‘The Wisdom of Choosing Relationships Over Things’

We need Christ in our lives in order to value people over things…It is an ongoing fight, connected to how I view and approach God. The Writer of Ecclesiastes came to know the meaninglessness of things, and he had it all! He also understood who God was and His relational nature.

Chapter 4

Again, I observed all the oppression that takes place under the sun. I saw the tears of the oppressed, with no one to comfort them. The oppressors have great power, and their victims are helpless. 2 So I concluded that the dead are better off than the living. 3 But most fortunate of all are those who are not yet born. For they have not seen all the evil that is done under the sun.

  • The reality of evil can be discouraging
  • From an earthly standpoint it can seem like there is nothing worse than this life
  • People oppress others so they can hold on to wealth & power (things)

4 Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind. 5 “Fools fold their idle hands, leading them to ruin.” 6 And yet, “Better to have one handful with quietness than two handfuls with hard work and chasing the wind.”

  • The drive to compete based on comparison is a dead end street
  • Idleness is no good but so is workaholism…
  • Wisdom is found in balance: a time to work and a time to recreate

7 I observed yet another example of something meaningless under the sun. 8 This is the case of a man who is all alone, without a child or a brother, yet who works hard to gain as much wealth as he can. But then he asks himself, “Who am I working for? Why am I giving up so much pleasure now?” It is all so meaningless and depressing.

  • Working to amass wealth while living a life devoid of relationships is worthless
  • The lie people tell themselves: “when I’m rich then I will have relationships”

9 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

  • The goodness we can enjoy in this life is all about relationships
  • We need each other
  • We are made in the image of God who is relational in His very essence (Triune)
  • The cord of three strands is you, me & Jesus

13 It is better to be a poor but wise youth than an old and foolish king who refuses all advice. 14 Such a youth could rise from poverty and succeed. He might even become king, though he has been in prison. 15 But then everyone rushes to the side of yet another youth who replaces him. 16 Endless crowds stand around him, but then another generation grows up and rejects him, too. So it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.

  • You can be shrewd and play politics to get ahead, but the favor is fleeting
  • Such popularity is a short lived thing until the ‘Next Fad’ comes along
  • The eternal significance of of politic is ZERO (give unto Caesar…)

Chapter 5

5 As you enter the house of God, keep your ears open and your mouth shut. It is evil to make mindless offerings to God. 2 Don’t make rash promises, and don’t be hasty in bringing matters before God. After all, God is in heaven, and you are here on earth. So let your words be few.

  • God is not interested in what we promise, He wants authentic relationship
  • Carefully consider what you offer God, he knows where your heart really is

3 Too much activity gives you restless dreams; too many words make you a fool. 4 When you make a promise to God, don’t delay in following through, for God takes no pleasure in fools. Keep all the promises you make to him. 5 It is better to say nothing than to make a promise and not keep it.

  • Hyperactivity is not what God is looking for, and volume of words have no value
  • Only make promises to God that are sincere and be sure you keep them
  • When in doubt listen (listening prayer)

6 Don’t let your mouth make you sin. And don’t defend yourself by telling the Temple messenger that the promise you made was a mistake. That would make God angry, and he might wipe out everything you have achieved. 7 Talk is cheap, like daydreams and other useless activities. Fear God instead.

  • Measure your words in the community of God’s people (don’t over promise)
  • Make good use of the time and energy you have out of reverence for God
  • What does it mean to fear God?

8 Don’t be surprised if you see a poor person being oppressed by the powerful and if justice is being miscarried throughout the land. For every official is under orders from higher up, and matters of justice get lost in red tape and bureaucracy. 9 Even the king milks the land for his own profit!

  • Don’t be naive regarding those in power, they don’t have our well being in mind
  • When you get into that machine it owns you, it’s about things, not relationships
  • Classic politician lie: “I care about the little people’

10 Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! 11 The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what good is wealth—except perhaps to watch it slip through your fingers! 12 People who work hard sleep well, whether they eat little or much. But the rich seldom get a good night’s sleep.

  • The lure of wealth is never satisfied, and wealth never satisfies anyone
  • The more you have the more people want things from you, not relationship
  • Contentment with what you have brings peace, riches bring worry

13 There is another serious problem I have seen under the sun. Hoarding riches harms the saver. 14 Money is put into risky investments that turn sour, and everything is lost. In the end, there is nothing left to pass on to one’s children. 15 We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us.

  • Hording wealth and seeking to multiply it rots your soul (things over people)
  • It can lead to losing everything!

