September 20 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one shepherd.” ~Ecclesiastes 12:11

OLD TESTAMENT

The Teacher is a realist. He’s not naïve, but neither is he a cynic. He acknowledges that in this life under the sun, rulers get mad, fools get promoted, people get hurt, work gets hard, and investments go bad. So he tells it like it is and gives us wisdom for dealing with these unpleasant situations.

Stay calm when the leader gets mad (Ecc. 10:4). And be both circumspect and cautious when a ruler promotes a fool over you. This is not the time to lodge a formal protest. You cannot prevent the “evil” (wrong), so you must learn to manage the situation the best you can.

Be careful when working or playing because you can get hurt doing just about anything—digging a ditch, splitting a log, trimming a hedge, mowing a lawn (Ecc. 10:8-9). When your work is wearing you down, use your head. “If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed but skill will bring success” (Ecc. 10:10). Take a short break and figure out a smarter way to get the job done (sharpen the edge). Better yet, find a mentor who can be in your life for a while, or talk to someone experienced and successful in your vocation. Taking sage advice will make you sharp!

Invest your time, your talent, and your treasure. No risk, no reward. That’s actually the message of Ecclesiastes 11:1. Ancient merchants put their grain on a Mediterranean ship, which was a risky proposition, hoping that the crew would return safely with moneybags in hand. Investments look like all kinds of activities and practices—take a class, learn a skill, make a purchase, or start a new venture. However, the Teacher reminds us that investments go bad in this world, and sometimes it isn’t our fault. So diversify! “Give portions to seven, yes to eight, for you do not know what disaster may come upon the land” (Ecc. 11:2). Options are good (and wise)!

The best advice the Teacher can give is this: live with all your might right now! Don’t wait until you are old to “remember your Creator” (Ecc. 12:1). Getting old can be hard on the body, and the Teacher devotes an entire poem to that fact in order to back up his advice to worship in the now (Ecc. 12:1-8). Time limits both mobility and desire. Don’t waste your youth! “Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see” (Ecc. 11:9). In other words, go for it, chase your dreams, live strong, have fun. Just remember that you must give an account for the way you live your life. Above all, worship God (fear God) and do what he says with all your might! This is the whole duty of man (Ecc. 12:13).

NEW TESTAMENT

Paul’s ministry is not an easy responsibility, but the Corinthians wonder why he isn’t more successful. They compare him with other ministers, those with permanent salaries in permanent churches. Paul is always on the go, and it seems like he is always in trouble. A beating here, jail time there, living from paycheck to paycheck, roughing it on a cheap transport ship. How is this success?! Paul turns their criticism around. He’s proud of what he’s endured for the sake of the gospel.

Be careful about judging a pastor’s success (or anyone’s success, for that matter) on the external things. It might just be that, in God’s eyes, some of the most successful people are those who have been through a lot for the sake of the kingdom and the gospel.


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.