Friday, October 12, 2012

Work and Money

I wanted to look at this week the idea of working, wealth and money. I think this is an important topic and one that holds a lot of significance for me. The questions arise, is money a bad thing? Is being wealthy? Can you still be wealthy but do a proper job of prioritizing faith/god? It can't be as simple as Rich equals bad and Poor equals good can it? I found this verse and in its entirety it was informative and fascinating in its nuances and complexity regarding the topic. I pasted the chapter and some summary points below.
1 As you enter the house of God, keep your ears open and your mouth shut! Don't be a fool who doesn't realize that mindless offerings to God are evil. 2 And don't make rash promises to God, for he is in heaven, and you are only here on earth. So let your words be few. 3 Just as being too busy gives you nightmares, being a fool makes you a blabbermouth. 4 So when you make a promise to God, don't delay in following through, for God takes no pleasure in fools. Keep all the promises you make to him. 5 It is better to say nothing than to promise something that you don't follow through on. 6 In such cases, your mouth is making you sin. And don't defend yourself by telling the Temple messenger that the promise you made was a mistake. That would make God angry, and he might wipe out everything you have achieved. 7 Dreaming all the time instead of working is foolishness. And there is ruin in a flood of empty words. Fear God instead. 8 If you see a poor person being oppressed by the powerful and justice being miscarried throughout the land, don't be surprised! For every official is under orders from higher up, and matters of justice only get lost in red tape and bureaucracy. 9 Even the king milks the land for his own profit! 10 Those who love money will never have enough. How absurd to think that wealth brings true happiness! 11 The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what is the advantage of wealth -- except perhaps to watch it run through your fingers! 12 People who work hard sleep well, whether they eat little or much. But the rich are always worrying and seldom get a good night's sleep. 13 There is another serious problem I have seen in the world. Riches are sometimes hoarded to the harm of the saver, 14 or they are put into risky investments that turn sour, and everything is lost. In the end, there is nothing left to pass on to one's children. 15 People who live only for wealth come to the end of their lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day they were born. 16 And this, too, is a very serious problem. As people come into this world, so they depart. All their hard work is for nothing. They have been working for the wind, and everything will be swept away. 17 Throughout their lives, they live under a cloud -- frustrated, discouraged, and angry. 18 Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat well, drink a good glass of wine, and enjoy their work -- whatever they do under the sun -- for however long God lets them live. 19 And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life -- that is indeed a gift from God. 20 People who do this rarely look with sorrow on the past, for God has given them reasons for joy.
Ecclesiastes Chapter 5
I would usually paste only a verse or two from the bible, but this passage I think is important in context as a chapter. A lot of the versus effect one another and I think there is meaning to be gained from reading the whole thing. Here are my biggest take aways from it:
·         Being Busy can haunt you and literally give you nightmares (I have experienced this unfortunately)
·         Important to keep your word and stay in integrity. If you take on too much/promise too much you become a fool quickly and making empty promises can ruin you.
·         Don’t make excuses for promises you cannot follow through on.
·         Leaders with power can be selfish and Bureaucracy can mask injustice or misused power
·         Wealth does not bring true happiness and if you love money you will never have enough
·         People who live only for wealth come to the end of their lives empty handed
·         Working for self is like working for the wind- it leaves you with nothing when you die and causes you to live frustrated, discouraged and angry
·         It is good for people to eat well, enjoy pleasures (aka wine) and take satisfaction in their work in whatever trade it may be.
·         It is a good thing to receive wealth from God and good health and enjoy it.
·         To enjoy your work and to accept what you are given is the ultimate and is one of the ultimate gifts from God, as people who do this rarely have regrets and have lots of reasons for joy
·         Those who work hard sleep well whether they have a lot or a little (aka, it is not about what you have/accumulate, it is about how you live your life and how you do your work)
I would be curious to hear about peoples reaction to this verse and my analysis.
What is this chapter warning us of? What is it telling us to prioritize? What is Surprising about this chapter? What about this chapter makes you uncomfortable?
I feel this passage provides an interesting perspective of how to live our lives that is very directly applicable. My prediction is that this makes the verse important but also potentially a cause of discomfort and tension. I would love to hear people’s thoughts.
I have read the bible a lot, but likely haven't spent as much time with it as some. I guess the book itself was never the major emphasis of my faith. Coming from that background, it is fascinating to turn back to the bible and read it with new perspective and an open mind. There are many discoveries I am making of its contents that surprise me.


