Summary: 14th in a series from Ecclesiastes. We cannot manipulate God into giving us what we want through our own righteousness and wisdom.
If you go to any store or website that sells books, you will find a number of books by one of the best-selling “Christian” authors of our time. Among some of the things that you will read in these books are the following quotations. Although some of you may be familiar with these books and/or the author, I am not going to mention either the titles of the books or the author, because my purpose this morning is not to disparage this person, but rather take an objective look at some of his teaching.
To live your best life now, you must start looking at life through eyes of faith, seeing yourself rising to new levels. See your business taking off. See your marriage restored. See your family prospering. See your dreams coming to pass. You must conceive it and believe it is possible if you ever hope to experience it. [Your Best Life Now, p.4]
But if you develop an image of victory, success, health, abundance, joy, peace, and happiness, nothing on earth will be able to hold those things from you. [Your Best Life Now, p. 5]
He’s a progressive God, and He wants every generation to be increasing in happiness, success, and significance. No matter where we are in life, God has more in store. [Become a Better You, p. 3]
These excerpts are representative of an increasingly popular theology that is referred to by several different names like “prosperity gospel”, “name it and claim it”, “word of faith”, or “health and wealth”. As part of a 2006 article titled “Does God Want You to be Rich?”, Time Magazine conducted a poll that revealed that 17% of those who identify themselves as Christians belong to such movements. In addition 31% agreed that if a person gives their money to God, God will bless you with more money and 61% believed that God wants people to be prosperous.
In that article, Time chronicled the story of a 49 year old man named George Adams who moved his family to be near one of these churches after he lost his job in an Ohio tile factory. His words give us some good insight into those who have subscribed to this theology.
“I’m dreaming big--because all of heaven is dreaming big," Adams continues. "Jesus died for our sins. That was the best gift God could give us," he says. "But we have something else. Because I want to follow Jesus and do what he ordained, God wants to support us. It’s [Joel Osteen’s] ministry that told me. Why would an awesome and mighty God want anything less for his children?"
Obviously Adams, or any other proponents of such thinking, didn’t read the words that we’re about to read from the book of Ecclesiastes. Or if they did read them, they certainly didn’t take them to heart.
13 Consider the work of God; For who can make straight what He has made crooked? 14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, But in the day of adversity consider: Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other, So that man can find out nothing that will come after him. 15 I have seen everything in my days of vanity: There is a just man who perishes in his righteousness, And there is a wicked man who prolongs life in his wickedness. 16 Do not be overly righteous, Nor be overly wise: Why should you destroy yourself? 17 Do not be overly wicked, Nor be foolish: Why should you die before your time? 18 It is good that you grasp this, And also not remove your hand from the other; For he who fears God will escape them all. 19 Wisdom strengthens the wise More than ten rulers of the city. 20 For there is not a just man on earth who does good And does not sin. 21 Also do not take to heart everything people say, Lest you hear your servant cursing you. 22 For many times, also, your own heart has known That even you have cursed others. 23 All this I have proved by wisdom. I said, "I will be wise"; But it was far from me. 24 As for that which is far off and exceedingly deep, Who can find it out? 25 I applied my heart to know, To search and seek out wisdom and the reason of things, To know the wickedness of folly, Even of foolishness and madness. 26 And I find more bitter than death The woman whose heart is snares and nets, Whose hands are fetters. He who pleases God shall escape from her, But the sinner shall be trapped by her. 27 " Here is what I have found," says the Preacher, "Adding one thing to the other to find out the reason, 28 Which my soul still seeks but I cannot find: One man among a thousand I have found, But a woman among all these I have not found. 29 Truly, this only I have found: That God made man upright, But they have sought out many schemes."