Sunday 25 October 2020

Is the end better than the beginning?

"The end of a matter is better than its beginning,
and patience is better than pride.
Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit,
for anger resides in the lap of fools."
- Ecclesiastes 7:8-9

I am not sure if it is appropriate for me to argue with Solomon - after all, he was the King of Israel and the writer of some amazing books. BUT....

... I don't think that the 'end of the matter' is always better than the beginning!

I guess it does depend on the context, but I have seen some situations where things have begun incredibly well, but then ended up badly. A good start doesn't always equate to a successful ending.

One Biblical commentator has suggested that the reason why Solomon argues his point is that anyone can dream of something, but it takes a person of discipline to finish a project or vision. Now, if that is the context of what he is saying, then I am happy to agree with him. What do you think?

Living in Grace

Friday 23 October 2020

The living should take note of this

Oh man, Solomon is feeling very morbid in today's passage. He seems to be a little obsessed with death at this point in time. Whilst I agree with him that we should be deeply conscious of our own mortality, I don't think an unhealthy obsession with dying is going to make us 'LIVE' a more fulfilling life.

I would rather suggest that we know that our days are in the Lord's hands and appreciate every day as a gift from God. This can then motivate us to seize every moment as an opportunity to glorify God and live an abundant life.

"It is better to go to a house of mourning
    than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
    the living should take this to heart.
Frustration is better than laughter,
    because a sad face is good for the heart.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
    but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure." - Ecclesiastes 7:2-4

“Every moment of the day there should be someone shouting from the rooftops, "Life, enjoy it while you can.”
― Marty Rubin

Living in Grace


Thursday 22 October 2020

Good old days?

How often do we look back and think that the 'old days' were much better than today? I know we do it more often than we realise. Now in today's scripture Solomon argues that we shouldn't do this. He says:

"Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?”
For it is not wise to ask such questions." - Ecclesiastes 7:10

I wonder why he suggests that we don't say this? Is it because we will keep living in the past and not enjoying the moment? Or is it because he remembers that even the 'good old days' have many problems and it is just that time has made us forget the pain of those moments? I am not sure why?


Living in Grace


Needing advice?

It is sometimes so hard to get good advice now days. There is plenty of information and content out there, but one has to still sift through it all. During the early days of lock-down I was drawn back to the book of Proverbs and spent 70 days reflecting on those incredible words - some of you would remember that this was in March and April of 2020. I discovered that all the advice I needed was in the chapters of Proverbs. 

I have eventually put these thoughts into book form and the hard copy is now available if you would like to read it. The ebook has been available on Amazon for a while, but the hard copy has just arrived. You can order it through the website or just email me personally. Thanks again for the support and taking the time to read my daily thoughts.

God bless you

Living in Grace


Wednesday 21 October 2020

Better than

Using a tried and tested technique, Solomon reveals his next diatribe of wisdom. He compares two different elements/things in order to get our attention. The truth is discovered as we reflect on what he is comparing.

 "A good name is better than fine perfume..." - Ecclesiastes 7:1

"It is better to heed the rebuke of a wise person than to listen to the song of fools." - Ecclesiastes 7:5

What do you make of his words today? Why would he say that a good name is better than perfume? Any guesses?

“Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
’twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.”
― William Shakespeare

Living in Grace


Tuesday 20 October 2020

The more the words, the less the meaning

"The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?" - Ecclesiastes 6:11

How can one not be challenged by these words today?

Perhaps it is best I take his advice...
...enough said!

John 6:63 - "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life."

Living in Grace

Monday 19 October 2020

Satisfying our appetite

Solomon certainly wants his readers to get his message, because he repeats himself (at length) on the same subject. Today his focus is more on 'satisfying our appetite', but he is not really speaking of food.

"Everyone’s toil is for their mouth, yet their appetite is never satisfied.
What advantage have the wise over fools?
What do the poor gain by knowing how to conduct themselves before others?
Better what the eye sees than the roving of the appetite.
This too is meaningless, 
a chasing after the wind." - Ecclesiastes 6:7-9

I like the way he compares physical hunger with material desire and appetite. It makes me think that sometimes humans are merely consumers - we consume food, oxygen, drink, etc - but are we satisfied in the end?

