Tag Archives: Ecclesiastes 5

Of Spirit and Paperweights

Of Spirit and Paperweights (CaD Ecc 5) Wayfarer

Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God.
Ecclesiastes 5:19 (NIV)

I still remember a big, glass Skippy jar that belonged to my brother, Tim. The lid was wrapped tight with athletic tape and a slot for change was snipped into the tin lid. It was filled with change (Note: a Skippy jar full of pocket change could go a long way in those days). It sat there. For years it served as a paperweight on my brother’s desk. For years I saw that thing just sitting there…years.

During those years. I didn’t have a piggy bank or any such change jar. There was no point. If I had a dime I spent it.

That’s a parable, by the way.

It’s also a confession that I was not great with money for much of my life. It was a lesson that ended up being a long, hard stretch for me on both the spiritual and physical levels. But learn it, I did. As a sincere follower of Jesus, I couldn’t get around the fact that money and the spiritual implications of it, was His number one subject.

Not sex.
Not drinking.
Not drugs.
Not politics.
Not church attendance.

Money, wealth, possessions and their spiritual implications was numero uno on the Top Ten list of subjects that Jesus talked about. And, for anyone reading this who has not read Jesus’ teaching on the subject yourself, please know that it’s completely opposite of those televangelists who twist His teaching in order to pad their own pockets.

Yesterday morning I had the honor of kicking-off what will be a six-week series of messages about the economy of God’s Kingdom (it’s on the Messages page, btw). Talking about economics is always a tough subject from a spiritual perspective because money and economics are so intertwined with my life, my mind, my heart, and my spirit. I believe that’s why Jesus talked about it so much. I can live a good, religious, morally pure, upright life, but if I don’t get the spiritual lessons of economics right, then I’m still hopelessly stuck in spiritual kindergarten.

It felt like a little spiritual synchronicity that the Sage who authored Ecclesiastes is talking about this same subject in today’s chapter. What fascinated me is how it dove-tailed what I spoke about yesterday, and what stuck out to me in the chapter was an interesting contrast.

In verse 10, the Sage warns of the spiritual trap that wealth creates because there’s never enough, and the dissatisfaction and discontent of the perpetual more will eat a person’s soul.

In verse 11, the Sage warns of the spiritual trap of limitless consumption because it is also never satisfied. It leads to life as described in the movie Wall-E.

In verse 12, the Sage observes that there’s a certain simplicity of life and peace of spirit the comes with having very little, while having much only adds increasing layers of complexity and anxiety. This robs life of sleep (and peace, and joy, and goodness, and contentment, and etc.).

Wealth and consumption are spiritual traps that lead to bad places.

Then at the end of the chapter, the Sage observes what appears to be the exact opposite: “when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God.” 

But I couldn’t help but notice the key ingredient in this latter observation. The wealth and possessions flow from God, they are received and held as the gift from God that they are by a person who manages those resources with a sense of gratitude, contentment, and spiritual discernment.

In my message yesterday I spoke about the spiritual lesson that I’ve learned (and learned the hard way) which must precede any conversation about money itself. Interestingly enough, Jesus told one wealthy man that selling all his possessions and giving it to the poor was the one thing he had to do. But Jesus had other people in his life, like Lazarus and his sisters, who were wealthy and Jesus didn’t ask them to do the same thing. I find this an important distinction that the Sage is revealing in today’s chapter.

The wealth isn’t the issue. The issue that precedes the money conversation is one of heart, eyes, and worship. You’re welcome to listen to the message if you’re interested in unpacking this more.

By the way, on my dresser sits a large coffee mug full of change. It basically serves as a paperweight. It’s been there for years.

I’m learning.

Clutter, Consideration and Commitment

source: rossap via flickr
source: rossap via flickr

As goods increase,
    so do those who consume them.
And what benefit are they to the owners
    except to feast their eyes on them?
Ecclesiastes 5:11 (NIV)

As Wendy and I prepare for selling our house, we are in the process commonly known as “de-cluttering.” We are going through everything we own and choosing to peddle, pitch, or pile into storage. It’s been a long time in coming and it’s been a fascinating process. We are certainly not candidates for an episode of Hoarders, but there are moments when the shelves and containers full of stuff seem endless.

Last night, I sat on the living room floor and went through two large containers with receipts, owners manuals, warranty information, tax documents, and etc. It was crazy how much paperwork we have for the smallest of things, and I was shocked at the amount of peripheral documentation builds up around the ephemera of our daily lives. Much of what I went through was for gadgets, appliances, technology and d00-dads we don’t even own anymore. Oy!

The de-cluttering is having a fascinating and positive effect on both Wendy and me. The house feels more open and peaceful, our day is strangely lightened. When we feast our eyes around the house there is less to consume our mindshare, less to worry about, less to have to think about, and less we have to do something with. It is making us consider how we want things to be different in our new home.

As I read through Solomon’s wisdom regarding the silliness of the accumulation of things I am both convicted and encouraged this morning. I am sure that what I am feeling is common to virtually all who have gone through this process, but it is where I am in the moment and Solomon seems exceptionally wise from where I am standing this morning.

As I look back over my life journey I realize that I have often been considerate of things I should do, but then fell short of actually doing them. As I think about my desire to commit to permanently de-clutter house and life, I am mindful of something else the Teacher wrote in today’s chapter:

When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it.