Ecclesiastes

Investment, Risk and Time

A bit of confusion exists for many about the idea of karma. It's primarily Hindu in origin, and is loosely related to the cause and effect of deeds or work.

But it is not equivalent to the biblical law of sowing and reaping. They are different concepts. Sowing and reaping is an agricultural term that illustrates the idea of sowing seeds to produce a crop or harvest. It's an investment that brings a return.

It also includes a sense of risk. Time and other factors affect this risk. Life is an investment, so invest wisely.

Scripture

Do good wherever you go. After a while, the good you do will come back to you. Invest what you have in several different things. You don’t know what bad things might happen on earth. There are some things you can be sure of. If clouds are full of rain, they will pour water on the earth. If a tree falls—to the south or to the north—then it will stay where it falls. [vss 1-3]

But there are some things that you cannot be sure of. You must take a chance. If you wait for perfect weather, you will never plant your seeds. If you are afraid that every cloud will bring rain, you will never harvest your crops. You don’t know where the wind blows. And you don’t know how a baby grows in its mother’s womb. In the same way, you don’t know what God will do—and he makes everything happen. So begin planting early in the morning, and don’t stop working until evening. You don’t know what might make you rich. Maybe everything you do will be successful. [vss 4-6]

It is good to be alive. It is nice to see the light from the sun. You should enjoy every day of your life, no matter how long you live. But remember that you will die, and you will be dead much longer than you were alive. And after you are dead, you cannot do anything. [vss 7-8]

So young people, enjoy yourselves while you are young. Be happy. Do whatever your heart leads you to do. Do whatever you want, but remember that God will judge you for everything you do. Don’t let your anger control you, and don’t let your body lead you to sin. People do foolish things in the dawn of life while they are young. [vss 9-10]

(Ecclesiastes 11:1-10 GW) [Context– Ecclesiastes 11]

Key phrase—Do good wherever you go. After a while, the good you do will come back to you.

[bctt tweet="Do good wherever you go. After a while, the good you do will come back to you."]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What are we encouraged to do? What can we count on and what can't we be sure of?

What do we not know, and what advice is given because of that?

What realities are certain, and how should this affect how we live?

What's the advice and caution given to young people? How does the caution relate to the advice given at first?

Reflection...

Some people say they have no regrets in life and wouldn't change how they lived earlier in life. But most of us, if we're honest with ourselves, know some things could have been better.

We can't change the past, but we can learn from it, if we're willing to do so. We can also learn from the example of other's lives, both good and bad.

This life has no guarantees about how much time we have to live, or how much happiness we'll know. But good is better than evil, and God honors what is good.

We can choose to invest in what is good—for our own life and the lives of others. It's worth the risk.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

How often do you allow what you can't control in life to control you?

How has doing good returned to you in some way?

When have you not taken a risk and wished you did? When have you been glad you took a risk?

What have you learned from the foolish things you've done earlier in life? How has it benefitted you?

Time, Fairness, and Wisdom

"It's not fair!" How many times have moms and dads heard this from their children? It's the usual preface to a complaint related to some disciplinary restriction or denial of a request.

It can be both comical and annoying when a child says it. But when an adult says it, there's usually another meaning, which boils down to—things should be done my way, or seen from my viewpoint.

Many things in this life are unfair, far beyond petty, childish claims of injustice. Some people claim to be victims and maintain a victimized persona, even when they've brought trouble upon themselves.

Tens of thousands in the world are true victims of injustice, who often go unheard and unnoticed. Sadly, their cries for help may be silenced by those who insist on their own way.

Scripture

I also saw other things in this life that were not fair. The fastest runner does not always win the race; the strongest soldier does not always win the battle; wise people don’t always get the food; smart people don’t always get the wealth; educated people don’t always get the praise they deserve. When the time comes, bad things can happen to anyone! You never know when hard times will come. Like fish in a net or birds in a snare, people are often trapped by some disaster that suddenly falls on them. [vss 11-12]

I also saw a person doing a wise thing in this life, and it seemed very important to me.There was a small town with a few people in it. A great king fought against that town and put his armies all around it. But there was a wise man in that town. He was poor, but he used his wisdom to save his town. After everything was finished, the people forgot about the poor man.But I still say that wisdom is better than strength. They forgot about the poor man’s wisdom, and the people stopped listening to what he said. But I still believe that wisdom is better. [vss 13-16]

Words spoken by the wise are heard more clearly

than those shouted by a leader among fools.

Wisdom is better than weapons of war,

but one fool

can destroy much good.

