September 17 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
~Ecclesiastes 3:11

OLD TESTAMENT

Ecclesiastes is one of the most misunderstood books in the Bible. The Scofield Reference Bible, published in 1909 and the first English Bible to provide a commentary for laypersons, encouraged readers to perceive Ecclesiastes as a book filled with “human reasoning,” albeit reasoning inspired by God. This approach allowed readers to dismiss almost the whole of the book, except the parts that appear to offer “godly” advice (the conclusion, for example). The pick-and-choose method of reading and understanding Ecclesiastes has since been replaced with a more holistic approach that allows us to benefit from the entire book.

Ecclesiastes, a word which means “the teacher,” is part of the tradition of wisdom literature, writings that offers sage advice on how to live our lives every single day. In this book, the Teacher addresses the larger philosophical (and practical) question of meaning. What does it all mean? And he gives his own confession. He tried to find meaning in the pursuit of wisdom and learning. He tried to find meaning in the pursuit and enjoyment of pleasure. He tried to find meaning in hard work and accomplishment. The Teacher does not condemn these things or say that they brought him no joy. In fact, he observes, “My heart took delight in all my work” (Ecc. 2:10). However, he did not find anything lasting or meaningful in it.

Each of these pursuits—wisdom and learning, pleasure, hard work and accomplishment—are meant to be enjoyed as part of life’s journey. They are gifts from the hand of God (Ecc. 2:24). But they are not the point. They are not the reason. They do not, in and of themselves, give a life meaning. Meaning, as the Teacher discovered, is found only in God, and therein lies the powerful message of Ecclesiastes. The ultimate purpose of our lives is to joyfully worship Him and to humbly obey Him. “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man,” writes the Teacher towards the end of his treatise (Ecc. 12:13).

God is the ultimate controller of all things. Everything in this world is “from Him and through Him and for Him” (Rom. 11:36). He is the genesis, the source of all things, and the giver of all things. The reason all things exist is to bring Him glory. Enjoy the gifts, but worship the Giver. There is real meaning in that.

NEW TESTAMENT

One of the things I like to say about giving is that it is a win-win-win. Some people really have a hard time getting their mind around this, which is probably why they do not give. When you open your hand to give, you win; the person who receives wins; and God, who is glorified, wins.

While we have seen this principle before in Scripture, it becomes abundantly clear in 2 Corinthians 9. The Christians at Corinth are urged to give generously. They are told that, if they do so, they will be abundantly blessed. God will make them “rich in every way” (2 Cor. 9:11). To this incentive is added the fact that their gifts will make a difference in the lives of those who are in need, specifically the Jerusalem church! Finally, God will be glorified for blessing the Corinthians so they that can be a blessing to others! That’s a win-win-win.


Lectio Divina is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.