Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Fly In The Ointment

You can identify fools just by the way they walk down the street! (Ecclesiastes 10: 3 NLT)

         Solomon tells us that like a dead fly in a bottle of perfume, a little foolishness spoils great wisdom and honor.  The world perpetuates the idea that when you become a Christian you turn off your ability to reason just like you check your hat at a fine restaurant.  But some of this mentality may be self-inflicted because some Christians still act like fools.

Closing The Mind But Opening The Mouth
         The Book of Proverbs tells us that, Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions (Proverbs 18:2 NLT).  The fool loves knowledge to show off because as Matthew Henry has said, “he loves the sound of his own voice,” Dr. David Jeremiah has said that the fool “closes his mind while opening the mouth.”  Humility is the pivotal piece here.  Humility understands that wisdom is never gained just to promote our own agenda.  Self-effort never makes us humble.  If we should gain a measure of humility and wisdom due to our own merit, we ultimately will end up being proud of our humility.  The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God” (Psalms 14:1 NASB).  We can seek wisdom and miss God, but we can never miss wisdom if we seek God first.

A Picture or a Mirror?
         Kris Langham of Through The Word as a “young and prideful” Christian started reading through the Book of Proverbs.  It was so obvious to him how foolish people were.  He said it was almost “laughable” how stupid people acted sometimes.  But it was not long before he started to see that God was not just giving him a picture of a fool, but a mirror image of one.  A fool is always blind to his flaws as deception is a by-product of conceit. If you think you are humble you are probably not. If pride is operative in our lives we will end up with a dead fly in our ointment.  And people recognize this smell even when you are just walking down the street.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Chasing After The Wind

Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind (Ecclesiastes 4:4 NLT).

            The writer of Ecclesiastes is looking at life “under the sun.”  He is excluding from his discussion heaven and hell.  He concludes that “all is vanity” and life has no meaning.  All our pursuits in life, even our good ones like our religious activities, can become “like chasing after the wind.”  We can do all the right things for all the wrong reasons.

The Futility of Life
            Remember Solomon is writing about “life under the sun.”  He is expressing a worldly view of existence.  There are three themes in Chapter 4; oppression (v. 1), envy (v. 4), and loneliness (v. 7).  All three of these are the results of self-centeredness.  He realizes that the world is a cruel place with mean people in places of power.  He observes that we try to put people down to lift ourselves up.  And we compete with others to get one more of everything when we have no real friends with which to share it.  If we leave it right here, we too would say “all is vanity.

The Meaning Of Life
            Ecclesiastes is not a stand-alone book.  It is meant to be read with the rest of the Bible which gives us a perspective not just on “life under the sun” but about our eternal existence.  We need to bring into the discussion the one who came to give life meaning, Jesus Christ.  He taught us how to live.  Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too (Philippians 2:3 NLT).  We are simply not to be selfish.  We are to quit trying to impress others which leads to envy being the pivotal motivational factor in all our pursuits.  Someone once said, “People do not care how much you have as long as it not more than them.”  It is a comparison game. 
            Jesus challenged the self-centeredness of fallen nature.  He exposed the tendency of our hearts to believe that the universe revolves around us.  C.S. Lewis said, “humility is not thinking less of yourself, its thinking of yourself less.”

The Way Up Is Always Down
            William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, was a man that knew how to instill the proper meaning of life in his cadets.  On one occasion a promising cadet arrived in England from the United States.  The cadet had formerly been a pastor of a very influential church in the states.  He was known for his powerful preaching.  The first job General Booth gave to this recruit was to go to basement and “blacken” the boots of the other cadets.  As he started to shine the boots, thoughts pervaded his mind like, I used to preach to thousands of people, what am I doing shining these boots?  Just at the point that the thoughts were starting to effect his work, he saw an image in his mind.  The vision was of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.  He pondered for a second, and then said to himself; If Jesus could wash feet then I guess I can “blacken” boots.  He finished his chore and the story goes that when General Booth stepped down, this was the man that replaced him.  The way up is always down.
            Success can only be fulfilling when our motivation to please Him transcends self-fulfillment.  “Life under the sun” can only have meaning when Christ is King.