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clock in clouds June 8 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Ecclesiastes 3, 4, 5, 6

Time Well Spent

How do you spend your time? The answers will vary greatly, but most Americans are spending an average of forty-seven hours working per week, and some much more (more…). How do you feel about your work? Do you like your job? Most Americans do not like their jobs (more…). In bad economic times they may be glad they even have a job, but how can they enjoy their jobs? How can we enjoy ours? King Solomon offers some perspectives on the use of time and work in today's reading.

As was said in our last lesson, King Solomon probably wrote the book of Ecclesiastes in the latter part of his reign. King Solomon had great wisdom, but he tried to sample the ways of the world to see if he could find any fulfillment in them. He had great power and influence; he accumulated vast amounts of wealth, planted great gardens and built the temple, his palace, and many other projects. Solomon accumulated horses and chariots for war. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines and much wine for his pleasure. However, Solomon's conclusion about his pursuits is that everything is meaningless and has no lasting value (Ecclesiastes 1:2).

Solomon knew that the fear of the LORD is wisdom and that God’s blessing is upon the righteous. A logical question then would be: if Solomon knew what to do, why didn't he do it? The logical answer is that he was human like we are. In Ecclesiastes Solomon writes from a regretful heart. He made a lot of mistakes and wants his readers to get the right focus so they will please the LORD and enjoy their lives. True purpose and joy begins with a real personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ (more...). Ecclesiastes is a good book in that it stimulates us to examine the priorities of our lives.

What are our priorities? As Solomon says, there is a time and season for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). Sometimes events in our lives are unavoidable and we must give our time and attention to them. Other times can be used at our own discretion. Each of us is given twenty-four hours. According to the statistics sited earlier, most Americans spend more than eight hours working and seven hours sleeping per day. The rest of our day might be considered discretionary time. How will we spend our time on this earth? Will it be spent in leisure, with family, internet surfing, Facebook or some other social media, entertainment, exercise, or with more work?

Work is a priority in our lives. Sometimes, however it becomes too important. Ecclesiastes 5:10 says, “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless,” (NIV). Proverbs 23:4 says, “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint,” (NIV). A person who chases wealth not only wears himself out but often loses his family. Ecclesiastes 5:11-12 states,

As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them? The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep. (NIV)

With much wealth comes much responsibility and the constant management of it. How much responsibility do we want and how much time do we want to spend managing it? Ecclesiastes 5:13-17 says,

I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner, or wealth lost through some misfortune, so that when he has a son there is nothing left for him. Naked a man comes from his mother's womb, and as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labor that he can carry in his hand. This too is a grievous evil: As a man comes, so he departs, and what does he gain, since he toils for the wind? All his days he eats in darkness, with great frustration, affliction and anger. (NIV)

Worldly wealth is temporal. Cast your eyes upon it, and it is gone. We cannot count on our wealth. Therefore, if God has blessed us with wealth we should use it for his glory.

Solomon states that there is, however, some temporal value from work. Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 and 5:18-20 tell us to be happy; to enjoy the work and life God has given us as a gift (also see 1Timothy 6:17). Do we ever think of our work as a gift? A gift is something graciously given. If we talk to a person who cannot work he/she will give us understanding in this. Work makes us feel good. It exercises our muscles and brains. We are accomplishing some things in this life, using our gifts and talents, and however temporal the results might be, there is some satisfaction in that. Work also gives us compensation so that we may meet the needs of our family, and it gives us the ability to help others. The gift of work is even more appreciated when we like what we are doing. Do you not like your work? Pray that God might help you find other work, but in the meantime, seek to enjoy the work you now have. Praise the LORD for the strength that you have, some of the people you work with, the tasks you are able to accomplish, the goods and services you are able to provide for others, the enjoyment from your labors, and the compensation, however large or small that might be. Use your earnings to provide for your life, the lives of your family and others, and for the LORD's work. Enjoy the benefits of work.

How else should our discretionary time be spent? Solomon states that

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him. (Ecclesiastes 3:11,14, NIV)

There is something, actually someone, who is better in this world than any endeavor we might pursue; namely, God. God is our creator and sustainer, and he gives life meaning. Therefore, our main pursuit in life should not be our human endeavors but eternal endeavors (more...). We should go to church and read our Bibles so that we might know more about him and what is important. We should learn to fear the LORD and walk in his ways so that he might give us joy in whatever we do (Proverbs 22:4). God is a counselor and friend to all who obey him (John 15:14; John 16:13). Three things God wants us to exercise in this world are justice, mercy, and humility (Micah 6:8). As our reading indicates, there is much injustice and wickedness in the world. We should not horde our resources but help others as we are able (Ecclesiastes 4:7-12).

Lessons to live by:

  • What are our priorities? How will we spend our time that God has given us on earth?
  • Work is a priority in our lives. Sometimes, however it is too important.
  • With much wealth comes much responsibility and the constant management of it. How much responsibility do we want, and how much time do we want to spend managing it?
  • Work is a gift from the LORD, especially if you have learned to enjoy it.
  • Our main pursuit in life should not be our human endeavors but eternal endeavors (more...).
  • Three things God wants us to exercise in this world are justice, mercy, and humility.

Today’s Bible memory verses:

Ecclesiastes 3:13-14 “That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil-- this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.” (NIV)

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