  As the proverb “a stitch in time saves nine” reminds us, it never pays to be negligent.  It may be, however, that Koheleth still has the politicians in mind, and is using this illustration to drive home to them his theme; that disaster befalls a country when its leaders neglect to live up to their responsibilities.  (Robert Davidson, The Daily Study Bible: Ecclesiastes, 76-77)

 

Drinking in the early hours of the day marked a dissolute, slothful approach to life, with emphasis on luxury and personal indulgence.  As we have frequently seen (e.g. 9:7-10) personal enjoyment had a place for the Preacher; and the antithesis to indulgence here is not asceticism, but self-control.  The mark of such pleasure is that it is to be enjoyed “in a state of strength,” not “in a state of drunkenness.”  The enjoyment of life’s pleasures as the outworking of a position of wisdom-strength is a mark of national bliss; the pseudo-enjoyment of self-centered indulgence is a mark of national danger.  (Michael A. Eaton, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 137)

 

The ruler and princes, given up to sensual indulgence, will slumber in the affairs of the state.  The commonwealth therefore will be like the building decaying for want of proper support–the house slipping through–not weather-proof–for the idle want of exertion to keep it in repair.  The house must be kept up.  The damage–small at first–increases rapidly by neglect.  The yawning sluggard drags out his daily excuse–‘It is but a brick is gone.  A few hours will make no great difference’–till by daily procrastination the injury is beyond repair, and the decaying tenement slippeth through.  The less the pains required at first, the more inexcusable the delay.  A little care at the beginning would have saved the decay.  ‘Tomorrow’–says the proverb “comes never.”  And the same tempter, who leads you to put off doing what is right to “a more convenient season,” will be as ready to suggest an excuse tomorrow as today.  (Charles Bridges, The Geneva Series of Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 255)

 

Idleness of hands is often connected with worldliness of heart.   (Charles Bridges, The Geneva Series of Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 256)

 

While we study the awful catalogue of sins of commission, let us not forget that the sins of omission are equally guilty.  We learn to do evil, by doing nothing.  We satisfy ourselves in irreligious habits with the delusion, that we have done no harm.  But is it really no harm to have trifled away all opportunities of doing good?  The “talent laid up in the napkin” (Lk 19:20) of idleness–duties neglected–times of usefulness frittered away–and gone–never to be recalled?  (Charles Bridges, The Geneva Series of Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 256)

 

What a tragedy when foolish people come to power and rule an entire nation!  The word for “servant” here literally means “child.”  Regardless of his numerical age, he is immature and more interested in enjoying life and the privileges of power than in guiding the people and seeking their welfare.  Little did King Solomon know that after his death his own son Rehoboam would “reject the advice the elders gave him and consult the young men who had grown up with him” (1 Kgs 12:8).  So Solomon’s words proved prophetic, although he did not mean them that way.  (Roland Cap Ehlke, The People’s Bible, Ecclesiastes, 110)

 

The first speaks of the fact that, as we say, there will be trouble when you send a boy to do a man’s work.  The boy king is immature in tastes, knowledge, skills, and judgment.  (Jay E. Adams, Life under the Son, 108)

 

. . . when leaders of a government are so interested in feasting that it is their first activity every day, you can be sure that trouble will follow.  They are not really concerned about the affairs of state; their real interest is in using their positions for self-indulgence.  They eat not for sustenance (to maintain life) but for the revelry involved.  (Jay E. Adams, Life under the Son, 108)

 

A notable example from European history is Charles XII, who became the king of Sweden when he was only a teenager.  The wild behavior of Charles and his friends included riding on horseback through his grandmother’s apartment, knocking people to the ground in the city streets, and practicing firearms by shooting out the windows of the palace.  In response, the leading preachers of Stockholm all agreed to preach from Ecclesiastes 10:16 on the same Sunday, pronouncing woe on a land with a child for a king and princes that feasted in the morning.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 247)

 

Here the Searcher compares the nation to a house.  The application is that a people who are given over to industriousness, hard work, and profitable-though-demanding labor are laying the foundation for stability in government, no matter what the leader is like.  Without that foundation of hard work and readiness to work, the roof falls in–the house leaks.  Then a nation is insecure, and subject to invasion.  (Ray Stedman, Is This All There Is to Life?, 160)

 

Running all through Scripture is a recognition of the value of labor.  This touches on the question of a welfare state, and on the increasingly luxurious living standards of our day.  It declares that what makes a nation healthy, despite even the weakness of its leaders, is industrious, hardworking citizens who are willing to pay their own way and put in full time at their jobs.  That is the way to support the government.  (Ray Stedman, Is This All There Is to Life?, 161)

 

The Bible commands God’s people to obey their government leaders and to resist the temptation to rebel quickly, even if the cause is just and the leaders are corrupt (Eccl 8:2-6; cf. Rom 13:1-7).  Even if citizens act responsibly, however, incompetent leaders can bring great distress upon people by their foolish decisions (Eccl 10:16).  (John A. Stewart, Lamplighters Self-Study: Ecclesiastes, 34)

 

Dine in the morning.  They give themselves over to a life of irresponsible carousing at all times, again in contrast to the princes in the next verse.  The implication is that a country ruled by a lackey will lose all sense of appropriate restraint and fall into a round of hedonistic merrymaking.  (Robert Alter, The Wisdom Books, 383)

 

The beatitude (v. 17) is the only glimmer of light in a gloomy scene.  It pictures the way the court functions if the body politic is to maintain its health: (1) the “king” is born and bred to the manner (for “nobles” or “free men,” see Neh 2:16; 4:14, 19; 5:7; 13:17) and therefore trained to cope with the high demand and wide range of royal responsibilities; (2) the political and military leaders (see “princes” at 10:7) engage in their festivities “at the proper time” (in the evening not the “morning”, v. 16) and for the right reason–“strength” (Heb. frequently has martial overtones,  “Strength to fight,” 9:16) not carousing (“drunkenness” is lit. “drinking” whose aim is not merely to slake thirst).  (David Hubbard, Mastering the OT: Ecclesiastes, 218-19)

