Read: Matthew 6:19-24
What one sets his eyes on, that he will desire. And what one desires, so there his heart will be. This truth is plainly evident in the lives of so many people. Jesus notes this in the middle of two sayings concerning wealth. In the first, Jesus encourages his hearers to accumulate heavenly wealth and the second teaches that one cannot serve both money and God. A similar teaching to what Jesus is saying can be found in Ecclesiastes 5:8-18. As the Preacher reflects back on his life, he realizes that the one thing that makes life worth living is his relationship to God. The warning though that the pursuit of wealth or anything else for that matter as an end in and of itself or as way to find meaning results in the emptiness – and this is what the Preacher calls “vanity”. While wealth is not inherently evil, it can be evil. The Bible does neither condemns or condones having money. But it does instruct that money should be used for good (1 Timothy 6:11-21, Proverbs 3:9-10) rather than evil (James 5:1-6), but the pursuit of money for the sake of being wealthy is shunned (Proverbs 23:4-45).
The crux of the matter, as is with most all of Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, has to do with the condition of one’s heart. A hear that his focused on the accumulation of wealth or anything other than the pursuit of God is really one’s other master. It is for this reason that Paul encourages Christians to be be content with what one has (1 Timothy 6:6-8, Philippians 4:11) but never satisfied with where one is at in his struggle against sin. The Bible unequivocally affirms that that it is better to be righteous than wealthy (Proverbs 15:16-17, Proverbs 16:8).
For the Christian contentment can only be found in Jesus. When one finds contentment on Jesus then one can rightly pursue the other things in life. Proverbs 3:5-6 and Psalm 37:3-6 affirm that when one trust God in all things then in this God can direct one’s path. The key though is first trusting and delighting in God. Jesus himself later says, “Seek first the kingdom…” (Matthew 6:33) In doing so, God will become one’s passion and his will will be the believer’s desire too. This is why the promise of the Psalms and Proverbs is that God will give the desires of the heart and direct the path.
Lord, fill my eyes with visions of you!
Read: Luke 6:20-28
Luke’s account of the “Beatitudes” includes only four of the 8 that are included in Matthew 5:1-12. But unlike Matthew, Luke includes four parallel “woes” that accompany each of the 4 beatitudes that he lists. Luke’s list seems supportive of one of his overarching themes, which is a gospel for the marginalized people in society, which in his days would include woman, the poor, lepers, and Gentiles.
- Wealth and Poverty (verses 20 and 24): Jesus says those that are poor are blessed because they will have the kingdom of heaven, but pronounces a woe on the rich because they have their “consolation”. Interesting, the New Testament uses the same root word in the Greek, “paráklēsis” which is translated “consolation” to describe the Holy Spirit and his role with believers. He is called the “helper” (John 14:26, John 16:7, John 16:14). The woe here is not against being wealthy, rather trusting in one’s wealth for security. Likewise, one who finds pride in being poor is no better. The admonishment of the New Testament is to use wealth for good (1 Timothy 6:11-21, Proverbs 3:9-10) rather than evil (James 5:1-6) with one’s wealth and to be content in ones circumstances (1 Timothy 6:6-8, Philippians 4:11).
- Plenty and Hunger (verses 21a and 25a): Jesus says those that hunger will be filled but those that are full will be hungry. Matthew 5:10 account adds “for righteousness”. The same inheritance is given to these as is to the poor, namely the kingdom of heaven. Here again, the admonition isn’t to go about being hungry or be prideful in one’s hunger, rather find contentment in one’s circumstances, and as for those that have food he or she should be willing to share it with those who do not have food (Psalm 146:5-7, Matthew 5:42-43, 1 John 3:17-18, James 2:15-17, Matthew 25:35-40).
- Rejoicing and Mourning (verses 21b and 25b): Inevitably, there will be time for laughter and a time for mourning. For the Christian though, contentment again is great gain, and the call to rejoice in all circumstances goes out (1 Thessalonians 5:16) . The Christian condition is ultimately victorious even though temporal circumstances may be tough. In almost ever instance the command “rejoice” is found in the New Testament, it is done in the context of adversity A few references include 1 Thessalonians 3:7-10, John 16:22, Acts 5:41, Acts 16:25, Romans 5:2-3, Hebrews 10:34, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:6, 1 Peter 4:13. The theme of great joy in the midst of grave circumstances is one of the marks of great faith in the one who does bring comforter.
- Persecution (verses 22 and 26): There were not a lot of things that Jesus said would be certain for the disciples, but persecutions for his name sake was one of them (John 15:18-26. 2 Timothy 3:12-13). The disciples came to understand this to the point where there considered it a joy to be counted worthy to suffer (Acts 5:41). 1 Peter 4:12-19 says that one should not consider suffering to be something that is “strange”. The implication was that it would be “strange” to not have such persecution coming down on people. God is not calling people to seek out martyrdom (Matthew 10:23), but when persecution does come one is called to rejoice in spite of it. But to those who reject the message of Christ, they will be judged.