His charge in verse 9 states: "better what the eye sees than the roving of the appetite." This initially seems a little confusing, but I found the New Living Translation much more clear, when it says:

"Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have."

Charles Spurgeon wrote - "Let us not be too eager after the visible, but let us look to the invisible God.”

Living in Grace


Sunday 18 October 2020

Living to be 2000 years old

What would it be like to live to 120 years of age? Or maybe 200? I truly can't fathom that humans can live to this age, but apparently scientists claim that the first person to live to 200 has already been born. My deeper question would be - what quality of life would that person truly have? If one can live that long, then surely it must be worth living all those years?

In his dark musings today, Solomon says that a person could live to be 2000 years of age, but if they still haven't found contentment in all those years then there is really no point. His exaggeration makes a strong statement.

"A man might have a hundred children and live to be very old. But if he finds no satisfaction in life and doesn’t even get a decent burial, it would have been better for him to be born dead. His birth would have been meaningless, and he would have ended in darkness. He wouldn’t even have had a name, and he would never have seen the sun or known of its existence. Yet he would have had more peace than in growing up to be an unhappy man. He might live a thousand years twice over but still not find contentment. And since he must die like everyone else—well, what’s the use? (Ecclesiastes 6:3-6)

What do you feel?

"Contentment is the only real wealth." - Alfred Nobel

Living in Grace


Saturday 17 October 2020

A Tragedy?

I have never thought that having lots of money could be considered a "tragedy." In a sense this is not exactly what Solomon is saying, but underneath his rant there is an element of this truth. He claims it is a tragedy to have so much wealth and then not to be able to enjoy it - this I agree with. One would think that 'money can buy happiness' if you treat your wealth with gratitude and respect. Sadly, many people don't.

"There is another serious tragedy I have seen under the sun, and it weighs heavily on humanity. God gives some people great wealth and honor and everything they could ever want, but then he doesn’t give them the chance to enjoy these things. They die, and someone else, even a stranger, ends up enjoying their wealth! This is meaningless—a sickening tragedy." - Ecclesiastes 6:1-2

I wonder if this is Solomon's attempt at teaching an Economics 101 class? If he was trying to pass on his wisdom to the next generation he could open with these words:

"What makes you happy? What would leave you feeling content in life? Are you ever able to enjoy all you have been blessed with?"

“Many people lose the small joys in the hope for the big happiness.” - Pearl S. Buck

Living in Grace


Thursday 15 October 2020

Our lot in life

What does it mean "to enjoy your lot in life?"

I am sure you have an idea of what that means. In our passage today, Solomon muses over the fact that if we can be at peace about our 'lot in life' then we are on the road to understanding contentment.

"Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past." - Ecclesiastes 5:18-20

Perhaps it is worth thinking about this today? 

What does this imply for us if we feel as if we have been badly treated? Is this how God wants us to remain? Must we then just accept our lot in life?

This is a challenging thing to ponder?

Living in Grace


Wednesday 14 October 2020

It all boils down to this

Today's sentence of wisdom, from our friend Solomon, has been passed down from generation to generation - and it is still so so TRUE.

"We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us."- Ecclesiastes 5:15

When we come to realise this fact we slowly start to detach ourselves from the obsession of holding onto our "things". Most of us take a long time to learn this, but eventually it dawns on most of us. We can't take any material things with us when we die.

Jesus said it like this:
"“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal" (Matthew 6:19).

Living in Grace

Tuesday 13 October 2020

Slipping through your fingers

"Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what good is wealth—except perhaps to watch it slip through your fingers!" - Ecclesiastes 5:10-11

I love Solomon's image of money slipping through your fingers. It is such a vivid word picture of how easily money slips from our grasp. And the more we seem to grab for it, the quicker it disappears. 