 

How much the happiness of a land depends upon the character of its rulers; it is well or ill with the people according as the princes are good or bad.  (Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. III, 1040)

 

Perhaps Solomon wrote this with a foresight of his son Rehoboam’s ill conduct (2 Chr 13:7); he was a child all the days of his life and his family and kingdom fared the worse for it.  Nor is it much better with a people when their princes eat in the morning, that is, make a god of their belly and make themselves slaves to their appetites.  If the king himself be a child, yet if the princes and privy-counselors are wise and faithful, and apply themselves to business, the land may do the better; but if they addict themselves to their pleasures, and prefer the gratifications of the flesh before the dispatch of the public business, which they disfit themselves for by eating and drinking in a morning, when judges are epicures, and do not eat to live, but live to eat, what good can a nation expect!  (Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. III, 1040-41)

 

The people cannot but be happy when their rulers are generous and active, sober and temperate, and men of business, v. 17.  The land is then blessed, (1) When the sovereign is governed by principles of honor, when the king is the son of nobles, actuated and animated by a noble spirit, which scorns to do any thing base and unbecoming so high a character, which is solicitous for the public welfare, and prefers that before any private interests.  Wisdom, virtue, and the fear of God, beneficence, and a readiness to do good to all mankind, these ennoble the royal blood.  (Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. III, 1041)

 

Magistrates should eat for strength, that their bodies may be fitted to serve their souls in the service of God and their country, and not for drunkenness, to make themselves unfit to do any thing either for God, or man, and particularly to sit in judgment, for they will err through wine (Isa 28:7), will drink and forget the law, Prv 31:5.  It is well with a people when their princes are examples of temperance, when those that have most to spend upon themselves know how to deny themselves.  (Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. III, 1041)

 

Lack of self-control in a leader, shown by feasting at breakfast (cf. Isa 5:11; Acts 2:15) sets an example that lesser men and women soon follow.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, 1187)

 

Fools in office think of themselves first and the people they serve last.  Rehoboam will ruin the nation if he persists in his folly.  (T.M. Moore, The Christian Worldview Journal, July 16, 2011)

 

V-  Shalom and advancement are encouraged by money righteously allocated.  (Eccl 10:19)   

 

When overweening desire for money becomes the force behind working for a living, it leads to ruin.  In the NT work is commendable only if the worker does not love money, trusts in God, and shows generosity (1 Tm 6:6-10; Acts 20:33-35; Eph 4:28).  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol 3, 55)

 

Money is one of God’s good gifts.  Use it properly and it brings the good life within your grasp.  It is also possible to translate, “but money is the concern of all”; even the rich cannot be entirely carefree in their pleasures; they have still got to balance the books.  Needless and thoughtless extravagance is not the mark of responsible leadership.  (Robert Davidson, The Daily Study Bible: Ecclesiastes, 77)

 

That money is said to be the answer to everything need not surprise us; despite the Bible’s warnings (Dt 8:13f.; Mk 10:23ff.; 1 Tm 6:10), money is never despised.  The four references to it in Ecclesiastes reveal one who knew what it was to be wealthy (2:8), that money did not entirely satisfy (5:10), yet found it to be a protection (7:12) and (if we take the passage this way) a practical necessity.  Some dispute this view and maintain that the licentious life is still the subject.  On this reading the verse describes the limitations of the foolish outlook; it is circumscribed by feasting, wine and money.  (Michael A. Eaton, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 138)

 

Many are the resources of laughter and merriment.  But money brings a wider range of influence.  It answereth not only the pleasure, the feasting and wine, but all things, which the craving appetite of man can desire.  In itself it is a blessing, contributing largely to our temporal comfort.  If we despise it, we must be content to live without many of the ordinary indulgences of life.

And yet this universal empire of money involves many limitations.  It cannot give health, happiness, or immortality.  It cannot provide the principles of moral excellence.  It cannot give peace of conscience, or furnish a ransom for the soul.  Yet with all these reserves as an instrument of commerce, it answereth all things.  The man who has it, wants nothing that this world can give.  It supplies a thousand advantages–not only the necessaries, but the conveniences, indulgences, and embellishments of life.  It is the price and measure of all things.  The worldling with his full chest fancies a sort of Deity in it–resources inexhaustible.

The real sphere of the usefulness of money is the object and use of it–when we hold it as stewards–when the two great ends are combined in one–the glory of God, and the good of our fellow-creatures.

How grand is the object!–how widely extended is its sphere of usefulness–when expended in the spread of the Gospel–the schemes of Christian education, and all the methods of social improvement, which are stirring up, and exciting such general interest!  The more good will be done, when we take the most delight in doing it.  But how dangerous–yea–how fatal is the profession, when it is suffered to usurp God’s place in the heart!  The larger the mass, the more grace is needed to preserve from its deadly temptation.  Nothing can set out its great power more strongly than our Lord’s solemn declaration–“How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” (Mk 10:22).

