A treatise on vanity. This is basically the book of Ecclesiastes. What a depressing book. How is a book like that ever to be read and enjoyed, especially with our modern sensibilities? We need stuff that will make us feel good even if it is not the truth, right? Isn’t that what we need? That, at any rate, is what much of society would have us believe.
At first glance, it seems that the book of Ecclesiastes is a book that would throw you into nihilistic depression just short of suicidal. So what use has it in Scripture? Or, what, at least, use do we have for it today?
Well, it does no good to build upon a shoddy and cracked foundation. We can build all we want but all we do is for naught if the building will never truly stand. If we are to truly build something that is worth anything we must start anew. We must strip it down to the bedrock. To say that all is vanity is to say that all is cracked, you cannot build upon it. That is not to say that these things are inherently bad, they are not. But for us to understand these things, whatever they may be for you, we must first know they are desperately cracked. They can never hold anything of substance. They can truly never be built upon. They can’t hold the weight. Thus, if we experience discomfort from Ecclesiastes it is the doctor’s scalpel. It is the necessary pain for the healing of our life.
Proverbs 24:3 says, “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established.” Building a house takes wisdom. Building a house takes intentionality. Building a house takes partnership. How much more a Christ-exalting home?
How is a biblical—Christ-exalting—house constructed? A Christ-exalting home is certainly not the standard option. It’s not the default model. It is intentional and premeditated. The home on its own tends toward chaos, not Christ.
A family that functions biblically and intentionally does not happen haphazardly. Wisdom, intentionality, and partnership are needed. Where will parents receive the tools they need? Or can they just subcontract the work out and have someone else deal with the messy issues of building up a family?
My goal here is not to layout the “blue print” for exactly what the house should look like. That is not my job. My desire is to point you to the crucial need that we all have to build on the firm bedrock of Christ. I can’t build it for you. But I can and must tell you to center your family’s life on Christ!
These thoughts are taken from John C. Maxwell’s book The 21 Indispensable Qualities of A Leader.
“The world has never seen a great leader who lacked commitment” (18).
“Effective communicators focus on the people with whom they’re communicating… Who is my audience? What are their questions? What needs to be accomplished?” (26).
“If you follow your passion–instead of others’ perceptions–you can’t help becoming a more dedicated, productive person. And that increases your ability to impact others” (85).
“If you want to grow your organization, you have to remain teachable” (144).
Quoting Gilbert Amelio,
“Developing excellent communication skills is absolutely essential to effective leadership. The leader must be able to share knowledge and ideas to transmit a sense of urgency and enthusiam to others. If a leader can’t get a message across clearly and motivate other to act on it, then having a message doesn’t even matter” (23).
[[This is written to be especially applicable for high school graduates but the points apply to us all.]]
- Don’t forget about God and your personal convictions. You could gain the world, popularity and an inconceivably high GPA, but if you forfeit your soul it profits you nothing. In Jesus alone is there abundant life.
- Be in Christian community. Go to church. Read your Bible. Pray. Sing songs of praise to God.
- Talk to your pastor or spiritual mentor. Let them know when you have questions or are struggling with something.
- Have a personal development plan and record your goals and how you’re going to get there. And then do those things.
- Exercise. Just do it.
- Work ahead when possible.
- Do fun stuff but don’t be stupid. Always consider the possible consequences of your actions.
- Have fun but make the most of your time. For instance, maybe turn off Candy Crush and don’t binge watch as much Sponge Bob, or whatever. Maybe even turn the Internet off every once and awhile. It’s won’t be gone forever, I promise.
- Have fun. Although it feels difficult these are probably the funniest and easiest years of your life.
- Build relationships. Build relationships with your peers but also with professors, advisors, and bosses. Network (but not just for the purpose of networking. Actually care about people). And meet new people, different people. Say hi to people that you normally wouldn’t say hi to.
- Explore your interests and abilities. As you consider the future, keep in open mind.
- Ask questions and ask for help (in all sorts of settings).
- Learn about finances. Make a budget. Learn about investing. Don’t take out a loan unless you really have to.
- Get there ten minutes early and leave ten minutes late. Talk to the professor or listen to the questions that other students have.
