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.
Last night, we continued our study of Ecclesiastes (with no computer problems) by looking at the topic of money. There are several different views within modern Christianity about money and how it should be approached – from the health-wealth crowd that looks at it as a major part of God’s blessing, to people who lift up Jesus as demonstrating that poverty is a more admirable lifestyle. So how should we view money? Is it a good thing, a bad thing, or somewhere in between?
Looking at the second half of chapter 5, we broke the text down and looked at three different pictures of wealth that Solomon paints for us. The first, in verses 8-12, is a look at money as an evil master. Solomon points out that oppression of the poor and weak in the name of profit is so commonplace that it is to be expected, and yet the one who loves wealth will never be satisfied by it. Yet, he points out, the one who does not chase money but has peace is blessed whether he has a little or a lot. The thrust of the passage is that money will destroy those who are consumed by it. The old adage goes, “Money is a good servant but an evil master.” It’s quite true. Money can be used for many good ends, and material possessions can be enjoyable and good (if you disagree, then it would seem odd that you’re reading this on a computer that likely cost you a pretty penny). However, when money becomes something that we strive after, something that consumes us, we will never have enough and we will always be chasing after something new, rather than resting in the God who gives all good gifts.
The next picture, in verses 13-17, is that of an empty promise. Money is not as secure and sure as it seems – a truth that our nation is facing in full force. Solomon tells of a man who was wealthy, and was greedy over his wealth (“kept them to his hurt”), but then lost it all in a bad decision. Suddenly, this man had nothing to his name, nothing to pass to his son, nothing to give him security – he would end his days as naked as he came into the world. So many people measure their security in their bank account. We all are easily tempted into this feeling. When our account is running short, our stress level goes up, and we seem to think that if we could just pad things a little, then it all would be alright. Yet money is no solid rock. Only God can fill that role. Look around at the giants of our economy, billion-dollar companies, that are now bankrupt or out of business entirely. Three years ago Heather and I bought a new TV from Circuit City. By this summer, Circuit City will no longer exist. Anyone who looks to their money or their possessions for their stability is trusting in an empty promise.
Finally, in verses 18-20, we see money presented as a dangerous gift. In this passage, Solomon says that it is a blessing from God to benefit from your work – and to have the ability to enjoy those benefits. He says that money and possessions are a gift from God, if one is able to enjoy them properly. This is what makes them a dangerous gift, because we are so apt to be consumed with possessions, rather than enjoying them to the glory of God. The blurring of this line can be subtle – in fact, I didn’t realize it was cropping up in a way in my life until this week, when I became very irritated at the fact that my barbeque grill wasn’t working right. When I started complaining to Heather that I really hoped it wasn’t broken, she answered with, “So what if it is? It’s just a grill!” It was an instant reminder to me that I can become quickly consumed with my stuff. It’s not a bad thing to have stuff and to enjoy stuff. I’m not telling you that you need to sell everything you have and go live in a cave to be more holy. What I am saying is that we all need to check ourselves regularly to see how we’re handling God’s dangerous gift. Do you own your money, or does your money own you? Do you see everything you have as a gift from God, to be enjoyed to his glory but also to be expendable for his kingdom’s sake? Is the focus of your life, both on a big-picture level and a day-to-day practical level, the fleeting things this world chases after or the solid rock of Christ? Examine your heart and see where your attitudes and actions need to shift. After all, it’s just a grill.