He touches on something else quite interesting in today's reading - that is the notion of how other people will flock around you in order to help you spend what you have got. This is very true and perhaps explains why many people who win the lottery find they are more depressed afterwards than before their big cash bonanza. The stress of having the money makes them less happy than before.

These are all life lessons that we need to learn along the way. Sadly, we may have to relearn then more than once.

"An investment in knowledge pays the best dividends." - Benjamin Franklin

Living in Grace


Sunday 11 October 2020

We should not be surprised

It is interesting that we assume that the issues we are facing in 2020 are unique to our generation. In some ways they are - for example the Corona Virus - but in other ways we are just seeing a repeat of historical mistakes. Take note of today's reading:

"Don’t be surprised if you see a poor person being oppressed by the powerful and if justice is being miscarried throughout the land. For every official is under orders from higher up, and matters of justice get lost in red tape and bureaucracy. Even the king milks the land for his own profit!" - Ecclesiastes 5:8-9

For those of us living in South Africa, this is a sad fact. It is always the poor who seem to be at the raw end of the deal. This is why Jesus challenges us to stand on the side of the poor.

Matthew 5:3 - “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

Living in Grace


Saturday 10 October 2020

Fulfill your promises

It is very easy to promise people things and then not to fulfill them. Perhaps some of us reading this today have experienced this in our own lives. I think it is wise that we all heed today's advice, where we are encouraged to fulfill the vows we make. God takes delight in us when we follow through with our promises to him.

"When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God." - Ecclesiastes 5:4-7

“Promises are only as strong as the person who gives them ...”- Stephen Richards

Living in Grace


Thursday 8 October 2020

Ears open and mouth shut

There are so many brilliant thoughts in today's reading, but the first line really got my attention! 

"As you enter the house of God, keep your ears open and your mouth shut. It is evil to make mindless offerings to God. Don’t make rash promises, and don’t be hasty in bringing matters before God. After all, God is in heaven, and you are here on earth. So let your words be few." - Ecclesiastes 5:1-2

How often do we get this wrong? We keep our ears closed and open our mouths, instead of the other way around? It should be 'EARS OPEN and MOUTHS SHUT!"

Solomon seems to have made a special mention of our attitudes in worship. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that we treat God as we treat others - we keep talking all the time and don't pause to listen to His voice.

  • "Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you'd have preferred to talk." -Doug Larson.

What does is mean for us to "let our words be few?"

Living in Grace


Tuesday 6 October 2020


Making any plans for succession can be tricky. This can apply in all spheres of industry, business, church or family. As Solomon comes to the end of his reign he muses over what will become of his legacy and those who will succeed him.

"It is better to be a poor but wise youth than an old and foolish king who refuses all advice. Such a youth could rise from poverty and succeed. He might even become king, though he has been in prison. But then everyone rushes to the side of yet another youth who replaces him. Endless crowds stand around him, but then another generation grows up and rejects him, too. So it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind." - Ecclesiastes 4:13-16

Remember that Solomon uses a technique of comparisons in his reflections. He suggests that if you had two people standing alongside one another - a poor youth and an old king - the younger person is better off because he still has time to learn and become a better person. Even young people who start off with many disadvantages have more hope than an older person who doesn't want to change.

However, the reign of the young person will also come to an end at some point. People will then rush to the new 'flavour of the month' and forget the first youngster. This is confusing and meaningless to Solomon, because we so often chase after fame and recognition believing it will answer all our desires. He says IT WON'T!

It serves as a humbling reminder that our personal legacy will never outlive the lasting legacy of Jesus. 

"Humble beginnings can make the best teachers!" 

Living in Grace


Monday 5 October 2020

Three are better than two

Today's reading has been used in countless wedding sermons over the years. Usually the preacher will tell the couple that two of the strands of a rope represent their lives and when they choose to add God into their marriage, the 3 stranded cord is not easily broken. 

