This weekly topic is an effort to recap the Wednesday night Bible study I teach at Sola5, my youth group. I hope it serves to help us all in contemplating the ceaseless riches of God’s grace as revealed through the Scriptures.
In last night’s study of the book of Ecclesiastes, we picked up the same theme that we explored last week, namely, the marks of a life being lived wisely with God as its focus. We looked at Ecclesiastes 7:14-29, examining three truths from the text, sought to understand them, and then discussed how they affect our lives, right here and right now.
First, in verses 14-19, we looked at the first truth – appearance isn’t everything. Solomon discusses the fact that a wise man realizes that the same God has created both the day of prosperity and the day of disaster. He talks about the things he has seen in his life that make little sense to us – often, it seems, the bad guys win and the good guys lose. The world’s reaction to this is reflected to us by Solomon in these verses – don’t be overly righteous (and end up a martyr or a doormat) or overly evil (and end up in trouble and misery), but just live life and look out for yourself. However, how should the Christian react? Solomon tells us that the same God is in control of both the good and bad things that befall us, a God who is perfectly wise and good. The implication, then, is that there is design and a reason behind all things, even when we can’t or don’t see it. Appearances aren’t everything, for our sovereign creator is always at work, weaving the story of human history for his glory and our good. Thus, our reaction should be a trust in him that runs deeper than circumstances. We can lean on him, depend on him, find joy in him – even when times are difficult – a lesson powerfully demonstrated in the life of the prophet Habakkuk.
In verses 20-24, we examined the fact that true wisdom causes humility. Solomon asserts that we all are fallen and tainted by sin. We cannot be too quick to harshly judge others when they wrong us, because we know that we’ve done the same thing to others ourselves. He even admits that though he dedicated his life to the pursuit of wisdom, there is still much about the world that he cannot figure out. True wisdom brings with it a right view of ourselves. We see sins and shortcomings, and we see that we’re not nearly as significant and important as we’d imagined. Thus, true wisdom directs itself outward, building others up rather than calling attention to ourselves. This same lesson is one that Paul taught to the Christians at Corinth, rebuking them for allowing their spiritual knowledge to destroy those around them.
Finally, in verses 25-29, Solomon drives home the truth (which he had come to realize all too well) that marriage is serious business. He talks about a fate worse than death – a woman who serves as a spiritual trap for a man. This could easily be true with the genders flipped – the point is that romantic relationships can easily be a snare rather than the blessing God intended. Solomon learned this lesson the hard way, with his many wives leading him away from God for much of his life. For the teens in my group, marriage seems like a distant prospect. However, this truth has major implications for them as they navigate the minefield that is our modern concept of dating. Consider how strongly Solomon warns against giving ourselves emotionally to the wrong person – he calls it a fate worse than death. There is no person who will have a greater influence on you than the person you marry. This raises the stakes when it comes to looking for that person. Thus, I asked my students, “What are you looking for?” What is it that you are drawn to in the people you’re attracted to? What sort of influence would they have on your spiritual life? Are they someone who will build you up in your love for Christ? If not, then what on earth are you chasing? Romance and marriage are among the most amazing gifts God has given us (for proof, you need go no further than the next book in the Bible, The Song of Solomon). However, it can also be among the most deadly of traps if we’re not seeing it as an avenue for glorifying God, just like everything else Ecclesiastes has discussed. Ultimately, our reaction to difficult times, our level of humility, and our approach to dating and marriage will say a lot about whether we’re living our lives unto God or living the wasted, vain, worldly lives that Solomon warns against. Take stock of these things, and look inward. What do they tell you about yourself?
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