There is no guarantee that Christian life is an easy life and whoever says otherwise is selling a false gospel. Jesus did not call Christians to a life of comfort, but rather to expect a life of affliction for his name sake. For most American Christians, this isn’t the case, but for Christians around the world, persecution is real and intense, and those that do follow Christ suffer poverty, hunger, mourning, and persecution of all types. In the event that one doesn’t suffer like this though, he or she should be about the work of comforting the poor, needy, mourning, and persecuted and praying that through their faith a harvest will come!
Lord, in spite of all the evil in this world, help me to rejoice and praise you!
Read: Ecclesiastes 5:8-18
The Preacher in Ecclesiastes often mentions wealth in his book and the relationship of wealth to life. His general thinking is that wealth for wealth’s sake is meaningless for a number of reasons.
- The one who pursues wealth for wealth’s sake is never satisfied with what he has.
- As one’s wealth amasses, so do those who consume it. Wealthy people are often surrounded by people who want a piece of the wealth for themselves. They are only interested in the owner because he or she is wealthy, no more. The preacher says that such people have no benefit to the owner because all they do is stare at the wealth.
- Wealth can be lost in misfortune or stolen.
- People are born into the world naked, and they cannot take wealth with them when they die.
On the other hand, the Preacher thinks that people find much satisfaction in enjoying the fruits of their labor. Wealth for wealth’s sake has little satisfaction in such pursuits but the one who stops to enjoy what he or she has worked hard for finds satisfaction in this sort of work. The Preacher is saying that having money is evil; rather one should take the time to both work hard and then reap the benefits of his or her work. He sees this as a gift from God (Ecclesiastes 3:13, Ecclesiastes 5:18, Ecclesiastes 8:15, Ecclesiastes 9:7-9). The Bible does not condone having money but that it should be used for good (1 Timothy 6:11-21, Proverbs 3:9-10) rather than evil (James 5:1-6), but the pursuit of money for the sake of being wealthy is shunned (Proverbs 23:4-45, Matthew 6:19-20). The Bible teaches too that contentment is good (1 Timothy 6:6-8, Philippians 4:11) and that it is better to be righteous than wealthy (Proverbs 15:16-17, Proverbs 16:8).
Christians would do well to listen to the wisdom of the Preacher and consider the end goal of one’s pursuits. The end goal of every pursuit should be in accordance with the purposes of God. Psalms 67 teaches that God blesses so the blessed can bless others. In doing so, the ends of the earth will fear God. Work therefore should be to the glory of God. Paul encourages that whatever one does, one should do it as unto God rather than man (Colossians 3:23-24). Even so, as the Preacher says, people will only be interested in a person for his or her wealth rather than being genuinely interested in the person. The best thing to do is fear God, then everything else will follow suit. It is only in this that one can find real meaning!
Lord, let me honor you with all I have!
Read: Ecclesiastes 2:1-11
The writer of Ecclesiastes — that is the “Preacher” – had tried wisdom and concluded that the pursuit of wisdom for wisdom’s sake was empty and meaningless. In the same manner, the author pursued pleasure that came in many forms: alcohol, money, and wealth, women, and pleasures of all sorts. At the end of this pursuit he says that it too is vanity, meaning that it is empty and void of meaning. It, like wisdom, did not satisfy his longing and left him weary. The Bible has much to say concerning the things the writer pursued:
- Alcohol – There’s no direct prohibition against the consumption of alcohol in the Bible except for priests and Nazarites, but there is a prohibition against being intoxicated (Proverbs 20:1, Proverbs 21:17, Ephesians 5:18, 1 Peter 5:8).
- Money and Wealth – Money has its uses, no doubt. The Bible does not condone having money but that it should be used for good (1 Timothy 6:11-21, Proverbs 3:9-10) rather than evil (James 5:1-6), but the pursuit of money for the sake of being wealthy is shunned (Proverbs 23:4-45, Matthew 6:19-20). The Bible teaches too that contentment is good (1 Timothy 6:6-8, Philippians 4:11) and that it is better to be righteous than wealthy (Proverbs 15:16-17, Proverbs 16:8).
- Women – Having a wife is a good thing and should be celebrated (Proverbs 18:22 Proverbs 5:15-23, Proverbs 19:14, Song of Solomon, Proverbs 31:10-31) but having relationships with women for pleasure is condemned (Matthew 5:27-28, Romans 13:13).
- Pleasure – Licentious living is most certainly condemned in the Bible (Proverbs 14:12, 2 Timothy 3:4, 1 Timothy 5:6, 2 Timothy 2:22). But enjoying the fruit of one’s labor is the right of every man who works (Ecclesiastes 3:13, Ecclesiastes 2:24, Psalm 128:2).
All the things that the author of Ecclesiastes pursued have their place a right and proper use. Like wisdom, these things are not inherently meaningless, but as an end in and of themselves, they are. If one pursues any one of these things, ultimately one will be left wanting more. Jesus in Matthew 8:36-37 that it is no good for a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul. When one pursues Christ and righteousness, he shall be satisfied (Matthew 5:6, Psalm 4:6-7). When one is satisfied with God and content in his or her circumstances, then it is here that one will find meaning and be filled, but not in by any other means. Jesus in Matthew 6:25-34 says that the Lord takes care of everything, and that the Christian should seek first the kingdom of God, and not obsess over the things of the world.
Lord, help me to find contentment in you and you alone!