Accepting/Enjoying our Station in life”

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20

October 17th & 18th, 2009


          One day a wealthy man was slumped in his library chair reading the paper when the maid came in to clean. She could not see him, so she started talking to herself about her up-coming weekend plans. “Oh, if only I had $50 for this weekend, I’d be the happiest woman in the world!”Wanting to see what the happiest woman in the world looked like; he reached in his wallet, pulled out a $50 bill and handed it to her. As she left, he heard her mutter under her breath, “Why didn’t I say $100!”    Ecclesiastes is a book of the Bible which expresses the discontent which accompanies so much of humanities pursuits.   Whether it is the pursuit of pleasure, power, popularity, wealth, we end up to often “chasing after wind” or living in vanity.  Life is discontented when it is disconnected from the God who sent Jesus into the world so that we might have life and have it abundantly.  Life is one of ultimate discontentment when lived in the mere pursuit of perceived grandeur, without recognizing that all we have is thine alone a trust O Lord from thee.

          Pretty heady stuff to start out with this morning.  Heady stuff, important stuff, for eternal things are important to deal with.  Last week we heard about a young rich ruler came to Jesus and asked him questions of eternal life.  He was mistaken though, and ended up discontent, because he thought the inheritance was in the realm of his doing, and he couldn’t see it only as Jesus doing.   Jesus has given you and I,  believers in him, an inheritance that cannot perish spoil or fade.   While this is very true, you and I also live in the everyday world.  While eternal life is part of it, we consume ourselves with our jobs, family responsibilities, student tasks, and the list goes on and on.  We eat our three square meals a day, and do the things that sustain our bodies and our life.  Now you might think I’m going to say, we need to pay attention to the bigger things.  While that is important, God tells us through the book of Ecclesiastes that he is also working through the everyday things and this is a good thing.  It is a blessing of the giving god to work, to be occupied, to find joy in the small things of life.

          There is a story told of a rich industrialist who came across a simple fisherman. The rich man was quite perturbed to see the fisherman sitting back with his feet up next to his boat on a sunny afternoon. “Why aren’t you out there fishing?” he demanded. “Because I’ve caught enough fish for the day,” replied the fisherman. “Why don’t you catch more fish?” asked the rich man. “What would I do with them?” “You could earn more money,” said the rich man, who was becoming more impatient, “and buy a better boat so you could go deeper and catch more fish. You could purchase nylon nets, catch even more fish and make more money. Then you could buy more boats and could hire others to help you fish. Soon you would have a fleet of boats and would be rich like me!” “Then what would I do?” “You could sit down and enjoy life” said the industrialist. “What do you think I’m doing right now?” replied the fisherman as he gazed out towards the sea.

                   Is it a bad thing to enjoy life, have  pleasure, even fishing?   I suppose if that is all one does that wouldn’t be good, but contentment in the joys of everyday life is a good thing.  To have wealth, which as we read in our gospel reading  can  tempt us to focus on the wrong things,  is to a good gift of God.  “Everyone whom God has given wealth and possessions and the power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil, this is the gift of God.”   Notice here, that enjoyment isn’t ungodly.  The key is to know from whence it comes, and   not to worship the wealth or even the pursuit of the wealth but rather the giver of the wealth.   

                   To be content with our “lot in life”, is not to get to hung up on other realities that can bring us down.  I say realities because the chasing after wind, the empty pursuits are all around us.  Barbara Ehenrich recently wrote a book titled “Brightsided” where she claims that the relentless promotion of positive thinking has undermined America.   I’m not necessarily recommending the book, but one example she sites is Wall Street during the financial bubble.  That even though there were questionable practices concerning sub prime loans, any negative “realistic” assessments were to give way to more positive approaches in these companies.  Ecclesiastes is about seeing things as they truly are.  Know that things, and wealth cannot go with you.  Know that because you have created a successful business, it doesn’t mean that someone behind you won’t let it fall apart.      Know that often the wealthy are like the poor in that they both pursue riches, one  (the poor)  doesn’t have them, the other  (the rich) has them around but doesn’t have time to enjoy them.  Know that often the unbeliever outdoes the believer in the things of the world, and that life doesn’t play the fairness game.   Yet, in the midst of all these realities there is another far greater reality.  It is of the giving God, who himself sent forth Jesus so that through his poverty on Calvary we might be rich.  Jesus poverty, extended to his death, even death on a cross.  In this act of humility he brought forth his great abundance to you and me who through faith have been united with him in his poverty, and in his richness. 

                    The greater reality is that we can eat drink and be merry not because tomorrow we die.  Rather we can eat, drink, and be merry because today and tomorrow we live.    The ability to pursue and occupy our hearts and minds with his work, even the mundane type, is a good a gracious gift.  Lord grant us faith, to live a life with joy occupying our heart that  contentment may abound.  Amen.