But fearful indeed is the responsibility of money, when spent only upon the feast for laughter and wine.  For of them, “whose god is their belly, and who mind earthly things”–it is emphatically declared–“whose end is destruction” (Phil 3:19).  (Charles Bridges, The Geneva Series of Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 259-60)

 

The lazy and self-indulgent whom Solomon has been describing do not have this perspective.  For them life holds nothing more than the pursuit of pleasure.  It appears that Solomon inserted the last line of verse 19 as a further illustration of their attitude–“money is the answer for everything.”  In earlier chapters the Teacher had stressed that money is not the answer.  In and of themselves, riches are meaningless (5:8-6; 12).  How sad, then, when people–especially people of influence–can’t see beyond their own greed.  (Roland Cap Ehlke, The People’s Bible, Ecclesiastes, 111)

 

Today we can similarly ask, “Why do we keep on throwing more and more money at schools only to produce more and more of the same poor education we already deplore?”  The answer is stupidity.  The essence of such stupidity is like the bird that, again and again, attempted to get through the glass window of our house, only to fail over and over again.  (Jay E. Adams, Life under the Son, 107)

 

A meal, instead of being used to sustain life, is turned into an occasion for riotous activity and reveling: wine is used to get drunk on, and money is counted the solution to all problems.  This philosophy of life is destructive and vain–as some of your students have already discovered.  They must be shown how to use things for their intended, rather than perverted, purposes.  (Jay E. Adams, Life under the Son, 109)

 

Money keeps everyone busy.  The verb here, most commonly means “answer” in biblical Hebrew, but as several recent commentators have argued, this verbal stem in Qohelet’s distinctive vocabulary is associated with business, as in the reiterated noun which means “business.”  The evident idea here is that people may fling themselves into feasting and drinking, but their overriding preoccupation is money–which, among other uses, pays the bills for the carousing.  (Robert Alter, The Wisdom Books, 383)

 

Verse 19 speaks further of the great illustration of, and perhaps the partial cause of, the idleness, which is the inappropriate banqueting mentioned already in verses 16-17.  The NIV does not translate it in the best way, however.  A more literal translation is: “For laughter they prepare food, and wine that brings joy to the living; and money meets the demands of [lit. ‘answers’] both.”  Qohelet often uses Hebrew kol to express “both” of two options rather than a global “all, everything” (cf. 2:14; 7:15, 18).  The implication is that money that may have been well used for “house repairs” has been squandered on partying.  (Iain Provan, The NIV Application Commentary: Ecclesiastes, 197)

 

Spiritual feasts are made for spiritual laughter, holy joy in God.  Wine makes merry, makes glad the life, but money is the measure of all things and answers all thingsPecuinæ obediunt omnia–Money commands all things.  Though wine makes merry, it will not be a house for us, nor a bed, nor clothing, nor provisions and portions for children; but money, if men have enough of it, will be all these.  The feast cannot be made without money, and though men have wine, they are not so much disposed to be merry unless they have money for the necessary supports of life.  Money of itself answers nothing; it will neither feed nor clothe; but, as it is the instrument of commerce, it answers all the occasions of this present life.  What is to be had may be had for money.  But it answers nothing to the soul; it will not procure the pardon of sin, the favor of God, the peace of conscience; the soul, as it is not redeemed, so it is not maintained, with corruptible things as silver and gold.  Some refer this to rulers; it is ill with the people when they give up themselves to luxury and riot, feasting and making merry, not only because their business is neglected, but because money must be had to answer all these things, and, in order to that, the people squeezed by heavy taxes.  (Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. III, 1041)

 

CONCLUSION/APPLICATION: How does a relationship with Christ bring clarity and significance to Koheleth’s insights?:

 

“The doorstep to the temple of wisdom is the knowledge of our own ignorance.”  This oft-repeated remark of Charles Spurgeon puts us in our proper place and helps us know where to begin the pursuit of wisdom.  We are not as wise as we think we are.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 241)

 

 

A-  You will never be willing to make preparations and risk unless your are convinced that the reward outweighs the risk.  Jesus came to show us that we can confidently risk it all when we belong to Jesus.  (Mt 16:24-27; 19:29; 25:34-46; Mk 10:21; Lk 6:22-23, 35; Eph 3:20; Heb 11:26; )

 

To the degree that we feel we are on legal or performance relationship with God, to that degree our progress in sanctification is impeded.  A legal mode of thinking gives indwelling sin an advantage, because nothing cuts the nerve of the desire to pursue holiness as much as a sense of guilt.  On the contrary, nothing so motivates us to deal with sin in our lives as does the understanding and application of the two truths that our sins are forgiven and the dominion of sin is broken because of our union with Christ.  (Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace, 108)

 

The secularists of Jesus’ day summed up their philosophy like this: “Eat, drink, and be merry.  For tomorrow you die.” Contrast that with Jesus’ words: “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.”  Think in terms of eternity.  Think of the long-range implications.  This touches us most directly, not simply in how we handle our bank accounts, but at the level of how we invest our lives.  Life is an investment and the question that modern man has to answer is, “Am I going to invest my life for short-term benefits or for long-term gains?  (Lifeviews By: R.C. Sproul 37)

 

Muggeridge who, at the end of his life, said, “Looking over my 90 years, I realize I have never made any progress in good times.  I only progressed in the hard times.”  (Fred Smith, Mentored by the Prince of Preachers,” Leadership, [Summer 1992], 54)

 

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)

 

My aim is that you will find a way of life that enables you to use your mind and your five senses as effective partners in seeing the glory of God, and that you be so satisfied in him that you are willing to risk your health and your life to make him known.  It may seem paradoxical, but that’s the way it is: The right use of your body and your mind may enable you to see so much of God that you would sacrifice your life for Christ.  (John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, 203)

 

In God’s economy, breaking even is a total loss.  Isn’t that the lesson in the parable of the talents?  The servant with one talent broke even, and in my estimation that’s not half bad.  But Jesus called him a “wicked, lazy servant.”  Can I make a confession?  That seems a little harsh to me.  Part of me feels like Jesus should tone it down.  But I’ve learned that when I think Jesus is wrong, it actually reveals what’s wrong with me.  In this instance it reveals my incomplete and inadequate view of righteousness.  The greatest risk is taking no risks.  And it’s not just risky, it’s wrong.  Righteousness is using all of our God-given gifts to their full God-given potential.  (Mark Batterson, Primal, A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, 143)

 

In contrast to Esau, Jacob so highly valued the birthright that he would risk his life to attain it.  In many ways, he may have been more carnal than Esau, but his heart burned for his spiritual inheritance, even to the point of being willing to risk his life of it.  He was determined to obtain God’s blessing, even if he had to wrestle with God to get it; which eventually he did (Gn 32:24-32).  (Rick Joyner, There Were Two Trees in the Garden, 90)

 

Email sent from Onsted Middle School 9-15-11:

At Onsted Middle School, we recognize and promote the 40 developmental assets. As documented by Search Institute, these assets are the essential building blocks that help all youth make positive choices, and grow into confident, responsible, healthy, and caring citizens. The more assets young people have, the less likely they are to engage in risky behaviors, and the more likely they are to succeed in school.

