Gaining Wisdom (Ecclesiastes 7:7-12)

The way of wisdom is to consider things in context, to look at the bigger picture, and to see where things are headed. We can be overwhelmed if we merely focus on what’s happening now. God has a plan and there are good reasons for hope. Ecclesiastes pushes us to seek his perspective.

 

The danger of FOMO (Ecclesiastes 6:1-6)

They say not to judge a book by its cover. I say don’t judge a person’s enjoyment, happiness, or satisfaction by their Instagram posts. You don’t really know what their lives are like or where their hearts are at. It’s so easy to envy an image, and it’s so meaningless. Why would 3D look at 2D and say, “I wish I was just like her!”?

 

Good gifts from God (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20)

God has given us good things for our enjoyment. We should enjoy what we’ve been given and thank the giver. But be careful not to turn the good things into ultimate things.

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You can’t take it with you (Ecclesiastes 5:13-17)

You Can’t Take It With You by Paul Kelly

You might have a happy family, nice house, fine car
You might be successful in real estate
You could even be a football star
You might have a prime-time TV show seen in every home and bar
But you can’t take it with you

You might own a great big factory, oil wells on sacred land
You might be in line for promotion, with a foolproof retirement plan
You might have your money in copper, textiles or imports from Japan
But you can’t take it with you

You can’t take it with you though you might pile it up high
It’s so much easier for a camel to pass through a needle’s eye

You might have a body of fine proportion and a hungry mind
A handsome face and a flashing wit, lips that kiss and eyes that shine
There might be a queue all around the block
Long before your starting time
But you can’t take it with you

You might have a great reputation so carefully made
And a set of high ideals, polished up and so well displayed
You might have a burning love inside, so refined, such a special grade
But you can’t take it with you

Inspiring words by Paul Kelly, inspired by the words of Jesus. There are eternal risks in living for stuff that we can’t take with us anyway.

The problem with wealth (Ecclesiastes 5:10-12)

Materialism is the air that we breathe. We barely notice how much value we place upon money, possessions, and material wealth. While our world plunges into a recession, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Great Depression, it’s our misplaced hearts that need to change.

Injustice is everywhere (Ecclesiastes 5:8-9)

We see injustice everywhere. But it’s not as simple as pointing to others. If we’re honest within ourselves, we see that it’s not someone else’s doing—it’s our doing. Our hearts are selfish. We’re part of the problem. O, for a just world! But that will mean us changing too. We can see so many problems, but finding a just solution is no easy matter. God, when will you put things right?

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Quick to listen and slow to speak (Ecclesiastes 5:1-7)

My schooling years were characterised by reports that always said much the same thing: “David talks too much and distracts those around him. He would get better outcomes from his work if he listened more and spoke less.”

When it comes to listening to God, we should put away the distractions, think about who it is who’s speaking, and focus attentively on his word. In these days of multi-sensory inputs and high tech gadgets, do you need to turn them off and set aside some time exclusively to listen to God? What might this look like?

Popularity doesn’t last (Ecclesiastes 4:13-16)

How many friends do you have on Facebook? How many followers on Instagram? What does this say about us? Do we become more important the more ‘likes’ we get? We love to be loved. We want to have influence. But popularity is fleeting. People, like things, go in and out of fashion. What can we commit to that will really make a difference?

Relationship matters (Ecclesiastes 4:7-12)

Some of us are finding the forced ‘stay home’ especially difficult. When there is no one around to share life with, to encourage us, to support us, or to work together, we struggle with being alone. Isolation is not part of God’s good plan for his people. Having pronounced everything to be good in Genesis 1, God declares in the following chapter that it is not good for man to be alone. We were made for companionship. Ecclesiastes recognises the blessings of relationship with others.

What drives our work? (Ecclesiastes 4:4-6)

What motivates us to work and to keep on working? Seems like there are a number of motivations. The most basic would have to be survival. We work to eat and stay alive. But where I come from many of us have that’s covered. We work for significance or satisfaction or security. Ecclesiastes nails it when it states that so much achievement come from a person’s envy of their neighbour. We work so as to keep up with one another. The trouble is, we can invest more in our work than it can possibly bear.

Is it worth living? (Ecclesiastes 4:1-3)

Recent events have turned our lives inside out. Many people are are struggling, depressed, anxious, and wondering what their lives are all about. We seem to be surviving the pandemic pretty well, especially when compared to our ‘allies’, the US an UK. But people are now facing troubling and uncertain futures. Relationship strains, poor health, job losses, business shutdowns, digging into our super, relying on government handouts, cut off from friends, isolated from our families… These are all serious stressors. It’s easy to take our minds to dark places. How are you holding up? There are times when it all seems too hard. Friends, there is a way. There is hope. And there is help available.

https://www.beyondblue.org.au
https://www.lifeline.org.au

What happens when we die? (Ecclesiastes 3:18-22)

This short talk features our ageing labradoodle, Bonnie, who is 127 in dog years. Are we any different to the animals? We breathe, they breathe. They die, we die? Who goes where? Ecclesiastes doesn’t seem to have the answers, but there is a place that does.

The problem of injustice (Ecclesiastes 3:16-17)

I’ve been feeling a little guilty lately. I think they call it survivor guilt. Why am I doing so well, why is my ‘lockdown’ so comfortable, how have we escaped the impact of this virus? Friends in New York, London, Trento have been confronted by disease and death in their neighbourhoods. From time to time we may feel the problem of injustice acutely. Evildoers escaping judgement. The innocent suffering unfairly. What is God doing? Is he just? Will there be a time for justice?

Eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:10-15)

Arthur Stace, or Mr Eternity as he became known, left his mark all over Sydney in the mid 1900s. He wrote only one word— ‘eternity’—in beautiful copperplate script with chalk on pavements from Martin Place to Parramatta. Why did he do this thousands upon thousands of times over more than 30 years? On the night of 6 August 1930 Stace walked into St Barnabas Church on Broadway and heard the preaching of RBS Hammond. Something impacted Stace that changed his life for… eternity.

 

A time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-11)

A friend and I used to share a joke. I would ask, “What’s the essence of a good joke?” and before I had even said the word ‘joke’, he would reply, “Timing”! Ecclesiastes chapter 3 is arguably the most famous section in the book of Ecclesiastes. It’s been popularised by The Byrds and Bob Dylan. There is something very beautiful about a timely word, a timely gift, or even a timely cup of coffee. Yet the beauty of this poem can veil the futility of life. For every good and timely action has it’s counter. What is done will one day be undone. Nothing seems to last.

Enjoying your work (Ecclesiastes 2:24-26)

Work can be painful and tough. Can it also be stimulating and enjoyable. You might look forward to your work. You might not be able to wait until it’s over. We have seen the frustrations that come from work that is unsatisfying, but is there a way to find enjoyment and happiness in our work?

Working hard and wasting our lives (Ecclesiastes 2:17-23)

One third of our lives spent at work. And they say no one looks back from their death bed and wishes they’d spent more time at the office. Why do we work, labour, and toil? And why does Ecclesiastes describe work as meaningless? At this time of crisis, with jobs on the line, massive unemployment, pay cuts, and business collapses, what are we doing it all for?

The value of wisdom (Ecclesiastes 2:12-16)

Of course, it’s better to be wise than foolish. We do well to slow down, take some time out, reflect, and consider what we are on about. But at the end of the day, does it really change anything? I’ve accumulated three degrees, some diplomas, and a few certificates. They’re collecting dust somewhere in the basement. If we invest everything in the accumulation of wisdom, but forget to live live, and forget that life will come to an end, then we prove ourselves to be foolish. The wise person begins with the end in mind.