[vss 17-18]

(Ecclesiastes 9:11-18 GW) [Context– Ecclesiastes 9]

Key phrase—Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one fool can destroy much good.

[bctt tweet="Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one fool can destroy much good."]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What are some things noted as unfair in these verses?

What are two things than can happen to anybody over time?

What is the injustice done in the story of the wise man and the city?

In the face of injustice, what does King Solomon claim is better? Why?

Reflection...

When injustice exists, someone or some thing is the cause. Inordinate amounts of time and energy are often spent on assigning blame and finding fault.

This blame-game plays out in households and within businesses, but also escalates into national and global scenarios.

By far, more time is spent shouting about injustice than resolving it. Loud-mouthed fools may hold center stage for a time, but wisdom will prevail. The One who is all-wise will see to it.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

When have you seen true injustice? Did you do anything to help resolve it?

How have you handled what appears to be unfairness or an unjust situation in your own life?

Do you seek ways to move beyond what seems unjust or unfair in life?

How do you react when you see injustice? Do you complain about it, or are you moved with compassion to do something about it?

Things We Can't Understand

It's said that curiosity killed the cat. Perhaps. But curiosity is a driving force in life and for scientific discoveries.

If we never risked looking beyond the obvious and status quo, there would be no significant progress in what's important to our lives now.

Still, many things remain unknown and beyond our grasp to understand. Could this be intentional on God's part? If so, why?

Scripture

When a sentence against a crime isn’t carried out quickly, people are encouraged to commit crimes. A sinner may commit a hundred crimes and yet live a long life. Still, I know with certainty that it will go well for those who fear God, because they fear him. But it will not go well for the wicked. They will not live any longer. Their lives are like shadows, because they don’t fear God. [vss 11-13]

There is something being done on earth that is pointless. Righteous people suffer for what the wicked do, and wicked people get what the righteous deserve. I say that even this is pointless. So I recommend the enjoyment [of life]. People have nothing better to do under the sun than to eat, drink, and enjoy themselves. This joy will stay with them while they work hard during their brief lives which God has given them under the sun. [vss 14-15]

When I carefully considered how to study wisdom and how to look at the work that is done on earth (even going without sleep day and night), then I saw everything that God has done. No one is able to grasp the work that is done under the sun. However hard a person may search for it, he will not find [its meaning]. Even though a wise person claims to know, he is not able to grasp it. [vss 16-17]

(Ecclesiastes 8:11-17 GW) [Context– Ecclesiastes 8]

Key phrase—No one is able to grasp the work that is done under the sun

[bctt tweet="No one is able to grasp the work that is done under the sun"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What seems to be the result when there's no consequence to a crime?

What is said to be the benefit for those who fear God over those who don't?

What is recommended as a break from hard work? Do you agree with this? Why or why not?

What will remain beyond the understanding of the wisest people? Why?

Reflection...

I'm thankful for people who were curious for the benefit of all humanity. Think of the things we use every day that didn't exist fifty years ago. How about 500 years ago?

It's hard to comprehend the rapid advance of modern technology over the past few decades. Most of us can't keep up with it all. Yet with all these advances, humanity has not solved the problem of violence and evil in the world. Theories exist for resolving these problems, but they go unchecked in many parts of the world today.

Some things remain beyond our understanding, like how to cure cancer or HIV/AIDS. Other things seem to defy solutions, such as human evil, violence, and hatred.

Why would God allow this?

If no mystery existed, most everyone would be complacent and apathetic about such things. We would have no wonder or awe. We would see no need for a relationship with God.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

How do you view injustices in the world? Do you see them as humanity's problem, or God's neglect or indifference?

Have you ever suffered wrong or injustice? If so, how did you handle it?

Are you able to disengage from work and the problems of the world to enjoy life?

When you can't understand things in life, are you able to trust these things to God?

Looking for Answers

What do you think? Are people by nature good or bad? Wait! Before you answer, consider that this is a centuries-old debate.

People with credentials may speak with authority when they give their opinion, but it's still just their opinion. Opinions don't resolve debates, they tend to polarize the debate.

An important part of the discussion, if you want to move beyond mere debate, is to define terms. What's the basis for goodness? How do you define human nature?