Studies by Search Institute show that youth who participate in religious activities at least one hour per week, have an average of five more assets than those who don’t participate. Emerging research shows that in addition to engaging in religious activity, these young people experience many other assets as part of the faith community and their own faith commitment. As youth are recognized as gifts from God, congregations strive to nurture all areas of young persons’ lives in addition to nurturing their faith.

To encourage students to become a part of a community of believers, we are inviting local youth pastors to come into the school on September 28. You would simply set up a display at a table in the cafeteria during lunch time (11:10-11:40 and 12:12-12:42). You could display or give away anything that promotes involvement in your (or any, for that matter) youth group. Please consider joining us.

 

“To live without risk is to risk not living,” my paternal grandma used to say.  The way of trust is risky business, no doubt about it.  To change careers suddenly because one feels unfulfilled, to assume the energy-depleting care of elderly parents, to retreat for three days of silence and solitude with Jesus without climbing the walls, to volunteer for a summer in the sub-Sahara with only meager spiritual resources, to take an unpopular position with rumblings of fear in the background, to conquer disillusionment when one finds untrustworthiness where least expected–all these challenges require a willingness to risk a journey into the unknown and a readiness to trust God even in the darkness.  (Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 21)

 

The way we employ the surplus hours after provision has been made for work, meals, and sleep will determine if we develop into mediocre or powerful people.  Leisure is a glorious opportunity and a subtle danger.  Each moment of the day is a gift from God that deserves care, for by any measure, our time is short and the work is great.

Minutes and hours wisely used translate into an abundant life.  On one occasion when Michelangelo was pressing himself to finish a work on deadline, someone warned him, “This may cost your life!”  He replied, “What else is life for?”

Hours and days will surely pass, but we can direct them purposefully and productively.  Philosopher William James affirmed that the best use of one’s life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.  Life’s value is not its duration but its donation–not how long we live, but how fully and how well.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, pp. 93-4)

 

More failure comes from an excess of caution than from bold experiments with new ideas.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 127)

 

Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.  -Mike Murdock

 

But, after all, the grand cause of failure is, that we do not go straight to God for the strength of Omnipotence to be “made perfect in our weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).  There having gone and whetted the edge–now to your work.  They that have a little strength, shall have more.  “He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might, he increaseth strength” (Isa 19:29).  Ours is not a fitful work–of strong, but temporary, excitement.  The thought that it is God’s work–done for God–done on earth, as it cannot be done in heaven–this puts energy into every effort.  It is not the work of the scholar or the theologian, but of the practical servant of God.  It is not the work of natural power, but of Christian confidence.  “When”–as godly Bp. Latimer declares–“I am in a settled assurance about the state of my soul, methinks then I am as bold as a lion.  But when I am eclipsed in my comforts, I am of so fearful a spirit, that I could run into a very mouse-hole.”  Here is the true whetting of the edge.  (Charles Bridges, The Geneva Series of Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 245)

 

B-  Your heart changed by Jesus allows control over your life/mouth because your mouth is only an outlet for the affections and values of your heart.  (Mt 12:34-37; 15:11-20; Lk 6:45; Gal 5:22-23; 2 Tm 1:7; Ti 1:8; Jas 1:26; 3:3-18; 1 Pt 3:9-11; 2 Pt 1:5-8)

 

The tongue is so much more than what we actually say out loud.  In fact actual speech is probably only a small percentage of the use of the tongue.  We cannot think without formulating thoughts in words; we cannot plan without describing to ourselves step by step what we intend to do; we cannot imagine without painting a word-picture before our inward eyes; we cannot write a letter or a book without ‘talking it through’ our minds on to the paper; we cannot resent without fueling the fires of resentment in words addressed to ourselves; we cannot feel sorry for ourselves without listening to the self-pitying voice which tells us how hard done by we are.  But if our tongue were so well under control that it refused to formulate the words of self-pity, the images of lustfulness, the thoughts of anger and resentment, then these things are cut down before they have a chance to live: the master-switch has deprived them of any power to ‘switch on’ that side of our lives.  It is in this way that if any one makes no mistakes in what he says he is a perfect man (2).  The control of the tongue is more than an evidence of spiritual maturity; it is the means to it.  (J.A. Motyer, The Message of James, 121)

 

There is a tension underlying false discernment, an anxiety that pressures the mind to make a judgment.  True discernment emerges out of a tranquil and pure heart, one that is almost surprised by the wisdom and grace in the voice of Christ.  Remember, our thoughts will always be colored by the attitudes of our hearts.  Jesus said, “The mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Mt 12:34).  He also said, “Out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts” (Mk 7:21).  Again He said, “the pure in heart…shall see God” (Mt 5:8).  From the heart the mouth speaks, the eyes see, and the mind thinks.  In fact, Prv 4:23 (NKJV) tells us to diligently guard our hearts for “out of [the heart] spring the issues of life.”

Life, as we perceive it, is based upon the condition of our heart.  This is very important because the gifts of the Spirit must pass through our hearts before they are presented to the world around us.  In other words, if our hearts are not right, the gifts will not be right either.