- Stop your horrible habits now, don’t wait.
- Write things down (your schedule, thoughts, wishes, dreams, and the occasional poem). Your brain dumps its memory like every night, your phone or notebook doesn’t.
- Ask questions. Interact with the content you’re being taught. Share your opinions (though, not in an obnoxious know-it-all way)
- Read the syllabus. Love the syllabus. Live and die by the syllabus.
- Call your parents.
- Prioritize! Don’t procrastinate! If you prioritize well you have more room to procrastinate.
- Love learning for the sake of learning, not just for the grade. A love for learning will serve you better than your GPA.
- Chose your friends wisely.
- Chose your “special someone” wisely.
- Enjoy the work you do even if you don’t enjoy it.
- Remember one side sounds right until you hear the other. This is a proverb that holds true in all areas
- “I read it on the internet” doesn’t equal truth (even if you see the same thing in a few places).
- Relativism is actually harmful. Unless there is objective truth, the exhortation for people to be kind (e.g. planet care, respecting others, and not harming others) is subjective and relative to the whim of individuals (and thus doesn’t really need to be heeded).
- Read books. Read blogs, read news articles, but let the biggest part of your diet be books, especially old books that have stood the test of time.
- Do your work. Your professor should know what they’re doing. So, do the work that they assign.
- Keep your own list. Remember what you have learned and pass it on.
The below is taken from Robertson McQuilkin’s book Biblical Ethics (512-14). I have found these general principles helpful:
- Is it for the Lord? Does it bring praise to him? “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1Cor. 10:31). (See also Rom. 14:6-8)
- Can I do it in his name (on his authority, implicating him)? Can I thank him for it: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God for Father through him” (Col. 3:17)
- Can I take Jesus with me? Would Jesus do it? “Whiter shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” (Ps. 139:7). “Christ… lives in me” should follow his steps” (1 Pet. 2:21). (See also Matt 28:19-20, John 14:16-17, 23.)
- Does it belong in the home of the Holy Spirit? “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify god in your body” (1 Cor. 6:29-20). (See also Eph. 4:30.)
- Is it of faith? Do I have misgivings? “But he who has doubts is condemned, if he eats, because he does not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). “Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God” (1 John 3:21).
- Does it positively benefit, build up (not simply, “Is it harmless?”) “Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Rom. 14:19). “Let all things be done for edification” (1 Cor. 14:26). (See also Rom. 15:2; 1 Cor. 10:8; Eph. 4:12-16)
- Does it spring from, or lead to, love of this world and its value system? “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). (See also Mark 9:47; 11:14-15)
- Does it involve union with an unbeliever? “Do not be mismated with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14)
- Does it come from or have the potential of leading to bondage? “All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up” (1 Cor. 10:23).
- Is the motive pride, or love? “We know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ ‘Knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up. If any one imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know” (1 Cor. 8:1-2)
- Is a godly mind-set the context of my decision on the matter? “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8). (See also Rom. 12:1-2)
- What does the church say about it? “He who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved of men” (Rom. 14:18). “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things” (Acts 15:28). (See also Rom. 14:16)
- Would I like to be doing this when Jesus comes? “And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming…. We know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 2:28; 3:2-3). (See also Matt. 24:44-51; Luke 23:34-35; 1 Thess. 5:2-4)
What we do in this current life has an eternal impact. The New Testament insists on the decisiveness of this life. In the early church, the “idea that the coming judgment will be based on deeds done in this life was widespread.” For example, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28).
All through Scripture it talks about the Day of the LORD (sg.). The Bible does not talk about judgments starting at the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11ff) and going from there on into eternity where people have multiple chances to repent. That’s why it says, “Behold [ἰδοὺ], now [νῦν] is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2; cf. Ps. 32:6; Is. 55:6). Acts 17:31 says God “has fixed a day [sg.] on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him [i.e. Jesus] from the dead.” Hebrews says, “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment [sg.]” (9:27). Thus in Scripture, we do not see that people can repent after the Judgment. Actually to get the idea of repentance after the Judgment you would have to add to Scripture. Yet, listen to Revelation: “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (22:18-19).