Suffering and Sin (Ecclesiastes 7:1-8:1)

  • I'm not in business, but I understand that most products are developed in a certain pattern
  • someone in the ivory tower comes up with a brilliant idea of a new product
  • then the product is designed, a prototype of the product is made
  • and here comes the fun part: then the product is tested
  • I read last week of a product that was designed in Canada for the U.S. Army to move heavy equipment such as tanks
  • the time came for the field testing of this product
  • because it was being built for the army, the tests were pretty rigid, and the first prototype of this heavy equipment mover was blown into bits
  • now that would have been fun
  • to make a long story short, they had to go back to the drawing board and come up with a whole new design, which incidentally passed the test the second time

  • when you and I use a product, we want to know that it's been field-tested
  • we don't want to be the first to fly a new plane unless someone has already taken that sucker into the air and flown it before
  • the same goes for a lot of other things: cars, recipes, shampoos
  • they can test it on someone else, thank you
  • I'll try the finished product

  • what about our faith?
  • when we trust in God, we become new creation; the old is gone, and the new has come
  • inevitably, we will encounter adversity in our lives
  • our spouses will frustrate us, we'll lose a job, encounter an illness - whatever
  • and the real question is this:
  • will the life of faith survive hard and troublesome times when the "good old days" have gone and the "days of adversity" come?
  • is yours a fair-weather faith?
  • will it survive the hard times?

  • to help answer this question, we're going to turn to Ecclesiastes 7 this morning
  • we're at the half-way point in this book
  • Solomon has been examining life and concluding that everything is meaningless
  • in chapter 7, Solomon switches gears
  • in chapter 7, Solomon begins to examine wisdom and faith
  • he is, in a sense, field-testing a life of faith and asking if and how a life of faith can meet the trials that will come to it in life
  • Solomon helps us to understand how suffering and wisdom can benefit us and even strengthen our faith

  • you'll notice that this chapter is in the form of proverbs
  • a proverb is a maxim, a pithy statement that condenses truth into a few, memorable words
  • in this chapter, Solomon is instructing us
  • so let's begin by examining the results when faith is field-tested with adversity

  • the first thing that Solomon points out is that
  • SUFFERING BRINGS BENEFIT AND INSTRUCTION
  • Solomon points out that adversity and suffering have the potential to be beneficial instead of harmful in our lives
  • given the choice, all of us would choose only good and pleasurable things to happen to us
  • I'm sure all of us would rather laugh than cry, and we would rather attend a birthday party than a funeral
  • but Solomon points out that sorrow is better than laughter
  • read verses one to four with me
  • (Ecclesiastes 7:1) A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth.
  • (Ecclesiastes 7:2) It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart.
  • (Ecclesiastes 7:3) Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart.
  • (Ecclesiastes 7:4) The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.

  • let's look at verse one a bit closer
  • we could translate this verse, "As a good name is better than perfume, so the day of death is better than the day of birth"
  • just as a good reputation earned from inner character is better than outward fragrance, so a funeral instead of a rowdy birthday party poses the ultimate questions about life that we need to face
  • happy times generally teach us less than hard times
  • Solomon continues this thought in verses two to four

  • when I attend a funeral, do you know what I do?
  • I anticipate my own
  • every time I conduct a funeral or sit in one, it reminds me of my own mortality and that one day it will be me lying in that casket
  • what will my life have been like? what will people say about me? what will God say about me?
  • that's why Solomon can say that it's good for us to enter the house of mourning once in a while
  • it causes us to think, doesn't it?

  • do you get the point?
  • we should live with the awareness of our coming death
  • (Psalms 90:12) Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
  • I received a phone call one morning while I was shaving that someone very close to me had died in her sleep
  • I got in the car and drove to meet with some others
  • in that car, my mind was clearer and more focused than probably any other time
  • I was thinking about the deep issues of life, the things that really matter
  • everything else becomes less important

  • there's a true story told by Chuck Swindoll that comes from the sinking of the Titanic
  • a frightened woman found her place in a lifeboat that was about to be lowered into the raging North Atlantic
  • suddenly, she thought of something she needed, so she asked permission to return to her stateroom before they cast off
  • she was granted three minutes or they would have to leave without her