When the heart has unrest it cannot hear from God.  Therefore, we must learn to mistrust our judgment when our heart is bitter, angry, ambitious or harboring strife for any reason.  The Scriptures tell us to “let the peace of Christ rule [act as arbiter] in [our] hearts” (Col 3:15).  To hear clearly from God, we must first have peace.   (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 81-82)

 

Climacus urged monks, “Once outside your cell, watch your tongue, for the fruits of many labors can be scattered in a moment” (Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, 273).  When we are burning with the desire to speak, we should pause and check the source of that fire.  “A man should know that a devil’s sickness is on him if he is seized by the urge in conversation to assert his opinion, however correct it may be.”  (Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, 106) (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 111)

 

The Monopoly Companion warns players about what can sabotage their games.  “Mr. Monopoly,” who is perhaps a little underchallenged in his day job, has devoted much of his life to discerning the obstacles that keep people from realizing their full Monopoly potential.  Most of his tips have to do with the financial bottom line.  Know which properties have the highest return on investment (not Boardwalk and Park Place; people don’t land on them enough.)  Figure out when to stay in jail (when everyone has hotels.)

But the number one strategy tip surprised me.  It has nothing to do with financial acumen of a sense of timing.  It is simply this: Be the kind of player other people want to sit next to at the game.  Be the kind of player other people don’t mind losing to.  Monopoly is a game that cannot be won without trades and deals, and that takes cooperation.  Mr. Monopoly says that other players don’t like to lose to “browbeaters, insulters, know-it-alls, and inconsiderate players.”  If that’s you, other players will shut you out of trades.  “I’ve seen it happen a zillion times at tournaments,” says Mr. Monopoly.

People who cling to resentments, people who do not know how to handle disappointment with grace, people with long memories and short “forgivers,” people who choke on the words “I’m sorry,” people who sulk and pout and whine–even really smart players who do these things–end up losing at the end of the game.  (John Ortberg, When the Game is Over It All Goes Back in the Box, 209-10)

 

C-  Wise, godly leaders promote national vitality.  A relationship with Jesus allows leaders the courage to be servant leaders instead of self-centered leaders.  (Jer 23; Ezk 34; Mt 20:25-28; Mk 9:35; 10:35-45)

 

It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.  (George Washington)

 

We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion.  Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.  (John Adams)

 

And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God?  That they are not to be violated but with His wrath?  Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.  (Thomas Jefferson)

 

All the scholars are required to live a religious and blameless life according to the rules of God’s Word, diligently reading the Holy Scriptures, that fountain of Divine light and truth, and constantly attending all the duties of religion.  (Yale 1787 Student Guidelines)

 

To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom, and political and social happiness, which mankind now enjoys…Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government–and all blessings which flow from them–must fall with them.  —Jedediah Morse

 

I’ve lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: That God governs in the affairs of men.  If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?  We’ve been assured in the sacred writings that unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.  I firmly believe this, and I also believe that without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel.  —Benjamin Franklin

 

Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation, to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.  —Chief Justice John Jay

 

Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon the authority of that law which is Divine… Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants.  Indeed, these two sciences run into each other.  —James Wilson

 

One of the beautiful boasts of our municipal jurisprudence is that Christianity is a part of the Common Law…  There never has been a period in which the Common Law did not recognize Christianity as lying at its foundations… I verily believe Christianity necessary to the support of civil society.  —Joseph Story

 

The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other.  (Alexis de Tocqueville; Democracy in America)

 

Upon my arrival in the United States, the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I stayed there, the more did I perceive the great political consequences resulting from this state of things, to which I was unaccustomed.  In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom pursuing courses diametrically opposed to each other; but in America I found that they were intimately united, and that they reigned in common over the same country.  (Alexis de Tocqueville, French author of Democracy in America)

 

American society is awash in relativism.

What is the basis for law if there is no absolute truth?  The basis is whoever has the majority–rule by the 51 percent.  Oliver Wendell Holmes once said that “law is the majority vote of that nation that could lick all others.”  Pure pragmatism.

The inevitable result is tyranny, drawn into the vacuum of moral chaos.  If authority cannot be established among people by their shared assumptions, by their agreement about the meaning of life, then it will be imposed on them from the top.  As William Penn said, “If we are not governed by God, we will be governed by tyrants.”

When truth retreats, tyranny advances.  .  (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 292)

 

Most of us instinctively turn to government to solve our social problems.  It’s a habit reinforced from the time we’re young.

Listen to these quotations from the teachers’ edition of a fifth-grade social studies textbook.  “Today, when people lose their jobs,” the textbook says, “they can get some money from the government.”  A few pages later the book says, “Today, families who do not have enough money for food can get money from the government.”  A few pages later we read, “Today families who cannot afford to pay their rent can get help from the government.”

The message is obvious: Government is the solution to every social need.

Here’s a remarkable quotation that sums it all up.  Explaining why the national government has grown so large, a junior-high civics textbook says that over time, “people were no longer content to live as their forefather had lived.  They wanted richer, fuller lives.  They wanted the government to help make their lives rich and full.” 

This goes far beyond the traditional philosophy of limited government, in which the state is given only certain specified tasks, such as operating a police force and regulating traffic.  And it shows that Americans have fallen prey to what political writer Jacques Ellul calls “the political illusion”: the idea that government is actually capable of creating the good life, the good society.

This is nothing short of idolatry, treating the state as a god.

But like all idols, the state inevitably disappoints those who worship at its shrine.  A government that can’t even manage the simple accounting task of balancing its budget is certainly not capable of making people’s lives “rich and full”–not by turning to government but by turning to God.  The kingdoms of this world rise and fall, but the kingdom of God will rule in human hearts for eternity.  (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 125-26)

 

A fool and his money are soon elected.