Scripture

Surely there is no one on earth who always does good and never sins. But wisdom can make one person stronger than ten leaders in a city. Don’t listen to everything people say. You might hear your own servant saying bad things about you. And you know that many times you too have said bad things about other people. [vss 19-22]

I used my wisdom and thought about all these things. I wanted to be wise, but I couldn’t do it. I cannot understand why things are as they are. It is too hard for anyone to understand. I studied and I tried very hard to find true wisdom. I tried to find a reason for everything. I did learn that it is foolish to be evil, and it is crazy to act like a fool. [vss 23-25]

I also found that some women are dangerous like traps. Their hearts are like nets, and their arms are like chains. It is worse than death to be caught by these women. God’s followers should run away from them. Let the sinners be caught by them. The Teacher says, “I added all this together to see what answer I could find. I am still looking for answers, but I did find this: I found one good man in a thousand. But I did not find even one good woman. “There is one other thing I have learned. God made people good, but they have found many ways to be bad.” [vss 26-29]

(Ecclesiastes 7:19-29 ERV) [Context– Ecclesiastes 7]

Key phrase—I learned that wickedness is stupid and foolishness is madness

[bctt tweet="I learned that wickedness is stupid and foolishness is madness"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What are we told about people in general and the value of wisdom?

What advice is given about what people say, and what is the basis for this advice?

What did King Solomon find out in his search for wisdom and reason for life?

What was Solomon still looking for, and what did he learn about God and people?

Reflection...

An opinion is a belief based on a subjective point of view. Why is it subjective? Because it's a personal point of view.

In the very beginning of humanity, when God created the universe, it was all good. Not good in the way that expression is used today. Everything created was genuinely good, pristine, and in right order.

God is the only true standard of goodness. However, the world around us is no longer in pristine condition, regardless of your opinion on climate change. And, the population of the world does not live in harmony with one another or their environment.

Our view of people and life in general is jaded. It's jaded because we have a hard time seeing beyond ourselves and our own point of view. Solomon was onto something when he said— God made people good, but they have found many ways to be bad (verse 29).

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

What is your view of human nature, God, and goodness? What do you base this on?

If you've been living for a while, how has your view of life and human nature changed?

What areas in life are you still seeking answers? What are you sure about? Why?

Where do you seek wisdom? How has the wisdom you've gained in life helped you?

From One Extreme to Another

Life is full of ups and downs. Some of these can be extreme, but most are not. I'm thankful for that.

I'm also thankful for the hills and valleys of life. It would get pretty boring and monotonous without these, like an unending treadmill to nowhere.

Still, some people seem to experience triumph to tragedy cycles of mood swings. They seem stuck on a never-ending, emotional rollercoaster. Then there are those who exhibit extreme attitudes and behaviors. All these extremes create tensions that can't be sustained for long.

Life is a lot harder when you go from one extreme to another.

Scripture

Wisdom is as good as an inheritance. It is an advantage to everyone who sees the sun. Wisdom protects us just as money protects us, but the advantage of wisdom is that it gives life to those who have it. Consider what God has done! Who can straighten what God has bent? [vss 11-13]

When times are good, be happy. But when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one time as well as the other so that mortals cannot predict their future. I have seen it all in my pointless life: Righteous people die in spite of being righteous. Wicked people go on living in spite of being wicked. [vss 14-15]

Don’t be too virtuous, and don’t be too wise. Why make yourself miserable? Don’t be too wicked, and don’t be a fool. Why should you die before your time is up? It’s good to hold on to the one and not let go of the other, because the one who fears God will be able to avoid both extremes. [vss 16-18]

(Ecclesiastes 7:11-18 GW) [Context– Ecclesiastes 7]

Key phrase—Wisdom is as good as an inheritance.

[bctt tweet="Wisdom is as good as an inheritance."]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What are we told about wisdom? Why is it valuable?

In what way do good and bad experiences keep us from predicting the future?

What are we told about the righteous and wicked? Does this seem unfair to you?

What would help us avoid being too virtuous or too wicked? How does this help?

Reflection...

Religion and philosophy are often taken to extremes. In a philosophy class, taking a thought to an extreme point happens a lot. Sometimes this is exercised as if it was an olympic sport.

Religions are filled with radicals—people who take a belief well beyond its original intent. Of course, what's seen as radical or fanatical by one person is acceptable to another. Even Jesus was branded as too radical by the religious leaders of His time on earth.

How can we keep from going to extremes? We need a center point. We need something to ground and guide us. This is the benefit of godly fear.

When we see God for who He is—all-knowing, ever-present, almighty, and eternal—we gain perspective. It keeps us humble and wise (Proverbs 9:10). It will also help keep us from going from one extreme to another.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

Does your life seem like a treadmill or rollercoaster? If so, have you discovered why this is so?

How do you handle the ups and downs of life? How much does it bother you when things don't go as planned?

Does it bother you when some people seem to get away with wrong doing, while others who seem innocent and good suffer?

What's your understanding of the fear of God? Does God fill your heart with awe and wonder?