  • she ran across the slanted deck
  • the raced through the gambling room with all the money that had rolled to one side, ankle deep
  • she came to her stateroom and pushed aside her diamond rings and expensive jewelry, and reached above her bed and grabbed three small oranges
  • she quickly made her way back to the lifeboat and got on

  • thirty minutes earlier, she would have chosen any piece of jewelry for a whole crate of oranges
  • but death had boarded the Titanic
  • all of a sudden, priceless things became worthless
  • worthless things became priceless
  • and when death came calling, she preferred three small oranges to an entire crate of diamonds

  • death and adversity give us that wisdom
  • C.S. Lewis wrote, "Pain insists on being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to our conscience, and shouts in our pain. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."
  • pain is God's megaphone to rouse a deaf world

  • I think you will agree that the times you have learned the most in this life have been times of adversity
  • the good news is that these times are not wasted in our lives
  • God is refining us and improving us
  • I once heard somebody say that they didn't want to hear a sermon from a preacher who hasn't suffered
  • there's a certain type of wisdom that only comes from those who have been through the refiner's fire

  • Solomon makes another point in this chapter
  • he's taught us that suffering and adversity can bring benefit and instruction
  • THE OTHER BIG IDEA THAT IS IN CHAPTER SEVEN IS THE HUMAN NEED FOR WISDOM
  • although the trials of life can make us better, we need wisdom to equip us and to handle life as it really is
  • when the storms of life come, there is nothing we need more than the wisdom to know what to do
  • wisdom has been defined by one person as "the God-given ability to see life with rare objectivity and to handle life with rare stability"
  • but wisdom is easier to recognize than it is to define

  • if we are going to survive the trials of life, wisdom is essential
  • (Ecclesiastes 7:11) Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing and benefits those who see the sun.
  • (Ecclesiastes 7:12) Wisdom is a shelte r as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: that wisdom preserves the life of its possessor.
  • wisdom is better than a generous inheritance
  • money can lose its value or be stolen
  • true wisdom always keeps its value and cannot be lost

  • according to Solomon, the wise person is able to withstand the difficulties and trials that come in life because of their wisdom
  • (Ecclesiastes 7:19) Wisdom makes one wise man more powerful than ten rulers in a city.
  • wisdom gives us the strength to overcome the trials of life

  • what are some of the trials?
  • let's look at them
  • one problem is that adversity is a part of life as much as prosperity
  • (Ecclesiastes 7:14) When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future.
  • it takes a lot of wisdom and maturity to be able to accept adversity as well as prosperity in life
  • Job's wife encouraged him to curse God and die, and Job replied:
  • (Job 2:10) He replied, "You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?"
  • (Job 1:21) "The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised."

  • another problem is that the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper
  • (Ecclesiastes 7:15) In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these: a righteous man perishing in his righteousness, and a wicked man living long in his wickedness.
  • one of the mysteries of life is why the righteous seem to suffer while the wicked prosper
  • this problem requires wisdom and maturity

  • yet another problem is plain old sin
  • (Ecclesiastes 7:20) There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.
  • it's a fundamental law that everyone is a sinner and that everyone lets us down
  • human sin is seen particularly in the area of speech
  • (Ecclesiastes 7:21) Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you--
  • (Ecclesiastes 7:22) for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others.
  • people say nasty things, and if we try to listen to everything that goes on, we're going to get hurt
  • Charles Spurgeon told his pastoral students that the minister ought to have one blind eye and one deaf ear
  • "You cannot stop people's tongues," he said, "and therefore the best thing to do is to stop your own ears and never mind what is spoken. There is a world of idle chitchat abroad, and he who takes not of it will have enough to do"

  • Solomon expands on human sinfulness in verses 26 to 29
  • he begins with the sinful woman, the prostitute who traps men and leads them to death
  • Solomon had a thousand women himself; he was experienced, and yet no wiser
  • he realized the danger of being seduced into an illegitimate sexual relationship
  • he began searching for a righteous man or woman, and concluded that they are very rare
  • one righteous man in a thousand, he says figuratively, and no woman
  • let's not get caught up in the numbers or the battle of the sexes: his point is that righteousness is hard to find