  1. This is just one of the areas of the Christian message that turns the values of our culture upside down. We live in a materialistic culture that values the pursuit and acquisition of money, success, and possessions. The Christian message warns us of this false god, and encourages us to put our hope and trust in the eternal values that will last forever. God is more interested in our character than in what we have or even what we do.
    Being a good steward of our financial resources is important, however, and living a lifestyle that is not excessive is part of this. I feel it is important to keep our focus on knowing and loving God, who is our firm foundation for this life and the next. We are called to give generously to others if we have been blessed with material abundance. We are called to be rich in good deeds, kindness, compassion, and generosity. In this way we can "take hold of the life that is truly life" (1 Timothy 6:19).

  2. We must keep Love in the center. For Love is God. Practicing gratitude brings peace and is such a key to happiness, praise God for light instead of cursing the dark. Feeling blessed for the blessings one has. Anything we seek as the center of our lives that is not Love (show me what you love and I'll show you who you are)is a substitute and leaves us empty handed . . .seeking self promotion, fame, beauty, youth, power, food, pleasure, sleep, silence, peace, money, popularity, being overly busy,shopping addictions, porn addictions . . .all are substitutes. Our body is born and dies here on earth, the spirit lives forever and we need to feed our spirit.

    Who we are is far more important than what we do, far more important. So we seek to be true to who we are, to follow the divine spark that dwells within us, trusting it is from God, and believing His word. We trust that we are not to worry about tomorrow, that God is already there, that by following the gifts He gave us, we will fulfill God's mission in our lives. We are not alone, He walks with us, if we trust Him, He will lead us where we are meant to be, and in the process I believe He will lead each of us to DO many good things for His kingdom which is this world, to reach many people, to change the world for the better out of Love, compassion, and not because of greed, power, money, or any substitute you could fill in the blank with.

    Anything that is not done out of love is not worthwhile. We sense this in our souls and feel this often, but it is hard to discern when we are young. We unlearn the competitive obsession with others that dominates our school year experience (and our media hyped world) and begin to understand what true friends, true love, true life all about as we mature out of that age. Thank goodness!!!!!

  3. Ecclesiastes has long been my favorite book of the Bible. Ecc. finds happiness only in what is real, and I can appreciate that even in my most pessimistic moments. Though I do think that Ecc should be looked at with a cautious eye, Qoheleth seems to write from a very particular perspective as a wealthy man with little joy. He is certainly wise, but I would suggest he is as limited as the rest of us.

    When it comes to the ethics of riches, I look to Matthew 20:16, "But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first." I don't understand this to be some sort of cosmic role reversal so much as an indication that all will be equal. Perhaps earthly riches are just an illusion, and it doesn't matter if we are rich or poor because riches are unrelated to the spirit.

    Perhaps it is wiser to think of riches in terms of the spirit. It seems that Jesus spends his time caring for those who are poor in spirit (the tax collector, pharisees, prostitutes) more so than those who are financially poor. Perhaps this is because the spirit is what is real.

    I think that what I'm trying to say is that a person's wealth has nothing to do with his or her righteousness of spirit. Consider that David was a king and Amos a sheep herder. Both were chosen by God for special purposes.

    1. I just had to point out that David was also a sheep herder!

  4. I really like all of your responses. Especially Linda's. Because of the first several points I try to follow the last two points with my life and work. And to follow Paul's example "I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." Phil 4:12.
    His secret must be what he said a few verses earlier "Rejoice in the Lord always...but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

    And I also need to quote my Grandpa, who is my greatest example of contentment and frugality, "It's just money, nothing of value."