"Again, if two people sleep together, they keep each other warm; but how can one person be warm by himself? Moreover, an attacker may defeat someone who is alone, but two can resist him; and a three-stranded cord is not easily broken." - Ecclesiastes 4:11-12

While this is true, we can broaden this analogy to represent all aspects of society and relationships. In the context of Solomon's reflections, we know that he values having companionship and people around him. The picture from today also includes the imagery of a journey - the person who is travelling on a road (journey of life) is easy prey if someone wants to attack them. However, if you travel with someone else, you are less likely to be overpowered. And then of course, if you travel with 3 people, you are safer than with just two. 

The phrase "a three-stranded cord is not easily broken" seems to be added onto the end of verse 12, which could mean that it was a local saying of the times. Almost like we may add: "Unity is strength" or "Strength in numbers" - it is a saying that people understand and it adds meaning to the context of the lesson.

What can you take away from today's readings?

Is God the 3rd strand in your friendships and relationships?

Living in Grace


Sunday 4 October 2020

We all need someone

Perhaps one of the most heart-breaking funerals I have ever conducted involved a tiny baby who was left abandoned in the veld. She was found and nursed by a caring community, but she died, only a few days old. We gave her a memorial, but there was no family member at the service - just myself and a bunch of strangers. I am no sure why this story came to mind today, but after reading Ecclesiastes 4:7-10, Solomon's words brought up this memory.

There was a man all alone;
he had neither son nor brother.
There was no end to his toil,
yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.
“For whom am I toiling,” he asked,
“and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?”
This too is meaningless—a miserable business! (v.7-8)

Solomon's depression drives him deeper into despair and he wonders why "this man" carried on working so hard for no real purpose. He had no family to leave all his wealth too, which tells us that Solomon is speaking about someone else on this occasion.

He then reminds us that being in a team (even if it's only 2 people) is a blessing. Sharing is a gift and teaches us that we were created for community - we were not meant to 'go it alone.' 

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up

As we reflect on today's passage do you have someone in your life who is able to help you get through life? Do you have a friend, partner, family member, church friend or colleague who is willing to stand alongside you? 

Remember that Jesus is always there for us, no matter how alone we feel.

Living in Grace

Friday 2 October 2020

How much is enough?

Today's passage from Ecclesiastes reminded me of the question posed by Adam Hamilton - "How much is enough?"

"Once again I saw that nothing on earth makes sense. For example, some people don’t have friends or family. But they are never satisfied with what they own, and they never stop working to get more. They should ask themselves, “Why am I always working to have more? Who will get what I leave behind?” What a senseless and miserable life!" - Ecclesiastes 4:7-8 (CEV)

There is such a sadness in his observation. I know he is not advocating doing nothing in our lives or being lazy, but he does get to the root of why we actually work? Is it because we need money or is it because we feel satisfaction in our work and can enjoy this Life as a gift from God?

Psalm 78:25 - He gave them more than enough, and each one of them ate this special food.

Prayer by Adam Hamilton - “Lord, help me be grateful for what I have, remember that I don't need most of what I want, and that joy is found in simplicity and generosity.”

Living in Grace


Thursday 1 October 2020

Jealousy motivates

Jealousy is something that impacts all of us at some point or another. We can either own up to that feeling of jealousy and deal with it, or we can let the 'green-eyed monster' eat us from within. Solomon suggests that all of our striving originates from jealousy or perhaps envy of others. We look at their lives and imagine that they are living the dream - this acts as a motivator for us to try and better their lives.

"Then I realized that we work and do wonderful things just because we are jealous of others. This makes no more sense than chasing the wind. 

Fools will fold their hands and starve to death.

Yet a very little food eaten in peace is better than twice as much
earned from overwork and chasing the wind."
- Ecclesiastes 4: 4-6

Solomon's second train of thought centers around being willing to work - and posing the question: "how much work is sufficient?"

The lazy fool refuses to work, while the workaholic (also a fool) never stops to enjoy the fruits of his labour. Both extremes are like chasing the wind - pointless and miss the point of life.

What do you take away from today's scriptures?

"The reason a lot of people do not recognize opportunity is because it usually goes around wearing overalls looking like hard work." - Thomas Edison

Living in Grace