Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Good Gifts from God (Ecclesiastes 5:6-20)

"... God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart" (Eccl. 5:20).

A common theme that we find throughout Proverbs and Ecclesiastes is the warning not to become too attached to the things of the world. The warnings are so prevalent that they can be taken for granted. We can easily skim over them, saying, “I know, I know. Don’t put my hope and trust in riches.” The reason for this repetitive warning is not to try the patience of God’s people, but to prick the conscience. God knows how easily we slip into self-dependency and how easily we are led astray by the allurements of the world. Because of this, we need to be constantly reminded not to become dependent on worldly things.

One reason we become so easily ensnared by the temptations of the world is our own rebellious and self-dependent natures. But there is another reason just as valid. God’s creation—music, art, sport, eating, drinking, relationships, hard work, all these things—can offer much enjoyment. Because they are so enjoyable, they can captivate us and lead us away from God. What do we do then? Get rid of all earthly enjoyments? Certainly not. As the Preacher of Ecclesiastes reminds us not to put our hope in these things, he inserts a warning: do not hold these things in disdain simply because they can be a temptation. God’s creation, the real enjoyments of life, are not bad in and of themselves. Any evil that surfaces comes from their abuse. God has given good gifts to His children, and in His common grace to the whole world, for our enjoyment. Those who have learned to use these gifts properly know what true freedom and happiness really is.

“It is difficult to maintain a just appreciation of the gifts of God,” Bridges wrote. ‘ “We err either in excess or in defect.’ ‘A Christian’—as has been well said—‘knows the value of the good creatures of God. But he does not put them in the place of God.’ ” As we take stock of the many gifts God has given us to enjoy in this world, we must discern those that cause us great temptation and those that do not. The more you put your faith and your hope in God alone, the more you will have the liberty and freedom to enjoy the good things God has created. As Charles Bridges says, “Let godliness throw a sunbeam upon all temporal enjoyments.”

What are some things you enjoy in life? Note those things that are a great temptation for you to sin, e.g., fashion tempts you to vanity, theater tempts you to have a vain and wandering imagination, etc. Then mark those that do not tempt you when they are used in moderation. Enjoy those things with Christian liberty.