Then he said “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” Luke 12:15-21

16 And this, too, is a very serious problem. People leave this world no better off than when they came. All their hard work is for nothing—like working for the wind. 17 Throughout their lives, they live under a cloud—frustrated, discouraged, and angry.

  • We would like to think we make a difference getting things
  • You will never have enough, someone will always have more
  • The only difference we make is in people’s lives; by being a blessing from God

18 Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. 19 And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. 20 God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past.

  • Contentment is the key (Paul Philippians 4)
  • True contentment is found in a real relationship with God

Summary: We are to fight against Oppression that crushes peoples souls. We are to pursue contentment & balance between work and recreation. Relationships are what really matter & what makes life meaningful (partnership). The approval of people & success is short lived, everyone will be replaced / forgotten. God is concerned with the condition of our hearts not the words of our mouths. God is not pleased with our heartless religious activities, He wants obedience. We should expect earthly powers to be unjust. Wealth doesn’t bring peace and the hording of it brings disaster. Life that is lived for only earthly things will frustrate & depress. We are to be content with what we have and attribute it to God.

Application Questions:

How can you pursue contentment by balancing work and recreation?

How can you intentionally honor and appreciate others to build relationships?

How can you build a lifestyle of generosity with your resources and time?

How can you focus on pleasing God with obedience rather than pleasing people?

Chapter 3: God’s Timing, God’s Purpose & God’s Justice

Timing is everything… God’s justice and God’s purposes are often revealed in the timing of things Make no mistake, God is in control of when, how and why everything happens In the search for meaning we often ask: why do things happen when they do? We try to see what God’s doing, what are His purposes in events, we desire to see God enact justice, at least our ideas of what justice is. But the reality is we don’t get the whole picture. Chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes addresses these issues, and if we read it in light of Christ we get some insight, some revelation, but it’s not complete. Paul writes in 1 Cor 13:12: ‘Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror…’ But that partial vision is enough to build our faith upon!

1 For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.

  • This is a statement of God’s ordering of all things
  • ‘Under Heaven’ = Under the authority of heaven

2 A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. 3 A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. 4 A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. 5 A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.

  • None of these things can happen at the same time
  • You do one or the other, not both

A time to embrace and a time to turn away. 6 A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. 7 A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. 8 A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.

  • What makes it the right time for something?
  • For us who live for the fulfillment of God’s will, we take our cues from Him!

9 What do people really get for all their hard work? 10 I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

  • Is it worth it? If our work has no eternal aspect to it, what’s the point?
  • When we align ourselves with God’s purposes, we can find meaning in work.
  • He has given us the tools to see some of what matters.

12 So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. 13 And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.

  • If our reality flows from the truth of God, we will see everything as His gift to us
  • The humility of the ‘Creature’ receiving gifts from the ‘Creator’

14 And I know that whatever God does is final. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it. God’s purpose is that people should fear him. 15 What is happening now has happened before, and what will happen in the future has happened before, because God makes the same things happen over and over again.

  • God’s will is the determiner of all things, not our ‘Free Will’
  • We bring nothing to the table (whether we think we do or not)
  • A belief in something does not make it true
  • What is contained in the idea of ‘The Fear of the Lord’?
  • Why does God make the same things happen over and over again?

16 I also noticed that under the sun there is evil in the courtroom. Yes, even the courts of law are corrupt! 17 I said to myself, “In due season God will judge everyone, both good and bad, for all their deeds.”

  • Human justice is always corrupt! Believing otherwise is to deny our ‘Sin Nature’
  • God will have the final say of what justice is or not
  • How would we be so arrogant as to think we can define justice?

18 I also thought about the human condition—how God proves to people that they are like animals. 19 For people and animals share the same fate—both breathe and both must die. So people have no real advantage over the animals. How meaningless! 20 Both go to the same place—they came from dust and they return to dust.

  • The reality of our mortality
  • In our natural state; without being regenerated by God’s Spirit we are animals
  • Life apart from a redeemed relationship with our creator is MEANINGLESS!

21 For who can prove that the human spirit goes up and the spirit of animals goes down into the earth? 22 So I saw that there is nothing better for people than to be happy in their work. That is our lot in life. And no one can bring us back to see what happens after we die.

  • We can’t prove eternity, we can only believe it by faith
  • “Heaven, a place that has to be believed to be seen” U2, Walk On
  • No one can prove where your eternal spirit goes
  • We are limited by our senses

Application Questions:

What specific criteria do you use to figure out when the time to do something is right?

