Summary: True value is found in God’s image in us and in Christ’s death for us
SERIES: “BE SATISFIED”
“WHAT’S THE VALUE?”
Stan Caffy was preparing for married life. He and his bride-to-be cleaned out their respective garages and donated everything to Goodwill. Caffy and his soon-to-be wife got rid of an assortment of clothes, bicycles, tools, computer parts, and a ragged copy of the Declaration of Independence that had been hanging in Stan’s garage for at least ten years.
What had been trash to Stan turned into treasure for Michael Sparks. It turns out that this particular copy of the Declaration of Independence was a rare copy made in 1823. Sparks spotted it at the Goodwill and paid $2.49 for it. He later auctioned it for $477,650.00.
Later, the previous owner, Caffy was asked what he thought about the situation. He was quoted as saying, “I’m happy for the Sparks guy. If I still had it, it would still be hanging here in the garage, and I still wouldn’t know it was worth all that.”
Sometimes it difficult to tell the true value of things because what we think is valuable is many times worthless. And what we think is worthless ends up being priceless.
Before computer inventory systems were in popular usage, two teenagers broke into a department store one night as a prank. They didn’t steal anything or destroy anything. They simply switched the price tags on everything.
You can imagine the chaos when the store opened the next morning and the customers found diamond rings selling for $10, shaving cream for $300, an original Hummel figurine for $2, a pocket calculator for $500, umbrellas for a $1,000, and gold necklaces for $5.
We live in an age, just like in Solomon’s day, where the “price tags” have been switched. What should be important is considered trivial and what should be considered as secondary is considered primary.
Solomon teaches us in Ecclesiastes that life lived “under the sun” – without a view of God or eternity – is lived with the “price tags” switched. What is of ultimate value is ignored and what is worthless – empty, vain, meaningless – is sought after. But life lived “under heaven” – looking to God and trusting in Him for eternity – brings real value to life. When lived the proper way, we can know the things that are worthy of pursuit.
Here in Chapter 4 of Ecclesiastes, Solomon takes a look a several different issues. Let’s look at the values he assigns to each one.
Eccl. 4:1-3 – Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed— and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors— and they have no comforter. And I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living, who are still alive. But better than both is he who has not yet been, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun.
The phrase, “I looked again” shows Solomon going back to a subject he dealt with in 3:16 – And I saw something else under the sun: In the place of judgment—wickedness was there, in the place of justice—wickedness was there.
Solomon is addressing corruption in the political system. He saw oppressions and injustice which brought pain and sorrow to people’s lives.
How would you like to work with this group of people? There are over 500 people in this organization with the following statistics: 29 have been accused of spousal abuse. 7 have been arrested for fraud. 19 have been accused of writing bad checks. 117 have bankrupted at least two businesses. 3 have been arrested for assault
71 cannot get a credit card due to bad credit. 14 have been arrested on drug-related charges. 8 have been arrested for shoplifting. 21 are current defendants in lawsuits. 84 were stopped for drunk driving
Can you guess which organization this is? It’s the 535 members of the United States Congress. The same group that perpetually cranks out hundreds upon hundreds of new laws designed to keep the rest of us in line.
Obviously, government works the way it always has. Since the beginning, when we as humans sinned, corruption and injustice has existed. Chuck Colson writes, “Many Christians, like most of the populace, believe the political structures can cure all our ills. The fact is, however, that government, by its very nature, is limited in what it can accomplish. What it does best is perpetuate its own power and bolster its own bureaucracies.”
How does it appear that Solomon views this situation? When Solomon states that it was better to be dead than alive and better yet to have never lived, he was not speaking literally. He was using a literary device known as hyperbole – extreme exaggeration to make a point. Hyperbole was a very common technique used in the ancient Near East.