  • a fourth and final problem is our inability to grasp the meaning of what God is doing in the world
  • (Ecclesiastes 7:23) All this I tested by wisdom and I said, "I am determined to be wise"-- but this was beyond me.
  • (Ecclesiastes 7:24) Whatever wisdom may be, it is far off and most profound-- who can discover it?
  • even Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, could not understand the ultimate questions of life
  • wisdom is inaccessible, it would seem

  • Solomon concludes his thoughts on this subject with some praise for the wise person
  • (Ecclesiastes 8:1) Who is like the wise man? Who knows the explanation of things? Wisdom brightens a man's face and changes its hard appearance.
  • godly wisdom can make all the difference in the world

  • as we field-test our faith, we realize two things:
  • first, suffering brings benefit and instruction
  • and second, we need godly wisdom in order to survive

  • somebody has said:
  • "No pharmacist every weighed out medicine with half as much care as God weighs out every trial he dispenses. Not one gram too much does he ever permit to be put on us"
  • some flowers, such as the rose, must be crushed if their full fragrance is to be released
  • some fruits, such as the sycamore, must be bruised if they are to attain ripeness and sweetness
  • some metals, such as gold, must be heated in the furnace if they are to become pure
  • the attaining of godly wisdom - the process of becoming a mature Christian - requires similar special handling
  • it is often through pain, suffering, trouble, adversity, trials, and even temptation that we develop spiritual discipline and become refined and enriched
  • let us pray

Catching Breath and Taking Stock

  • if you ever have a summer day to spare with nothing to do, I recommend a field trip to North Bay
  • your timing has to be just right, but if it is, you will encounter a most fascinating insect that will give you reason to think
  • I don't have to give you very precise directions, because you can't help but run into this insect
  • I mean what I say - you'll run into it, so bring some extra windshield washer fluid
  • the insect I am talking about is called the shadfly

  • the shadfly is an insect with no sight and no capacity to eat or drink
  • they live for about twenty-four hours, and their only functions appear to be flying and reproducing
  • for a brief period every summer - some summers being worse than others - these shadflies recreate what appears to be an Egyptian plague and literally blanket North Bay
  • you can't walk, drive, or move, without hitting a shadfly
  • just as soon as they come, they're gone again

  • now I recommend that you wear a bug net or some sort of protection, and plant yourself on a park bench near Lake Nipissing, and consider the lowly shadfly
  • consider the shadfly, thou sluggard
  • for the briefest of periods, they come into this world and make their presence known
  • and then they're gone
  • what have they contributed? what where their lives worth? what lasting impression did they leave behind, other than on your windshield?
  • from a human perspective, they're little more than nuisances

  • now sit on that park bench a little longer and consider your life
  • in the bigger scheme of things, how much different are you than a shadfly?
  • how much longer are you alive?
  • not much
  • we may be alive a few dozen years, but some of us are realizing that's not a very long time
  • what is your life contributing?
  • what is the bottom line of your life?
  • you and I are not too different from shadflies

  • somebody has called the nineties the decade of "cashing out"
  • "Stop the nineties, I want to get off"
  • we've all heard of some fast-track, hard-driver who suddenly abandons his briefcase and resurfaces at some cottage or ranch or boat
  • people are checking out, and asking themselves what they're really doing
  • they're asking what is honest, what is real, what is valued, what is really important
  • the traditional rewards of career and money are replaced with a slower place and quality of life
  • somebody has said that in the seventies, we worked to live
  • in the eighties, we lived to work
  • and now we simply want to live - long and well

  • people are now asking, "Is all this stress really worth the reward?"
  • "Isn't this life shortening my life?"
  • and the clincher: "Is this all there is?"
  • they're asking questions that need to be asked
  • and by the way, they're not waiting until they are forty or fifty to have their mid-life crises
  • people who are in their thirties are taking stock of their lives and asking serious questions about the direction of their lives

