‘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?