Meditations in Ecclesiastes : 18 : Rewards
Eccles 2:26 To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind
It is interesting; even the man or woman who is far from God knows some truth. We can’t but help know truth because it is the way God has made us. Here is Solomon, jaded by a largely godless life and yet as he works through the truth of life, he can’t help himself but arrive at truth. He knows it because he’s come from it. In our society there are many elderly people who know the truth because they heard it when they were children and went to Sunday School. Yes, when the older generation were young it was the usual thing to go to Sunday School and there they heard and learnt things they’ve never been able to quite forget.
Others have had ‘chance’ encounters with religion and briefly they heard the truth, and it is still there in the back of their minds. Oh yes, God has a strange way of confronting us with the truth. Solomon felt moved in his old age to write these things down. He had written the Proverbs and the Song of Solomon; he was a prolific writer and even in old age he can’t stop himself and so he finds himself writing this rather jaded diatribe about life, but even in the midst of it the truth rises up and has to be written.
Put in its most simple form, it is that God blesses the righteous and curses the unrighteous. Or, if you like, in purely materialistic terms the person who lives God’s way has a good life and the person who doesn’t has a wearisome life. Why is that? Partly it is the way God has made us and partly it is to do with the relationship we have with him.
Two lives. Let’s take the sinner or the unrighteous man first. This is the person who is self-centred and thus godless and who seeks to live their way and only their way, living for personal peace and comfort. This person ultimately has no restraint, they have nothing on which to fix their standards or their ethics, and so they find themselves cutting corners in life, doing others down, ever pressing themselves upwards, and all the while the edges of what is permissible gradually move more and more until there are no boundaries. This person is ever striving to achieve, striving for more, and all the while deep down there is an unhappiness, a discontentment, a feeling of being jaded with life.
The best they feel they can get is just to work and work to get more, but deep down they know they it is all a waste of time because they cannot take it with them, so what’s the point? Perhaps if I work harder, perhaps if I achieve more, perhaps if I can climb one more rung up the social or business ladder, I will feel good, and so they strive and strive, but the feeling good never actually comes. They try to cover it up and pretend it is not there, but the feeling of lack of fulfilment and lack of purpose is still there, because after all is said and done, without God that is all there is. Quite often along the way, the Lord brings circumstances into their lives that are designed to drive them to Him, but like Pharaoh with Moses, they harden their hearts and refuse to respond and come to Him. But on the last day they will never be able to say they didn’t know.
But then there is the ‘righteous’ man, the man or woman who pleases God. How do people please God? They are honest about who they are; they acknowledge their sinfulness, their godless tendencies and their unrighteous tendencies and they recognise their need. Then when they hear about Jesus Christ, they come to God with penitent, open, seeking hearts, hearts that are willing to surrender and give themselves to Him for Him to do whatever needs doing. They are people who are then forgiven and cleansed and adopted as God’s children; they are people who receive His Holy Spirit. They are people who start learning about God’s way of living from His word; they are people who start learning to live in response to His Holy Spirit’s guidance.
As they start living with God’s standards, they find that a life of honesty and integrity, of love, care, thoughtfulness, consideration for others, acceptance of others, and plain goodness, is good! They find God speaks to them and guides them. They find that His guidance means they do things well or good things happen and they are blessed. They find that living as a child of God is good and wholesome and enjoyable. They catch a sense of purpose and as they go with the will of God for them, they realise it is good and a blessing. They find a sense of fulfilment in flowing with that will of God and they marvel at the wonder of God’s love for them.
Did you notice in this paragraph above there was no spiritual language? Yes, they probably read their Bible to find out more of God’s way for them, they probably pray as they talk out their lives with their heavenly Father, they probably worship as they let their hearts rise up in adoration for God, and they probably share God’s love with others, because it is the natural thing to do. But those are all additional expressions of their lives with God. The important thing is that they live, and living with God is good and they are blessed. Knowing God is a life transforming thing. It’s not just for Sundays or for Quiet Times; it’s for the whole of life. Their relationships, their learning, their working, are all transformed by the love and blessing of God. Oh yes, the statement, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness almost seems an understatement, but perhaps that was because it was coming from the pen of a jaded man, but it is still the truth, even if it doesn’t say the half of it!