  • now friends, I don't have the answers, but it's important to realize that the Bible does
  • the Bible has the answers to these questions
  • it may surprise many people to discover that the Bible grapples with the questions of meaning and fulfillment and the bottom-lines of our lives
  • for six sermons, we've been looking at an Old Testament book called Ecclesiastes
  • the name means "preacher"
  • we're now half way through this book
  • I had a choice to make this week: I was going to plow on and enter the second half of the book of Ecclesiastes, but I've made another choice
  • as we've finished this first half, I thought it would be useful to stop and sum up what this book has said thus far
  • it struck me that we shouldn't rush over the critical message of the first half of this book, which has very real application to you this morning

  • you, if you are like other human beings, are looking for meaning
  • and Ecclesiastes speaks to us more clearly than even a shadfly of the real meaning of our lives
  • so brace yourself for five summary statements that I want to drill home this morning as the Bible's answer to human questions on the meaning of life

  • five simple statements with huge implications for all of us
  • STATEMENT NUMBER ONE
  • whatever man usually calls the "goods" of life are of their nature incapable of giving man full satisfaction to his craving for happiness
  • or put another way, we don't find satisfaction in the "goods" of life
  • health, riches, possessions, material and sensual pleasures, honors, career, prestige - all these things are incapable of giving full satisfaction to our cravings
  • they just don't deliver what they promise
  • all achievements and all possessions all with time return to dust
  • as Ecclesiastes says:
  • (Ecclesiastes 1:2) "Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless."
  • (Ecclesiastes 2:1) I thought in my heart, "Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good." But that also proved to be meaningless.
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:10) Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.
  • and I could go on

  • Ecclesiastes drives home the point that our souls are hungry for something
  • and we usually look to pleasure or health or riches or possessions or prestige - what we call the "goods" of life - for satisfaction
  • and it doesn't work

  • the shadfly, like other bugs, is drawn to light
  • and we, like glorified shadflies, are drawn to these things
  • but they just don't satisfy
  • so why do we still look to them for satisfaction?
  • why do we still think that if we only earned a bit more, owned a bit more, felt a bit healthier, experienced a little more pleasure, gained a little more respect, that things would be any better?
  • why do we look to these things to satisfy the hunger in our souls?

  • SUMMARY STATEMENT TWO
  • these goods are not stable or reliable; if we trust in them we are in danger of losing them
  • Ecclesiastes is clear that life is fragile and transitory
  • what we possess today may very well be gone tomorrow
  • so what we call the "goods" in life are not deserving recipients of our trust
  • (Ecclesiastes 2:20) So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun.
  • (Ecclesiastes 2:21) For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune.
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:13) I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner,
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:14) or wealth lost through some misfortune, so that when he has a son there is nothing left for him.
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:15) Naked a man comes from his mother's womb, and as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labor that he can carry in his hand.
  • (Ecclesiastes 6:12) For who knows what is good for a man in life, during the few and meaningless days he passes through like a shadow? Who can tell him what will happen under the sun after he is gone?

  • Jesus said:
  • (Matthew 6:19) "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
  • don't depend on that which can so easily be taken away!
  • your bank balance - it could disappear tomorrow
  • your job, your reputation, your health - all of it could be gone at the snap of a finger
  • (Matthew 6:20) But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
  • (Matthew 6:21) For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

  • SUMMARY STATEMENT THREE
  • the pursuit of happiness does not necessarily bring happiness
  • this is illustrated throughout the book
  • Solomon observed people trying to find fulfillment and happiness, and concluded that it is out of their control
  • a word that Solomon uses a lot is "striving"
  • people are striving for happiness or fulfillment, and what does it gain them?
  • (Ecclesiastes 2:3) I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly--my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was worthwhile for men to do under heaven during the few days of their lives.
  • (Ecclesiastes 2:4) I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards.
  • (Ecclesiastes 2:5) I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them.
  • (Ecclesiastes 2:6) I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees.
  • (Ecclesiastes 2:7) I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me.
  • (Ecclesiastes 2:8) I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well--the delights of the heart of man.
  • (Ecclesiastes 2:9) I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.
  • (Ecclesiastes 2:10) I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor.
  • (Ecclesiastes 2:11) Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.
  • (Ecclesiastes 2:22) What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun?
  • (Ecclesiastes 2:23) All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless.

