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“And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven….”  Ecclesiastes 1:13

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter.  Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all”  Ecclesiastes 12:13

I must admit that, in the past,  I have found the message of Ecclesiastes difficult.  Why? Because in a more common vernacular I found it kind of a downer or a bummer.  It seemed Solomon was pretty down on life.   It gave us a great classic rock and roll song by the Bryds:  Turn, Turn, Turn, but besides that it seemed very somber.

Yet lately I think I’ve been blessed by God with a much greater, much more upbeat, deeper spiritual inspiration concerning this book.  For this is a book about doing, about human action and interaction, a book about the search for satisfaction and fulfillment.

The main character is King Solomon, son of the Great King David.  Under what auspices does Solomon undertake his journey and why should we listen to his report?  Well, when it comes to wisdom, short of Jesus Christ (well short I might add), it is hard to find a human to which God imparted more wisdom.  You see when Solomon took the throne, God asked him what he desired the most.  Solomon answered that he desires wise judgement to be able to lead the people.  God is so pleased with his not choosing power, fame and/or riches that He grants him not only very great wisdom, but also riches, fame and power.

So in his wisdom, Solomon believes that God has put it on his heart to search all that a person can do and be that would bring contentment, satisfaction and fulfillment.  Now here is when I got bogged down in the negativity and frustration of Solomon.  Because remember, Solomon was a person who had it all.  He had education.  He had riches.  He had popularity.  People came from all over the world just to meet him; in other words he had fame.

So off he goes.  First he starts with what he knows best, wisdom; that is a person who is wise must be happy.  Not so he finds.  For even with wisdom there are so many things wisdom doesn’t solve.  Okay riches then.  Nope.  Rich people still die and/or their family members die.  The rich are so often targets for evil.  Partying and getting drunk.  Solomon threw some knock down drag out all out parties.  But one couldn’t stay drunk all the time and hangovers were a bear not to mention drunks were fools.  Sex.  Solomon had many wives and concubines.  Yet there was no fulfillment there.  Solomon traveled, he built great palaces, he tried it all.  Thus, after many years of searching and understand this, Solomon truly believed that satisfaction could be found, that somewhere in the worldly pursuits, triumphs and victories rested the foundation to contentment.  His was an honest attempt.  And if anyone had the mental, physical and worldly resources to successfully find the human based happiness; Solomon was that person.  Though search as he did, Solomon did not find it among the world.  Darn!

Where does that leave us?  The world hasn’t changed.  Sure there is different technology, depth and breadth of worldly knowledge, a greater diversity of destinations to explore than Solomon had available.  But that is only variation on a theme.  The world is telling us today that satisfaction, fulfillment happiness rests with:  our level of education, the greatness of our wealth, who our spouse(s) is, how many admirers we have, the amount of our fame, how many victories we can claim, how we can alter our consciousness with drugs or other substances and countless other pursuits.  Here’s the thing, most of us don’t have the resources to chase after all those things.  However, there is one who did; who went before us searching all those things and utterly failed to find the happiness he sought.  Why would we ever want to follow in Solomon’s heart breaking, deeply frustrating journey, only to arrive at the same conclusion.

One would think that we could or at least should be able to make our own or find completely within ourselves the meaning to true happiness.  That would be correct if we had been the ones to create this world.  If we were the creator we would perfectly know where and how to create happiness.  We only have to look around at so many lives utterly shattered by wayward pursuits of earthly happiness to know we are ill equipped to determine or make our own happiness.

So hear is where the positive aspect of Ecclesiastes comes in; the uplifting message of eternal fulfillment and contentment.  Solomon did find it.  It just wasn’t in the world.  God didn’t leave Solomon frustrated and bitter in his searching.  God showed Solomon that satisfaction and justification rests with Him; with God.  Solomon declares that God makes everything beautiful in its own time.  Solomon testifies that there is rejoicing and joy in eating and drinking and enjoying the work that God has given each of us to do.

Do not be dismayed by the biblical use of the word fear.  For there is the dread of earthly fear and there is the awestruck, reverence of the Godly fear.  The Godly fear is not about dread as much as it is about being in the presence of the overwhelming Perfect Power.  Even though that power is Love; His love is still overpowering; as is His power of Justice and Righteousness.  God is the Creator.  As Creator, He created the ability to be fulfilled, to be content, to be happy.  Solomon found what it was or more accurately Who it was.  Love, life, fulfillment, contentment, happiness, all start with, are all sustained by and all end with God Almighty.  And as He gave His Son, Jesus Christ for our salvation; these other things He will give as well to those who believe on His Name.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we thank you that You do not keep Your Wisdom hid from us.  Thank You that You have given wisdom to men like Solomon and then shared that wisdom through Your Word that we might learn from his experience.  Forgive us, Most Merciful Father when we search in the world for fulfillment.  Show us the blessings, joy, peace and contentment that comes from seeking You first and following Your Commandments.  That our work, our lives would praise Your Most Holy Name.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“But as his part is who goes down to the battle, as shall his part be who stays by the supplies, they shall share alike.”  1 Samuuel 30:24

