Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible
John 6:60-71; 1 Peter 4:1-6; Ecclesiastes 12:9-14; Jeremiah 43-45
The final verses of Ecclesiastes provide the key to interpreting the book. The author has searched for meaning in many areas of life. He has turned to pleasure, hard work, riches and wisdom. Each of these he finds limited and temporal. Human knowledge and understanding have not allowed him to answer all of life’s deepest questions. Other wisdom literature (like Proverbs 22:4) suggests that if we follow God, we will find health, safety and satisfaction. Yet the author of Ecclesiastes observes that this is often not the case. Good people die young, and bad people get away with a lot.
How then shall we live? One option is what Peter calls the way of pagans: a life of lust, promiscuity, drunkenness and idolatry (1 Peter 4:1-6). If there is no ultimate justice or judgment, our actions do not matter, and we can live as we want. Whether we go wild with immorality, or work hard for wealth, or seek wisdom in many books, none of these will provide true meaning and purpose in life. Suffering and death will continue to confront us with the meaninglessness of this temporal life.
What then of justice? The author of Ecclesiastes sees that justice does not happen ‘under the sun.’ In this earthly life, good and evil can exist without judgment. Rather than give up on justice, or give up on God, Ecclesiastes concludes that God will bring about justice (3:17). There will be a day of judgement, when hidden things are revealed, righteousness will reign, and evil will be eliminated (12:14). Believing this should have a profound effect on our attitudes and behaviour.
Peter also reminds us that a time will come when everyone will give an account to God. Thank God that since Christ suffered and died for us, we do not have to face the Judge on our own merits. As a result, instead of living for self, we should seek the will of God. This requires orienting our attitude around God. We should fear God and obey his commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13). The fear of God is not terror in the face of judgement, but trust in the face of uncertainty. There is much we cannot know, but God has revealed much in Scripture. If we trust and obey him, we will do well. And with that, we can enjoy the pleasures of life that God gives us as good gifts.