  • related to this is
  • SUMMARY STATEMENT FOUR
  • man is powerless
  • man is utterly unable to penetrate and understand the laws of government and the universe in this world
  • (Ecclesiastes 3:11) He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
  • (Ecclesiastes 6:12) For who knows what is good for a man in life, during the few and meaningless days he passes through like a shadow? Who can tell him what will happen under the sun after he is gone?
  • (Ecclesiastes 8:17) No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it.
  • memorize these words: "I don't know"
  • they will serve you well
  • we don't really understand life, do we?
  • as one hymn says, "I am not skilled to understand, what God has willed, what God has planned"
  • and that's true of all of us
  • when we are faced with an illness, when a mother has a stillbirth, when a child is taken away in an accident, when we lose a job - there are many questions and few answers
  • and Ecclesiastes reminds us that we are ultimately powerless and unable to understand the complexities of life and providence

  • summary statement five is the most important
  • after all I've said, it would be easy to fall into despair and conclude that all things are hopeless
  • but that's not the course of action recommended in Ecclesiastes
  • SUMMARY STATEMENT FIVE IS THIS
  • cease striving, avoid all speculation, and put your trust in God
  • set aside all anxious striving and labor
  • avoid all speculation on God's ruling of the world - don't second-guess God
  • and be thankful to God for whatever satisfaction he gives you, valuing and measuring everything as a gift from him
  • never forget that although you are not in control, God is, and we will have to render strict account to him
  • stop trying to be God; let God be God

  • (Ecclesiastes 2:24) A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God,
  • (Ecclesiastes 2:25) for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?
  • (Ecclesiastes 3:12) I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live.
  • (Ecclesiastes 3:13) That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil--this is the gift of God.
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:18) Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him--for this is his lot.
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:19) Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work--this is a gift of God.

  • Ecclesiastes helps us accept that what could drive us to agnosticism and skepticism can really drive us to God
  • as we recognize the difficulty and complexity of life, we can understand God's presence and lift our lives onto a higher plane where a solution is believed to exist, although we might not understand it
  • God loves us and cares for us
  • he makes everything beautiful in his time
  • we can trust him and enjoy his gifts
  • this is the message of Ecclesiastes

  • I speak to you this morning as a shadfly among shadflies
  • we're alive for only a brief time
  • don't look to the "goods" of life for satisfaction
  • they don't satisfy, and they're only transitory anyway
  • recognize that you can't bring yourself happiness
  • you're powerless and you don't have the answers
  • but recognize this morning that God does
  • turn your life over to him
  • seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you
  • learn contentment at God's hand
  • be still and know that he is God

Daylight Robbery (Ecclesiastes 5:1-6:12)

  • well, they were just making a quick trip to the store, so they never bothered to arm the security system
  • in all likelihood, it wouldn't have mattered anyway, since the alarm was simply a buzzer and was not hooked up to any security company or the police
  • immediately upon their return, though, they knew something was wrong
  • the mat at the front door was out of place, and they could somehow sense that someone had been in the house while they were away
  • gone: thousands of dollars worth of jewelry, as well as some home electronics

  • daylight robbery is what they call it
  • you might have had a similar experience, or have had friends or family who have experienced such a break-in
  • but most robberies aren't this obvious
  • many robberies are every bit as significant as the one I described, but we are less aware of what is being robbed
  • just because the mat isn't out of place, the windows are not broken, and jewelry is still there, doesn't mean that something wasn't stolen!

  • as we look at Ecclesiastes, Solomon observes three things that are easily stolen but not always detected
  • and Solomon issues three warnings
  • please open your Bibles to Ecclesiastes 5
  • it might surprise you that the one doing the robbing in this passage is you!
  • I'm issuing a warning to you this morning: stop!
  • stop robbing the Lord!
  • stop robbing others!
  • and stop robbing yourself!

  • now, if you're smart, you're asking yourself, "How am I robbing God, others, and myself?"
  • I'm glad you asked
  • let's look at the passage this morning

  • ONE: DON'T ROB GOD
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:1) Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:2) Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:3) As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words.
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:4) When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow.
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:5) It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:6) Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, "My vow was a mistake." Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands?
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:7) Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God.