If He’s planted eternity in our hearts, why can’t we see the scope of God’s workings?

Is your ‘free will’ able to add to or take away from what God does? Why?

How do you decide what is just or not?

What do you believe about eternity and why?

The Height of Futility

Ecclesiastes Chapter 2

1 I said to myself, “Come on, let’s try pleasure. Let’s look for the ‘good things’ in life.” But I found that this, too, was meaningless. 2 So I said, “Laughter is silly. What good does it do to seek pleasure?” 3 After much thought, I decided to cheer myself with wine. And while still seeking wisdom, I clutched at foolishness. In this way, I tried to experience the only happiness most people find during their brief life in this world.

  • Hedonism; pleasure is the way to find meaning
  • Searching for wisdom in a state of intoxication is holding on to foolishness!
  • Some have a life so hard, intoxication is the only happiness they can find

4 I also tried to find meaning by building huge homes for myself and by planting beautiful vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks, filling them with all kinds of fruit trees. 6 I built reservoirs to collect the water to irrigate my many flourishing groves.

  • Examples of worldly endeavors that we measure purpose by
  • Notice he doesn’t mention doing any of this for other’s enjoyment…

7 I bought slaves, both men and women, and others were born into my household. I also owned large herds and flocks, more than any of the kings who had lived in Jerusalem before me. 8 I collected great sums of silver and gold, the treasure of many kings and provinces. I hired wonderful singers, both men and women, and had many beautiful concubines. I had everything a man could desire!

  • The accumulation of ‘Stuff’
  • The striving for Status
  • Comparison
  • ‘Everything’ one could desire…

9 So I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me. 10 Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. 11 But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.

  • Every pleasure was explored
  • No boundaries
  • ‘Hard Work Is it’s own reward’ Is that true?
  • What does it all amount to?

12 So I decided to compare wisdom with foolishness and madness (for who can do this better than I, the king?). 13 I thought, “Wisdom is better than foolishness, just as light is better than darkness. 14 For the wise can see where they are going, but fools walk in the dark.”

  • Basic assumption: Wise people will have a better life because of their wisdom
  • Viewing the world from a humanistic / Non Spiritual point of view

Yet I saw that the wise and the foolish share the same fate. 15 Both will die. So I said to myself, “Since I will end up the same as the fool, what’s the value of all my wisdom? This is all so meaningless!” 16 For the wise and the foolish both die. The wise will not be remembered any longer than the fool. In the days to come, both will be forgotten.

  • The reality of our world: Everyone dies!
  • All the wisdom ‘under the sun’ cannot change that fate
  • All the wisdom of this world cannot cure the issue of our own mortality

17 So I came to hate life because everything done here under the sun is so troubling. Everything is meaningless—like chasing the wind.

  • The phrase ‘under the sun’: speaks of life without the influence of Heaven
  • What is more futile than chasing the wind?

The realization of the futility of life can be valuable if we let it open our eyes to what really matters!

18 I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned. 19 And who can tell whether my successors will be wise or foolish? Yet they will control everything I have gained by my skill and hard work under the sun. How meaningless!

  • This is a realization of how little control we have…
  • This world goes on without us after we go… (perspective as you age on this)

20 So I gave up in despair, questioning the value of all my hard work in this world. 21 Some people work wisely with knowledge and skill, then must leave the fruit of their efforts to someone who hasn’t worked for it. This, too, is meaningless, a great tragedy.

  • Fortunes, Reputations, Legacies, & Institutions…all squandered by heirs
  • People have searched for ways to guide the future after they die for centuries
  • What can we leave behind that is of eternal value?

22 So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety? 23 Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest. It is all meaningless. 24 So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God.

  • Is all your hard work and worry worth it?
  • Obsession with work is a dead end street
  • What makes any of these pleasures ‘Legit’ is recognizing God’s part in them

25 For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him? 26 God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please him. But if a sinner becomes wealthy, God takes the wealth away and gives it to those who please him. This, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind.

  • Is there fulfillment or meaning gained from life without a relationship w/ God?
  • The God given things are not found outside of a right relationship with Him
  • The real control rest in the hands of God, and we can’t judge His ways

Hedonism / Intoxication / Self Fulfillment / Building / Creating / Accumulation / Status & Accomplishment: ALL ARE MEANINGLESS!!!



Application Questions / Exercises:

In the pursuit of your dreams, specifically where does God fit in?

How do you evaluate whether something has eternal significance or not?

List three things you control completely. Ask someone you are close to if you’re right.