“Friend I am doing you no wrong.  Did you not agree with me for a denarius?  Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?”  Matthew 20 13, 15

“I was saved when I was but ________ years old.  I volunteer on _______________ committees.  I have been on ____________ mission trips.  So and so only shows up to church on Sundays.  So and so doesn’t tithe.”  Have you ever heard these types of statements among believers in your faith community.  Please don’t misunderstand me, there is nothing wrong about having a long relationship with Christ, serving on committees or doing mission trips.  Also, tithing can be commendable as well as being at church more than just on Sunday.  But let’s delve more into scripture.

David is on the march.  While he and his men were away from their home city, a group came and ransacked it kidnapping all their families and stealing their possessions.  After first getting the approval from God, David and six hundred set out to retrieve their families and possessions as well as teach the invaders a lesson.  David’s army  finds the intruders and attacks.  The army is victorious but some of the enemy has fled and needs to be pursued.  However, 200 men are so weary from battle they can not continue.  Plus David can not carry all of spoils of his first victory with them so somebody has to stay back to gaurd them.  400 men continue on, finding the intruders, completely annihilating them plus taking a considerable amount of treasure back with them.  The 400 men who went with David now come back to the 200 men who were too weary to go with the army.  A few men (the bible describes them as wicked and worthless) tell David that the 200 men who did not follow David into the second battle deserve no share in the great spoils of the second victory.  That may seem reasonable to us.  We may see these folks as slackers or lazy.  David does not.  He replies that they provided a necessary function, albeit a different one and thus deserve the same reward, the same respect.

Jesus’ parable has a similar message.  Workers are hired to do a job and they agree upon payment.  Some work the entire day and some less, some significantly less.  It was not as if the ones who came later in the day, again were slackers or lazy.  It was they had not had the opportunity to be selected to go to the field.  The workers who had worked the entire day are paid their agreed upon wage.  When they see that the ones who had worked less than the entire day get the same, they feel cheated.  While they get exactly what was promised them, what they started the day believing was fair,  comparing themselves to others causes that which they agreed upon to be no longer sufficient.  The all day workers believe they are better, more deserving than the one hour workers.  The Master is not fair.

Comparison and judgement are very dangerous practices that can lead each of us to an evil place.  I do more so I deserve more.  I am smarter than you so I should be compensated more.  The amount I give is substantially more than you so I should receive much higher praise.  That is the way of the world.  For so often in the way of the world, I work harder and longer just so I can earn more money.  I get a higher education, not for education’s sake but so that I am more marketable.  I spend more hours with the expectation of higher reward.  It is natural in the world to do those things, not with the intent of service, but with the intent of return on investment.

Our Heavenly Father teaches us, both through His Son Jesus Christ, as well as throughout His word in the bible, that the way of faith is vastly different.  That difference is derived by and through intent.  There is a need.  That need may have to do with  time for a committee, playing of music, giving of money, listening and being with a fellow believer, traveling to do work and countless other needs.  God has given us all talents.  Yet those talents are very diverse and not always obvious to our eyes.  God has also given us His true Love.  It is from and through His Love that we are drawn to meet those needs.  Our intent is service and the more pure that intention is, the less we feel any sense for the need of reward and/or praise.  I do as I am called, knowing full way that my brother and sister receive different callings and it is wrong for me to judge them based upon what my calling is and what talents I have been given to use.

Dear brothers and sisters there is another great truth.  And that truth is that God is not stingy or miserly with His blessings.  He gives.  He gives constantly and generously.  He also gives based on what He perfectly knows is what is the best for us.  That someone else seems to be receiving more, in a worldly sense, is just that; the worldly sense.  There is no need to compare because God Almighty gives abundantly to meet everything we need.  Let us strive to cast off the world and its precepts of fair and live a life of gratitude in service.  A life acknowledging the greatest gift we all have; the gift of Jesus Christ as our savior.  Praising God for all He provides, to all of His creation.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, You are Gracious and quick to supply all that we need with great abundance.  Forgive us Most Merciful Father when we look at the blessings of others and covet them with a belief that they should be ours as well.  Pour out Your Spirit of Discernment that we would come to understand the particular talents which you have provided as well as the perfect individual blessings You shower down upon us.  That our lives would be a testament service and praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

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