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TEXT: Ecclesiastes 5:8-6:9
SUBJECT: Ecclesiastes #7: The Root of All Evil
I don't watch a lot of news on TV, but when I do, I try to avoid two channels: MSNBC and FOX. The former is slanted sharply to the left; the latter leans just as far to the right. One is a spokesman for liberal Democrats; the other is a mouthpiece of conservative Republicans.
The problem I have with the networks is simply this: both find the root of all evil in the personalities and policies of the other party. If you listen to one, you'd think:
If you tune in the other, you'll find:
But, if you read the Bible, you'll see the problem is much deeper and wider than one person or one party or one political stance. The root of all evil-I Timothy 6:10 teaches us is-
The love of money.
Is this a partisan issue? We pretend it is, as though only Republicans are greedy or no one but a Democrat is selfish, but we all know better. The love of money is a human problem, rooted deeply in every heart and spread out over time and space. The Preacher saw it in his life; we see it in ours; our great grandchildren will see it in theirs. Only the Second Coming of Christ will put an end to this disordered love and all the suffering that goes with it. Till then, all we can do is-
Look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
THE LOVE OF MONEY IN GOVERNMENT
When I say, 'The love of money is not a political problem, but a human one', I am not exempting politicians. The Preacher, in fact, singles them out for special criticism, vv.8-9-
If you see the oppression of the poor, and the violent perversion of justice and righteousness in a province, do not marvel at the matter; for high official watches over high official, and higher officials are over them. Moreover, the profit of the land is for all; the king himself is served from the field.
Why do petty officials mistreat the common man? Because they can get away with it. How come they can get away with it? Because the higher-ups are in on it too. Why doesn't the King put on an end to their corruption? Because he's as corrupt as they are!
When God divvied up the land of Israel, it was for the welfare and prosperity of His People-for all of them. But it wasn't long until the Law that was given to protect the widow and fatherless was turned against them. A plutocracy was formed-the rule of money-and at the top of the pyramid was the King himself! Called to be the shepherd of God's flock, he became their butcher! Not even Solomon, the wisest of men, could resist the temptation to take more than he had coming. At the expense of his people.
If the Preacher were a prophet, he would cry out against the corruption of his day, but he left that work to others. He simply observes it and tells us to-
Not marvel at the matter.
This is not the way things ought to be; but it is most definitely, the way things are. Republicans are greedy. Democrats are greedy. Libertarians are greedy. Communists are greedy. Justices of the peace are greedy. Presidents are greedy. When it comes to the love of money-
All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
This means we mustn't put our hope in political parties and their nominees. I like bland politicians: nobody ever thought that Gerald Ford would change the world! But many people felt that way about Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama.
We need to be more realistic. We should pray for our leaders and thank God for the good they do. But, Psalm 118:8-9 remains in effect--
It is better to trust the Lord than to put confidence in men.
It is better to trust the Lord than to put confidence in princes.
The fact is: some people enter government to do good, but very few get out without doing themselves good. The love of money rules in every capital city-from Jerusalem to Rome, Washington, Sacramento, and city hall.
THE LOVE OF MONEY IS FOOLISH
If the love of money is a common thing, tempting both rulers and the ruled, it is also a foolish thing. This is the Preacher's main point. He doesn't have to spend a lot of time proving 'politicians are corrupt'-we all know they are-but the 'the folly of loving money?' That takes more convincing.
Scholars differ on how many 'proofs' the Preacher gives, but I counted seven, starting in 5:10 and running through 6:9.
He who loves silver will not be satisfied
Nor he who loves abundance,
This also is vanity.
Most people don't love money itself, but what money buys or promises to buy. If you think about it for a moment, you'll see how unsatisfying these things are.
If the thing you bought last year (or, last week) was really satisfying, how come you're not using it any more? Why are you looking to update it? Why were you surfing the net last night shopping for something else? Some things have to be replaced, clothing for example. But do you ever buy a new blouse before the old one has to be thrown away? Of course you do. Why? Very few of my books have worn out, why do I feel driven to buy new ones when I haven't read all the ones I already have? How come you're looking for a stair climber when you've got a stationary bike in the garage? Why do you surf the net for 'deals'? Why do you window shop? Why do you buy things you don't really need?
We do these things because the things we have-the things we bought with money-did not satisfy us. Just what the Preacher said.
If what money buys is unfulfilling, what it promises is even worse. What does money promise? To people my age, what it mostly promises is security. If I have good medical coverage, I won't get sick, or if I do, I won't die. If I have a good pension, an IRA, a varied portfolio, etc., my Golden Years will be golden.
Statistically, all of this may be true: But I'm not a statistic! My father had a middling medical plan, and he died of pancreatic cancer, a tumor the doctors didn't find until the last few days of his life. But Ted Kennedy had the best medical plan money could buy. Early on, his prized doctors found the tumor on his brain, treated it with the best medicines, and the Senator died of cancer. Just like the carpenter.
Money does not secure your future. No matter how much of it you've got!
We all need money to live on-the Preacher's knows that-but he also knows the limited and temporary happiness it can buy. Therefore, he says, 'To love money is foolish'.
When goods increase,
They increase who eat them;
So what profit have the owners
Except to see them with their eyes.
How much would you have to make to never worry about money again? $100,000? That's a lot more than I make-and if I had that, I'd never worry about a bill again! But if that's true, why do people making $100,000 declare bankruptcy? Well, $100,000 isn't what it used to be. But surely, anyone could live on $1,000,000 a year. Yet, people who make that much get into trouble too. And so do people who make millions more! Bernie Madhoff made billions of dollars before he went to prison and lost everything!