 

As to behavior, the leader must be respectable.  A well-ordered life is the fruit of a well-ordered mind.  The life of the leader should reflect the beauty and orderliness of God.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 41)

 

Humility is the hallmark of the spiritual leader.  Christ told his disciples to turn away from the pompous attitudes of the oriental despots, and instead take on the lowly bearing of the servant (Mt 20:25-27).  As in ancient days, so today humility is least admitted in political and business circles.  But no bother!  The spiritual leader will choose the hidden path of sacrificial service and approval of the Lord over the flamboyant self-advertising of the world.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 61)

 

When we lead by persuasion rather than command, patience is essential.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 71)

 

To aspire to leadership in God’s kingdom requires us to be willing to pay.  The toll of true leadership is heavy, and the more effective the leadership, the higher it goes.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 115)

 

Fatigue is the price of leadership.  Mediocrity is the result of never getting tired.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 119)

 

The true leader is concerned primarily with the welfare of others, not with his own comfort or prestige.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 125)

 

Discipline is yet another responsibility of the leader, a duty often unwelcome.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 126)

 

Providing guidance is a third area of responsibility.  The spiritual leader must know where he or she is going before presuming to lead others.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 126)

 

“The ideal leader,” said A. W. Tozer, “is one who hears the voice of God, and beckons on as the voice calls him and them.”  Paul gave this challenge to the Corinthian Christians: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1).  Paul knew whom he was following, where he was going, and could challenge others to follow him there.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 127)

 

The leader must either initiate plans for progress or recognize the worthy plans of others.  He must remain in front, giving guidance and direction to those behind.  He does not wait for things to happen, but makes them happen.  He is a self-starter, always on the lookout for improved methods, eager to test new ideas.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 127)

 

The key to spiritual leadership, then, is for spiritual leaders to understand God’s will for them and for their organizations.  Leaders then move people away from their own agendas and on to God’s.  (Henry & Richard Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership, 23)

 

Leadership development is synonymous with personal development.  As leaders grow personally, they increase their capacity to lead.  As they increase their capacity to lead, they enlarge the capacity of their organization to grow.  Therefore, the best thing leaders can do for their organization is to grow personally.  (Henry & Richard Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership, 31)

 

The message is clear.  Leaders’ best thinking will not build the kingdom of God.  Why?  Because people do not naturally think the way God does.  (Henry & Richard Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership, 66)

 

Every time leaders choose to develop their own vision for their people instead of seeking God’s will, they are giving their people their best thinking instead of God’s.  That is a poor exchange indeed.  (Henry & Richard Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership, 68)

 

The key to spiritual leadership, then, is to encourage followers to grow in their relationship with their Lord.  This cannot be done by talking about God.  It cannot be accomplished by exhorting people to love God.  It can only be achieved when leaders bring their people face to face with God and God convinces them that he is a God of love who can be trusted.  (Henry & Richard Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership, 76)

 

When people sense they are a part of something God is doing, there is no limit to what they will be willing to do in response.  (Henry & Richard Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership, 77)

 

God gauges success in terms of faithfulness and obedience, not in terms of dollars or status.  The definitive measure of leaders’ success is whether they moved their people from where they were to where God wanted them to be.  (Henry & Richard Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership, 111)

 

The primary goal of spiritual leadership is not excellence, in the sense of doing things perfectly.  Rather, it is taking people from where they are to where God wants them to be.  (Henry & Richard Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership, 125)

 

Leaders should ask themselves, “If the people in my organization worked with the same intensity as I do, would they enhance the operations of this organization or would they reduce it to a crawl?”

This means that if the pastor urges his members to participate in a workday at the church on Saturday, the pastor is there in his work clothes, not in his study finishing off Sunday’s sermon.  It means that if a company is forced to ask employees to take a reduction in pay, the CEO is the first one to make a sacrifice.  (Henry & Richard Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership, 154)

 

If leaders want their people to work hard, they must set the example.  That’s what leaders do.  (Henry & Richard Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership, 156)

 

Just as Christians are aware that a worldly lifestyle can discredit their Christian witness to others, so leaders know that a careless lifestyle can diminish their credibility in the eyes of their followers.  (Henry & Richard Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership, 158)

 

Leaders should pay close attention to their attitudes, for these serve as barometers to the condition of their hearts.  When leaders become pessimistic, cynical or critical, they need to evaluate the causes.  Perhaps they have been focusing on what people are doing rather than on what God has promised.  Maybe pride is corrupting their thoughts, or insecurity is causing them to be overly defensive.  Whatever the reason, a wise leader will recognize these attitudes as symptoms of an unhealthy relationship with God.  Often leaders will spend plenty of time seeking the world’s advice on how to manage their organization, but little time considering the wisdom found in God’s Word.  Busy leaders neglect their prayer life and wind up overwhelmed with anxiety.  Such people need a fresh encounter with God.  (Henry & Richard Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership, 174)

 

As the Son of David and the son of God, Jesus is “the son of the nobility” twice over.  He knew when to feast, as he did with his disciples.  But his first priority was the work of God’s kingdom.  Therefore, on many occasions he fasted, feeding only on the Word of God (e.g., Lk 4:1-4).  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 248)

 

We never sin alone.  Our foolishness and rebellion impact others, and the more people there are in our sphere of influence, the more people there are to hurt with our sin.  Love of neighbor requires that we eradicate folly and sin from our lives as much as possible.  Wisdom–following in the footsteps of Jesus–is the way to bring blessing to others.  Folly and sin may bring momentary gratification, but they can come back to bite us, and they always leave a bruise on someone else.  In our day, the Church is not wise to be following a policy of downplaying sin.  Church leaders seem to think they can promote the Gospel of Christ and tolerate the folly of their members–don’t want to offend anyone, you know.  But this “tolerance” only promotes more sin, more damage, and more of the wrath of God that Solomon brought on his own nation.  (T.M. Moore, The Christian Worldview Journal, July 16, 2011)

 

