I said in my heart, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.
For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.Ecclesiastes 1:16-18
Yesterday was Yom Kippur. I spent the day reading Ecclesiastes and part of Isaiah, and it was more scripture than I’d read in months. Perhaps a whole year. I’ve been so lazy about reading the Bible for a long time, to be completely honest. There’s a long and convoluted history of reasons for this, but they’re more excuses when I really start picking them all apart. It wasn’t because I intentionally turned away from God. It was because I have always thought I would be worthless if I wasn’t something more in this world. Which is why I took up a more serious pursuit of art.
And, yes… my focus drifted away from God. I pushed myself onwards using secular methods, and I thought I could take the ‘sneaky Christian artist’ route, and blend in with the rest of ‘normal society’ and perhaps share the Bible better that way. But it turns out it merely made me afraid to speak up about important things for fear of losing friends – and ashamedly, followers too – and so I became an eternal fence-sitter, hoarding up things to share on social media for when I might finally have the courage to share them. Hoarding paints and supplies but never using them in a manner that would strengthen my own soul. It compounded more and more, to the point where I would start hating myself.
Now, after several years of this digital existence and striving after goals I didn’t fully believe in, I’ve found that I’ve drifted so far from God in spite of myself, that it’s reached the point of a Catch-22, of thinking, “well, I don’t deserve His grace so I’ll try to prove myself in my own human way even more”. It exacerbated the obsessive collector nature in me, and I accelerated the downward spiral, gathering more and more knowledge and ‘wisdom’ to myself, hoarding it away on my hard-drives and in my closets. Knowing none of it was ever ‘perfect’ or good enough to satisfy this thirst for meaning and satisfaction.
With this, I’ve unintentionally walked the path of the Preacher of Ecclesiastes, and found myself despairing in kind for it. Too much wisdom leads to madness. Too much toil leaves the enjoyment of one’s spoils to others. Too many words leads to confusion and indecision. To folly and madness. So my heart now instinctively turns to this book, it seems, to pull myself back out of it.
There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.Ecclesiastes 2:24-26
I find myself wanting to post the book in its entirety, it’s just that good. Maybe one day I’ll gather my thoughts enough to do a proper commentary, but honestly, it speaks for itself. Do you wish to work the way that the modern world pushes you to work? So many self-motivational pep-talk posts and gurus nowadays, proclaiming “you can be your own boss and always push yourself harder and find fame and fortune!” Do you wish to chase success for the sake of worldly reward, pushing yourself to exhaustion knowing that the odds for it making a lasting impression on future generations are slim, and if it does, others will likely live more happily off the spoils than you did in your own lifetime anyway?
Or do you wish to work the way God wants for you to work? Which is to eat, drink, do well at what your hands settle on for work, and take pleasure in what is right in front of your own eyes.
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words.Ecclesiastes 5:1-3
“For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words.” That line struck so deep when I read it yesterday. I think this may be why I’ve been having so much trouble advertising this blog, even though I’ve made a start on it, or feeling like my social media posts are “vanity” and deleting them after filling up yet another word limit. Because my daily actions and habits, in a useless attempt to play catch-up with a current-day society that is miles ahead of me in its own race toward the cliff of “industry for industrialism’s sake”, haven’t matched the morals written on my heart as a Christian for a very long time. It’s not that writing and sharing thoughts is wrong. But the foundation that I’ve been trying to build this house on has been shifted fifty yards south and placed on top of sand, when I had a perfectly good chunk of bedrock beneath my feet to begin with.
Why did I shift away? Why do any of us ever think that setting up shop by modern materialism’s rules will work in the spiritually fulfilling way that we hope it will? Why do we drift further and further from God for meaning and hope? Everything I ever needed to know to find contentment in my life was in a book that I had left to gather dust.
Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.
Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.
Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.Ecclesiastes 9:7-11
A Christian life and work ethic are not heavy to bear. And yet many Christians like myself so easily lose sight of this. Of God’s plans for ourselves, growing as staves of cheerful golden wheat in a well-tended field, leaving our seeds to be harvested for nourishment or fall to the earth as progeny, to strengthen the generations to follow. We are enough, in whatever work we do. He loves us, and wants us to be happy and succeed in life the way we were always meant to.
Which is, to live it joyfully and be content.