  • it's an amazing thing
  • as the writer observes the scene at the temple, he sees people robbing God - it's daylight robbery
  • they're robbing God by coming to his house carelessly
  • as they come, they're not thinking about what they're doing
  • they're worshipping God outwardly out of tradition or habit, but their heart is not in it
  • furthermore, they're careless in their words to God
  • they're hasty and verbose, making rash promises to God and then trying to get out of it
  • you get the impression that the whole thing is a bit of a game; it's an afterthought
  • and no-one is really stopping to think that the people were robbing God

  • as I prepared my message, I wondered what would happen if Solomon observed our church today?
  • would he see anyone robbing God?
  • are we giving our worship the priority that it deserves? or are we worshiping God?

  • let me be honest
  • some people go to church out of habit
  • they don't put any thought into it
  • they enter God's house flippantly
  • they don't think when prayers are being offered and hymns are being sung
  • and they leave no better for having worshiped God
  • what a tragedy that people in Solomon's time went to the temple and brazenly robbed God!

  • I think Solomon would say we're robbing God when we're habitually late for the worship service
  • when we fight with our families on the way to church
  • when we enter quickly and flippantly without preparing our hearts
  • when we sing songs of praise without thinking about what we're singing
  • when we let our minds wander as we hear God's Word
  • when we pray and don't mean it, or back it up with action
  • I think we're robbing God when our heart doesn't enter into worship
  • David Allan Hubbard writes:

Babbling, rambling, wild words may be all right in dreams, but they do not belong in worship. Our relationship with God is one of sober, respectful, reverent awe...False worship is as much an affront to him as obscene insults are to a wife or husband. Better to bribe a judge than to ply God with hollow words; better to slap a policeman than to seek God's influence by meaningless gestures; better to perjure yourself in court than harry God with promises you can't keep. The full adoration of our spirit, the true obedience of our heart - these are his demands and his delights.

  • Solomon says, don't rob God!

  • I think we should pause and pray
  • it's possible that you came to church in a hurry this morning without thinking about what you were doing
  • it's possible that you've been singing the songs and experiencing the service without giving God the adoration of your spirit
  • we're going to pause and ask God for forgiveness, and make things right
  • God is looking for people who worship him in spirit and in truth
  • let's pray right now

  • TWO: THE SECOND THING SOLOMON SAYS IS THIS: DON'T ROB OTHERS
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:8) If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still.
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:9) The increase from the land is taken by all; the king himself profits from the fields.
  • Solomon sees corrupt possessions oppressing the poor
  • he sees officials using their rights to oppress others
  • and even the king appears to be in the act
  • it should be no surprise that when people rob God, they end up robbing others
  • if we don't show proper deference and respect to God, why should we mind when we end up oppressing others?
  • it's unfortunate that "the rich tend to take charge and their power intimidates and offends the poor"
  • eventually the rich and powerful can't even hear those who are poor and oppressed
  • Solomon's words are not a command, but an observation
  • but in Scripture, we are commanded to care for those who are being oppressed
  • (James 1:27) Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
  • Solomon says, don't rob God; don't rob others; and thirdly:

  • THREE: DON'T ROB YOURSELF
  • a lot of people look to money for answers
  • do you ever dream about winning the lottery?
  • or coming home to find a big check waiting for you in the mailbox that you weren't expecting
  • we sometimes think that wealth brings satisfaction and security, and that wealth solves every problem

  • Solomon warns us that we're robbing ourselves if we look to money or wealth for the answers in life
  • and I'm here to tell you three things about money this morning:
  • money doesn't satisfy, money doesn't bring security, and money can't solve every problem

  • MONEY DOESN'T SATISFY
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:10) Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:11) As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are the y to the owner except to feast his eyes on them?
  • Warren Wiersbe says that some people treat money as though it were a god
  • they love it, make sacrifices for it, and think that it can do anything
  • their minds are filled with thoughts of it; their lives are controlled by getting it and guarding it; and when they have it, they experience a great sense of security

  • but the person who loves money cannot be satisfied no matter how much money he has in his bank account
  • the person who is greedy for money will never have enough
  • the more he has, the more he wants
  • as somebody has said, "Greed and materialism have no built-in safeguards or satisfying limits"