Newsweek columnist Joe Klein recently wrote about Berenice Belizaire, a young Haitian girl who arrived in New York in 1987.  When she arrived in America she spoke no English and her family lived in a cramped Brooklyn apartment. Eventually Berenice enrolled at James Madison High School, where she excelled. According to Judith Khan, a math teacher at James Madison, “[The immigrants are] why I love teaching in Brooklyn. They have a drive in them that we no longer seem to have.” And far from New York City, in the beautiful Berkshire mountains where I went to school, Philip Kasinitz, an assistant professor of sociology at Williams College, has observed that Americans have become the object of ridicule among immigrant students on campus . ‘There’s an interesting phenomenon. When immigrant kids criticize each other for getting lazy or loose, they say, ‘You’re becoming American,”‘ Kasinitz says. “Those who work hardest to keep American culture at bay have the best chance of becoming American success stories.” (William J. Bennett,Getting Used to Decadence: The Spirit of Democracy in Modern America”)

 

. . . acedia is an aversion to and a negation of spiritual things. Acedia reveals itself as an undue concern for external affairs and worldly things. Acedia is spiritual torpor, an absence of zeal for divine things. And it brings with it, according to the ancients, “a sadness, a sorrow of the world.” Acedia manifests itself in man’s “joyless.- ill-tempered, and self-seeking rejection of the nobility of the children of God.” The slothful man hates the spiritual, and he wants to be free of its demands. The old theologians taught that acedia arises from a heart steeped in the worldly and carnal, and from a low esteem of divine things. It eventually leads to a hatred of the good altogether. And with hatred comes more rejection, more ill-temper, sadness, and sorrow. Spiritual acedia is not a new condition, of course. It is the seventh capital sin. But today it is in ascendance. (William J. Bennett,Getting Used to Decadence: The Spirit of Democracy in Modern America”)

 

D-  Money is a powerful and useful tool but a lousy master.  A relationship with Jesus militates against making money an all powerful god/idol and allows it to be used to usher in shalom.  (Mt 6:24; 19:16-26; Lk 16:13-31; 19:11-27; Acts 2:41-47; 4:32-37; 2 Cor 8:1-9:15; 1 Tm 6:3-19; Heb 13:5; Jas 1:9-11; 2:5-7; 5:1-8; 1 Pt 5:2-4; 1 Jn 3:17; Rv 3:17-22)

 

Jesus is not against investment.  He is against bad investment—namely, setting your heart on the comforts and securities that money can afford in this world.  Money is to be invested for eternal yields in heaven—“Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven!” (John Piper; Desiring God, 165)

 

Progress has brought us both unbounded opportunities and unbridled difficulties.  Thus, the measure of our civilization will not be that we have done much, but what we have done with that much.  I believe that the next half century will determine if we will advance the cause of Christian civilization or revert to the horrors of brutal paganism.  (George Grant, Carry a Big Stick: The Uncommon Heroism of Theodore Roosevelt, 134-35)

 

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)

 

Richard Halverson said it precisely: “Jesus Christ said more about money than any other single thing because money is of first importance when it comes to a person’s real nature.  Money is an exact index to our true character.  Throughout Scripture we find an intimate correlation between the development of a person’s character and how he or she handles money.”  (Howard Dayton, Your Money Counts, 30)

 

The editor of a small-town newspaper wrote, “Family values are important,…but people want to hear about the economy right now.”

It was a nice way of saying what other commentators say a lot less nicely.  The major media sneers at the values issue, calling it a smoke screen to take people’s mind off the “real” problem: namely the economy.

Okay, let’s talk about the economy.  What are the factors that make for a thriving economy?  Well, for starters people have to be willing to work hard; that’s motivation and self-sacrifice.  They have to be willing to honor contracts; that’s honesty and fidelity.  They have to invest time and effort in projects that pay off only in the future; that’s self-discipline and delayed gratification.  People have to cooperate with coworkers; that’s kindness and respect.  Lawmakers have to pass bills for industry that are fair and consistent; that’s integrity.

The conclusion is obvious.  The marketplace depends on people holding high ethical standards.  Values aren’t peripheral to the economy.  They are its very basis. (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 309)

 

The reason physical sacrifice often results in spiritual renewal goes back to a principle Jesus taught in the gospel of Matthew.  As your treasure goes, so goes your heart.  Jesus said it this way: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt 6:21).

Your heart and your treasure are linked.  If you want to know what you are really committed to, look at your checkbook and credit card statements.  There is your heart, plain and simple.  There is no clearer reflection of your priorities and values.  The way you handle your money is an indicator of where your heart is.  (Andy Stanley, Visioneering, 138)

 

Sanborn’s Maxim says that the faster you try to solve a problem with money, the less likely it will be the best solution.  With enough money anyone can buy his or her way out of a problem.  The challenge is to outthink rather than to outspend the competition.  (Mark Sanborn, The Fred Factor, 13)

 

A Black Bishop Preacher in DC one time explained the three views towards money that comes from the 10th chapter of Luke’s Gospel — the story of the Good Samaritan.  He said that the view of the  thief was “What is yours is mine and I’ll steal it from you if I want it.”   The view of the Levite was, “What is mine is mine and if you need it you can’t have it.”  And finally, the view of the Samaritan was, “What’s mine is yours and if you need it you can have it.”

 

Money reveals where our interests lie; it can direct our attitudes; it ever exposes us to the  danger of worshiping it; and it represents value.  Money not only talks; it screams.  —Leslie Flynn

 

One of the turning points of my life came the day I stopped setting income goals and started setting giving goals.  It was a paradigm shift.  I finally came to terms with the fact that making money is the way you make a living and giving it away is the way you make a life.  True joy is found on the giving end of life.  (Mark Batterson, Primal, A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, 33)

 

A man’s treatment of money is the most decisive test of his character—how he makes it and how he spends it.  —James Moffatt

 

Nothing I am sure has such a tendency to quench the fire of religion as the possession of money.  —J. C. Ryle

 

Each of us will eventually give away all our earthly possessions.  How we choose to do so, however, is a reflection on our commitment to the Kingdom of God.  —Charles F. Stanley

 

The fellow that has not money is poor.  The fellow that has nothing but money is poorer still.  —Billy Sunday

 

We think that idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case.  The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes.  Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life.  (Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, xvii)

 

One of the dangers of having a lot of money is that you may be quite satisfied with the kinds of happiness money can give and so fail to realize your need for God.  If everything seems to come simply by signing checks, you may forget that you are at every moment totally dependent upon God.  — C. S. Lewis

 

In fact, our checkbooks tell us more about our priorities than does anything else.