Ask one person you admire what gives their life meaning & purpose.

Introduction To Ecclesiastes

Purpose: To answer the oldest question ever: What is the meaning of life?

Themes: Need for Meaning / Justice / Work / Leisure / Success / Wealth / Good & Evil

Authorship: The Case for Solomon as ‘The Qoheleth’: A Singular Persona. Solomon’s Leading of the ‘Assembly’ at the dedication of the Temple makes him and only him qualified to have the title of ‘The Qoheleth’. He was singularly gifted with Wisdom beyond any man…nothing approaching God’s wisdom!

Original Audience: Observant Jews (Weight based on credibility of Author)

Place in Scripture: Never questioned for 2300 years (Bollhagen dates it 735BC) Reformers like Luther wanted to have it removed from the Cannon. Date and Authorship questioned by ‘Modern Scholars’.

How WE read it in light of Christ: Together within the whole picture of Scripture we can see how it points out the clear futility of existence without a relationship with God.

Pt. 1 The Preacher’s Thesis

Chapter 1

1 These are the words of the Teacher, King David’s son, who ruled in Jerusalem. 2 “Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!” 3 What do people get for all their hard work under the sun? 4 Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes.

  • The Author: No dispute among the Jews forever, No dispute for 2300 yrs…
  • Title of the Author… Hebrew Word: ‘Qoheleth’ Greek Word: Ekklisiastís
  • THE THESIS IS: It all seems to be meaningless…
  • People come and go without purpose or meaning

5 The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again. 6 The wind blows south, and then turns north. Around and around it goes, blowing in circles. 7 Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea.

  • Nature; observed without a Creator appears to be futile (Religion of ‘Evolution’)
  • Cyclical Nature of Nature…Who’s control is it under?
  • Is it random, do we have a role?

8 Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content. 9 History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.

  • The nature and character of humankind is discontent & futility
  • We repeat the mistakes of history, our nature is: ‘Consistently Corruptible’
  • We have become addicted to ‘New’, it is the Idol we worship…but that’s not new
  • Why does God say: ‘Here on Earth…It’s All Been Done’

10 Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!” But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. 11 We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.

  • How much value do we place on things being ‘New’?
  • Materially / Emotionally / Philosophically / Spiritually
  • Is something’s value based on just ‘Newness’ or on it being more valuable?
  • How well do you know ‘Accurate History’?
  • Wikipedia IS NOT ‘Accurate History’
  • We are definitive regarding what is good, productive, wise…how do we know?

12 I, the Teacher, was king of Israel, and I lived in Jerusalem. 13 I devoted myself to search for understanding and to explore by wisdom everything being done under heaven. I soon discovered that God has dealt a tragic existence to the human race. 14 I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind. 15 What is wrong cannot be made right. What is missing cannot be recovered.

  • This Title can only work for King Solomon, as The Dedicator of God’s Temple
  • He was the ‘Leader of The Assembly of God’ @ the apex of the People of Israel
  • The search for understand & wisdom, if confined to what is ‘Under Heaven’
  • This is ‘Looking in The Wrong Place’. Only looking under the sun, here on earth
  • From this perspective it is all devoid of any meaning! It is screwed up and can’t be fixed

This is US without Christ! The beginning our surrender to Christ is the recognition of the futility of this life, separate from The One who Created US. And we can’t make that separation end. But God can end it, In Christ Jesus He does end it. We get the privileged of surrendering to Our Creator’s will for us: United in Christ!

16 I said to myself, “Look, I am wiser than any of the kings who ruled in Jerusalem before me. I have greater wisdom and knowledge than any of them.” 17 So I set out to learn everything from wisdom to madness and folly. But I learned firsthand that pursuing all this is like chasing the wind. 18 The greater my wisdom, the greater my grief. To increase knowledge only increases sorrow.

  • Remember Melchizedek?
  • He doesn’t compare himself to the Kings to follow because that will be known
  • It is a summary statement of what he is going to share in greater detail
  • Firsthand / Inside Scoop
  • The Result (Spoiler Alert) Life is meaningless apart from Our Creator God

Realizing that we need our Creator God to give life meaning is a great starting place. From there it’s a short journey to repentance & surrender: Our Privilege!

Application Questions:

How does our world make you ‘Feel Think and Act’ as though life is meaningless?

Where do you search for wisdom; in what’s New or The Lessons of History? Why?

1 to 10, rate yourself as being knowledgable & wise. What is your rating based on?

Can knowing ‘too much’, make you jaded & cynical? How do you fight that attitude?