  • you see, there's nothing wrong with having money
  • the problem is in loving money
  • Jesus went so far as to say we can't love both God and money; it's going to be one or the other
  • this is an attack on greed and clutching
  • because the person who loves money is ultimately robbing themselves; they're not going to be satisfied no matter how much money they get

  • Solomon points out that money doesn't satisfy
  • and he also points out that
  • MONEY DOESN'T BRING SECURITY
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:12) The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep.
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:13) I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner,
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:14) or wealth lost through some misfortune, so that when he has a son there is nothing left for him.
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:15) Naked a man comes from his mother's womb, and as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labor that he can carry in his hand.
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:16) This too is a grievous evil: As a man comes, so he departs, and what does he gain, since he toils for the wind?
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:17) All his days he eats in darkness, with great frustration, affliction and anger.

  • Solomon reminds us of two "grievous evils"
  • (verses 13 and 14) that riches have to be guarded by a person and thus give them worry, and ultimately the riches can be lost
  • I've never once sat up in bed at night worried about my wealth and stocks disappearing
  • but rich people do
  • I've never jumped out of a helicopter or bank building
  • but rich people have
  • riches bring worry, because riches can be lost
  • (Proverbs 23:4 NCV) Don't wear yourself out trying to get rich; be wise enough to control yourself.
  • (Proverbs 23:5 NCV) Wealth can vanish in the wink of an eye. It can seem to grow wings and fly away like an eagle.

  • there's another grievous evil in verse 16-17
  • that the rich person dies as empty-handed as he is born
  • one is naked at birth and at death; you can't take it with you

  • money doesn't satisfy; it doesn't bring security; and also:
  • MONEY CAN'T SOLVE EVERY PROBLEM
  • one problem with wealth is the responsibility that comes with it:
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:11) As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them?
  • money is relative: the more money, the more relatives
  • all of a sudden people show up we didn't even know before

  • furthermore, not all who have wealth are able to enjoy it
  • some people have all their desires fulfilled but are unable to enjoy their riches
  • (Ecclesiastes 6:1) I have seen another evil under the sun, and it weighs heavily on men:
  • (Ecclesiastes 6:2) God gives a man wealth, possessions and honor, so that he lacks nothing his heart desires, but God does not enable him to enjoy them, and a stranger enjoys them instead. This is meaningless, a grievous evil.
  • Solomon gives two examples of people who apparently have everything they ever wanted, and yet have nothing
  • they have all the resources necessary for a satisfying life and yet they are unable to enjoy them for one reason or another
  • perhaps due to trouble in the home, or illness, or death
  • verse 2 says that the man who had all these things had no heir, and so when he died a stranger enjoyed all his wealth
  • I heard of one person who could afford to eat out at the finest restaurants, yet his taste buds didn't work so he couldn't really taste the food
  • we've all heard of rich people who lived eccentric and unhappy lives despite their wealth

  • money can be an illusion
  • if we love money, we're robbing ourselves
  • money doesn't bring satisfaction; it doesn't bring security; it doesn't solve all of our problems

  • tucked away in this passage is a hint on how to overcome the deception of wealth
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:18) Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him--for this is his lot.
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:19) Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work--this is a gift of God.
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:20) He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.
  • Solomon reminds us that the real answer isn't the love of money, but simply in accepting our station in life and enjoying all the blessings God has given us
  • it is good for us to eat and drink and find pleasure in our labors
  • the ability to enjoy life's blessings is in itself a gift from God
  • verse 20 tells us that the person who rejoices in God's blessings will never have regrets
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:20) He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.
  • God blesses us and gives us the ability to enjoy our lives

  • this morning, are you robbing yourself?
  • are you knocking yourself out to get more money than you really need?
  • are you worshipping money and materialism instead of God?
  • if you are, you're robbing yourself

  • are you robbing others?
  • are you insensitive to the needs of others?
  • are you oppressing them or unjustly using them?

  • are you robbing God?
  • are you worshiping him carelessly by rote?
  • are you rushing into God's presence and making rash vows?
  • or are you guarding your steps as you come into God's house?

  • it's a terrifying thing to come home and find out you've been burgled
  • but it's even worse if you find out that the burglar has been you