That’s why Jesus talked so much about money.  Sixteen of the 38 parables were concerned with how to handle money and possessions.  Indeed, Jesus Christ said more about money than about almost any other subject.  The Bible offers 500 verses on prayer, fewer than 500 verses on faith, but more than 2,350 verses on money and possessions.  (Howard Dayton, Your Money Counts, 8)

 

Your heart follows your money and your efforts.  — Steve Brown

 

Worship point:  Do you understand what God designed and created you to be?  Do you understand that God has provided you with everything necessary to advance and become all that He designed and created you to be?  Do you understand that we who are “In Christ” will ultimately participate in the divine nature (2 Pt 1:3-4), be co-heirs with Christ (Rom 8:17; Gal 3:29-4:7), and sons and daughters of the Living God (Jn 1:12-13; Rom 8:14-29; 9:26; Gal 3:26-4:7; Heb 2:10),?   And knowing this you have problems worshiping?

 

Postmodernism and its dogmatic tolerance can lead only to despair, as Sayers wrote and as we witness in the lives of so many today.  Despair in turn leads to slothfulness, and slothfulness to boredom.  In spite of our great technological advances and the highest level of education and material advances any society has ever achieved, we have managed to suck all of the meaning out of life, to destroy any basis for human dignity or human rights, to undermine moral and rational discourse–to leave ourselves adrift in the cosmos.  (Charles Colson, The Good Life, 210)

 

Jesus Christ is the Wisdom of God (Col 2:3), and He never rests from applying His wisdom to the task of upholding the world and all things in it.  There is no such thing as a “spiritual vacuum” in life (Eph 5:15-17).  Wherever we are not keeping up the wisdom of God, the rot of folly will find a foothold.  Jesus is our example–steadfast and faithful in exerting His power and love on the entirety of creation.  We must not become so distracted by the things that gratify, satiate, and entertain us that we neglect the larger and more important duty of keeping up the wisdom of God.  The King of Heaven knows the folly we think we can get away with in secret.  He loves us too much to sit by and let us destroy our lives with sin.  (T.M. Moore, The Christian Worldview Journal, July 17, 2011)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  We will never be able to advance as a nation or as individuals in a godly, secure, stable manner unless and/or until we give ourselves to Jesus and allow Him to rule in our hearts.  Therefore, repent every day from your rebellion, depravity and resistance to be who God desires and created you to be.  And nothing reveals our true spiritual maturity more than our words and the use of our money.

 

Depravity is man’s own way.  —Chuck Swindoll

 

Imago Dei in the NT (Heb 1:1-3; Eph 4:17ff; Col 3:8ff; Rom 8:28ff)  If we see Jesus, we see what we are to be like in the image of God.  For if we see Jesus we have seen the Father thus the image of God.  The fact that God made humans in His image is the great presupposition of the incarnation (Orr).  We were made in the image of God and so it should not be hard for us to imagine the incarnation of Jesus as He is simply the manifestation of that Genesis 1-2 image.  Jesus is the expressed image of God’s person (Heb 1:1-4).  We have been given a special privilege as we are made in God’s image.  This is above angels and other created beings.  Humans ALONE have this privilege.  Thus, as we become redeemed in Christ, and the fullness of that image is developed and sanctified in us, we will more and more become like Christ and thus be true co-heirs, and share in all the abilities, gifts and powers that Christ possessed.

The ultimate goal of God is for us to be conformed into the image of Christ, and thus into the image of God.   In the end we will be changed into the image of God (1 Cor 15; 1 Jn 3:2).

The image of God is becoming more and more prevalent and more and more of interest in 21st century Western civilization because we are finding it harder and harder to know what the image of God is because of the deconstruction of the identity of what it means to be human.  Because of abortion, death on demand, and struggling to even identify what it means to be human we are searching and longing for an identity of what it means to be human – Imago Dei.

 

In the life of obedience, therefore, two things come together: man in the image of God, and the law in the image of God.  In declaring his law, the Lord declares what he is; in obeying the law we are being fundamentally true to what we are.  Because the law reflects His image, it is the true law of our true nature.  In obedience we are living according to our revealed definition, we are ‘being ourselves’.  The law of the Lord is the ‘Maker’s Handbook’ for the effectuation of a truly human existence and personal human fulfilment.  (Alec Motyer, Look to the Rock, 77-78)

 

“Or why should we study hard and prepare to do meaningful work later on in life instead of having a good time now?   Most important, why should we worry about God or righteousness or sin or judgment or salvation, if there is no beyond and “now” is all that matters?” (James Montgomery Boice;  Mind Renewal in a Mindless Age, 75)

 

 

Quotes to Note:

Lord David Cecil said this after the Holocaust: “The jargon of the philosophy of progress taught us to think that the savage and primitive state of man is behind us…But barbarism is not behind us, it is [within] us.”  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 77)

 

 

At about the time our original 13 states adopted their new constitution, in the year 1787, Alexander Tyler (a Scottish history professor at The University of Edinborough) had this to say about “The Fall of The Athenian Republic” some 2,000 years prior:

“A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.”

“The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:

From Bondage to spiritual faith;
From spiritual faith to great courage;
From courage to liberty;
From liberty to abundance;
From abundance to complacency;
From complacency to apathy;
From apathy to dependence;
From dependence back into bondage.”

 

My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ,  in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

— Apostle Paul, Colossians 2:2-3

 

 

Christ:

Future Hope

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