Very few people can live comfortably on what they make-no matter what they make!
The sleep of a laboring man is sweet,
Whether he eats little or much;
But the abundance of the rich
will not permit him to sleep.
This verse spoke more to the Preacher's day than it does to ours. Back then, for the most part, people without money worked with their hands and people with it didn't. This is no longer true-the second part, at least. Many low-end jobs require little or no physical effort.
Still, high-paying jobs are typically very stressful, and it's hard to rest your body when you mind is going 200 miles an hour. Money can but sleeping pills, but it can't buy sleep, and without that, you're life's a wreck-no matter how much you've got!
There is a severe evil that I have seen under the sun: riches kept for their owner to his hurt.
Money allows you to get away with things you couldn't if you didn't have it. Think of Charlie Sheen! Or Barry Bonds! The things it allows you to get away with are bad things-and not only bad for others, but bad for yourself. I can't afford a cocaine habit! I can't wrap a Maserati around a tree! I can't walk off the job! I can't afford to be a total jerk!
Because I don't have the money for it. If I did, the next time something happened at church I didn't like, I could quit and become a man of leisure. But that would be bad for me! If I had money I could trade in my wife for a newer model. But that would be a bad for me.
Think of all the shenanigans movie stars and rappers and professional athletes get away with. You can't get away with these things-and thank God you can't. Because if you could, you might end up in Celebrity Rehab or the front page of the National Enquirer!
Job had both money and character, but he was an exception to the rule. Most people cannot have both.
But those riches perish through
when he begets a son,
there is nothing in his hand.
As he came from his mother's womb,
naked shall he return,
to go as he came; and he shall take nothing from his labor
which he may carry away in his hand.
And this also is a severe evil,
That just exactly as he came,
So shall he go.
And what profit has he
Who has labored for the wind?
All his days he also eats in darkness,
And has much sorrow and sickness
The wealthiest man can lose his money; I don't have to prove this, the economy has struck down rich and poor alike. When the rich lose their money, they feel gnawing regrets. They hoped to educate their children with it, to set them up in business, and to leave it to them as an inheritance. But now they've got nothing, and the kids have to live the same kind of hard-scrabble lives their parents hoped to save them from.
When the money is lost, the formerly rich live in the darkness of anger and grief. They find it is easier getting used to having money than it is not having it.
Even when the money is held onto all your life, it's lost in death. You were born naked, and no matter what kind of wardrobe you buy in life, you're going to die naked.
The silliest person knows his money can be lost, and, deep down, he thinks about it and he worries about it. This cuts into the pleasure money can buy, and makes the love of money what the Preacher says it is-
Vanity and a sickening evil.
Here is what I have seen: it is good and fitting for one to ear and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage.
As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and to rejoice in his labor-this is the gift of God.
For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart.
At first glance, this seems to contradict everything the Preacher has said. He says the rich man ought to eat and drink, enjoy his work, and be happy. And that these are not just 'okay with God', but they're His gifts.
When you read the whole book, you see this is no contradiction at all. He has said the same thing to working men, 2;24, 9:7-8-
There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that is soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God.
Go eat your bread with joy,
And drink your wine with a merry
For God has already accepted your
Let your garments always be white,
and let your head lack no oil.
Money doesn't buy the ability to enjoy your work or food or wine or family. It can buy businesses, gourmet foods, vintage wines, and beautiful wives, but not the joys they provide. Only God does this, and He does it with a lot of money or a little.
Don't love money because a happy life can be lived with it or without it.
There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men: a man to whom God has given riches and wealth and honor, so that he lacks nothing for himself of all he desires; yet God does not give him the power to eat of it, but a foreigner consumes it. This is vanity and it is a great affliction.
If a man begets a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with goodness, or indeed, he has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better than he-for he comes in vanity and departs in darkness, and its name is covered with darkness. Though it has not seen the sun or known anything, this has more rest than that man, even if he lives a thousand years twice over-but has not seen goodness. Do not all go to one place.
All the labor of man is for his mouth,
And yet the soul is not satisfied.
For what more has the wise man than
What does the poor man have,
Who knows how to walk before the
Better is the sight of the eyes than the
Wandering of desire.
This also is vanity
And a grasping after the wind.
The Preacher starts with the possibility of war. Suppose a man set the richest table in the history of the world. But before he sat down to dinner, an army took his home, killed him, and the foreign soldiers gorged themselves on the man's exquisite dinner?
The philosopher said, 'Only the dead have seen the end of war', and as long as wars are waged, our money and what it buys are not safe.
Then he thinks of a man obsessed with money to the point he alienates his family. When the man dies, the sons don't even bother to bury him! The Preacher says a miscarriage is better off than the richest man whose family hates him.
Finally, he reminds us that a man is more than a body. That though money can buy food for the belly, it cannot buy food for the soul. Thus, to live for what money can buy, is vain and a chasing after the wind.
The Preacher has made his point. Money does not buy happiness and to live for it is unworthy of a man made in the likeness and image of God.
Grass satisfies a cow, but you're not a cow! You were made for better things than what cash and credit cards can purchase.
You were made for happiness, and that can only be found in fellowship with God. A fellowship that cannot be bought with money, but with something far more precious than that. Your fellowship with God-Peter says-was secured-
Through the precious blood of Christ.
You can't buy friendship with God, but you can have it, if you're willing to take it for nothing. That's the offer: not what you give God, but what He gives us-
Without money and without price.
Believe the Gospel and, you will have that friendship, and you cannot lose it. The missionary Jim Eliott, who was killed by as a young man, saw no heroism in his life. His words are unforgettable-
It is not sacrifice too lose what you cannot keep to gain what you cannot lose.
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