In our American church context, we are all wealthy compared to the rest of the world. So there is much for us to learn from Solomon's wisdom for wealthy people in this section of Ecclesiastes.
Many of us may not feel wealthy when we look at our budgets. The Bible says that we should be content with food, clothing, and shelter (1 Timothy 6:8). By that standard, especially compared to the majority of people in our world, we are an affluent group of people. Solomon gives wisdom for wealthy people to maintain our eternal purpose for living.
We are studying the third section of Ecclesiastes, which instructs us on how to rejoice in hard times. Joy is the reality of the believer who lives in the blessed will of God (Ecclesiastes 8:15). With the proper perspective, believers can enjoy all God's good gifts, but if distracted from eternal purpose, we will doubt the integrity of God and His providence.
In Ecclesiastes 6:1-9, Solomon applies wisdom to apparent injustices that can cause roadblocks in our lives. It is common to find people who seem to have everything but are not satisfied. Solomon gives two examples: a single man and a married man. Ultimately, we will see what it means for a believer to embrace the good material possessions God has given us.
Ecclesiastes 5:8-17 show that God is comfortable talking about politics and finance. These topics often cause tension, but we can converse confidently about what God says about each of these areas of human life.
In the first century, names were given with significant thought. In the longest list of names found in Paul's epistles, however, it is not the names themselves that are the most important. It is the fact that these people are "in Christ" and "in the Lord," which is repeated 11 times in 23 verses. Some of the people in this list were slaves with no formal names aside from the household they served. Slave or free, when they were saved, these believers were given a greater identity in their Savior.
We can learn a lot from Paul's list of greetings in Romans 16. In this longest list of names in Paul's letters, he repeats the phrases "in Christ" or "in the Lord." All 26 people named had been redeemed and transformed by Jesus Christ.
How do we know the Gospel is real? It evokes more than an emotional response. It changes the whole person. Many know the facts of the Gospel and are emotionally moved, but they still feel empty. They can't break their bad habits, because they are still governed by their old selves. Jesus gave His life to redeem us. The appropriate response is to give all of ourselves to be completely His.
Ten years ago, the values of homes and stocks plummeted as the housing bubble popped. Many people lost significant amounts from their retirement accounts and significant investments, their homes, seemingly overnight. When wealth can disappear so quickly, is it worth spending all our energy for it? There is virtue in hard work, but not when it is done for the purpose of wealth that disappears. Wisdom is more valuable than any material treasure. Proverbs 23:4-5 teaches us that wisdom or discernment protects us from becoming workaholics to gain wealth.
Pastors can be hesitant to talk about the proper use of possessions. But if all of us belongs to God, then everything we are and have should be used to glorify Him. Every area of our life is sacred.
The New Testament contains 126 instructions for our use of material possessions. We will summarize all these under 8-9 categories to learn how God wants us to use what He's given us for the edification of the church and the advancement of the Gospel.
1 Timothy 6:17-19 forms the conclusion to Paul's letter to the churches in the prosperous city of Ephesus. These verses can be divided in three sections: disposition, anticipation, and participation. Our disposition must be a humble one that does not try to out-think God's plan for our lives or the mission of the church. Our hope is not in the American dream that could disappear overnight. We place our hope in God's unchanging promises and blessings.
Quick wealth often destroys. We don't have to look hard or far in our culture to find examples of this reality. At the end of his letter, Paul gives Timothy instructions for Christians "who are rich in this present world" (1 Timothy 6:17-19). This passage is widely preached out of context. The main point of these two verses is this: Prosperity should never devour mission. Prosperity should underpin mission.
We have been studying through the three sections of 1 Timothy 6:3-10. Professing believers who teach falsehood in the church display their unbelief by their lifestyle. Those who believe Jesus is enough find security and contentment through godliness. Next, Paul addresses believers who are tempted to walk away from the faith. The outcome of their testing is largely dependent on who in the church influences them, unless they are already grounded in Christ and who He is. Paul challenges such believers directly because they are at great risk. The end of falsehood is temporary ruin and possibly eternal destruction.
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