Today there is an increasing desire for total security. We want our five acres somewhere — land, home, something permanent. But is this temporal life something more than the much sought after mammon of material? Is there such a thing as a commitment to spiritual values that far transcends a paycheck? Do not fold, bend, spindle, staple or mutilate." If you happen to work for a large corporation, that's probably printed somewhere on your salary check. Ever stop to think about what would happen if you did indeed bend, fold, or staple it? Undoubtedly, the worst that could happen would be nothing more than an uptight clerk who couldn't process your paycheck through the computer.
But it's amazing how many people equate permanence and security with a piece of paper that says pay to the order of John Q. Public. Their real love and affection is placed upon a promise to pay them so much money for services rendered to their particular company. Money in the bank is automatically equated with people's desire for self-perpetuation and self-preservation. Self-determination and self-gratification are two more perfectly natural parts of the same old syndrome.
The Great Experiment. The wisest man that ever lived — King Solomon — explored the self to the full. He had the money, the position and the time to indulge himself in all aspects of self. He possessed what most can only covet mentally. And he learned some vitally important lessons in the process — lessons you shouldn't have to learn by the same cruel teacher of experience.
Solomon began his discourse like this: "I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity.... I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life" (Eccl. 2:1, 3). Solomon was conducting an experiment. He wanted to know what was the very best way to live in order to get the most out of this life.
He continued: "I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards; I made me gardens and orchards... also I had great possessions of great and small cattle.... So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem.... And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy" (verses 4-10). Solomon had it all! Money was no object. He possessed what practically all the rest of the human race wants. And there was nobody around to tell him: "No, you can't have that."
Now you wouldn't come to the same conclusions he did. No, you'd be different! You wouldn't do it that way. Materialism wouldn't ruin your life; you simply wouldn't let " the unrighteous mammon" turn all your spiritual values upside down. Or would you?
The Conclusion of the Matter. Solomon concluded: "Then I looked on [considered] all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit [utter frustration], and there was no profit under the sun" (verse 11).
"Vanity," in the original Hebrew language, simply means "a pursuit after wind." Ever try to grab a handful of wind? It's exactly like trying to get any permanent satisfaction out of all of these projects that accumulate wealth.
The king continued his contemplations: "Then said I in my heart, As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity" (verse 15). Solomon was thinking about his personal future — about the impermanence of life and the continual striving to achieve real satisfaction through a feeling of total security and wellbeing by the things he built and planted, the things he bought and possessed. He found out, through the crucible of hard experience, that all of these activities constituted little more than a vain pursuit after wind.
He became a candidate for suicide. He wrote: "Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit" (verse 17).
Can You Learn the Lesson? Think of all the permanence you'd like to possess: the success, the security, the money, the fine home, etc. Can you take a lesson from Solomon? And if not him, one of the wealthiest men this world has ever seen — J. Paul Getty? He is reputed to have said: "I'd give away all my millions for just one successful marriage." Or could you take a lesson from the fabled Howard Hughes, who died a recluse after earlier years of amazing accomplishments in the field of aerodynamics as well as the acquisition of multiple millions?
Solomon summed up a great spiritual principle that all of these rich men (after they had basically lived their lives) would probably nod their heads in assent to. "Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit" (Eccl. 4:6). I know the upper-middle class or wealthy American wallowing around in affluence probably doesn't believe this principle. But it's true! And before they die, many of them will realize it!
Notice Ecclesiastes 5:10: "He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity." When will the large hotel and motel chains finish building? When will the quick-food vendors decide they have enough sales outlets? When will multimillionaires decide they have "enough"? No, satisfaction simply doesn't come through having "enough." If you're already big, you just naturally want to grow to be still bigger yet. So there's this constant treadmill of continually doing, striving and pushing for the future — and never with any real lasting, permanent satisfaction!
"When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?" (Ecclesiastes 5:11.) Verse 11: "When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?" What can anyone do with all the goods they might accumulate — except look at them, fondle them, think about them, and perhaps boast just a little?
Truly, "the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing" (Eccl. 1:8). When is the very last time you want to see a beautiful sunset? When do you tire of an absolutely magnificent, national forest scene so beautiful it takes your breath away? When is the last time your eyes want to behold sharp, sheer cliffs, rushing brooks, crystal-clear lakes and dozens of varieties of wild flowers?
Solomon goes on to say in chapter five: "The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer [allow] him to sleep " (verse 12). A man who works hard with his hands doesn't have to sample the world's best restaurants to be satisfied. He can get by with hardtack and beans and still get a good night's sleep. But the white-collar executive who is basking in a six-figure income? He is often the most unsatisfied and unhappy of persons. He lies awake at night constantly striving, plotting, planning, figuring — trying somehow to obtain yet more. He suffers from the agonies of sleepless nights, ulcers, constant worries and jumpy nerves. He is subjected to dozens of corporate fears and pressures — he continually struggles against intolerable odds — striving for that one big break that means he finally has " enough."
Verse 16: " What profit hath he that hath labored for the wind?" Do you labor for the wind? Or Montgomery Ward? Or Sears? Or Bank Americard? It's all the same — a kind of futility and frustration. There's nothing to show for it but a few more material goods, a little more temporary comfort, a few more steaks, and finally an empty death.
If people knew the true values in life, they wouldn't be playing the game of impulse buying, with the resulting endless battles with creditors, the juggling of bills and all the other daily frustrations that plague multiple millions of security-obsessed Americans, Britons and other citizens of the Western world. But it doesn't have to be this way!
There is a better way! There is a way by which you can obtain eternal dividends. There is a way you can assure your personal stake in eternity!
New Testament Advice! Jesus Christ of Nazareth said: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matt. 6:19-21). Jesus is talking about an attitude and an approach toward life. Worrying yourself to death about financial security and your share of this material world is just not going to make you happy in the long run.
Jesus continued: "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment [clothing]?" (Verses 24-25.)
The New English Bible renders it: "Therefore I bid you put away anxious thoughts about food and drink..." The New International Version has it: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink...." The Living Bible: "Don't worry about things...."
Jesus Christ is not telling you: "Don't even think about your life; don't plan; don't prepare; don't lay up anything for your grandchildren." The force of the original Greek is to take no anxious thought, or as we might say in the vernacular: "Don't worry about it so much." The message is: Don't set your heart on material things.
Elsewhere in the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon tells us to enjoy the things that we have. But you can't enjoy your possessions if you're constantly worried about getting more. Lying, cheating; stealing, cutting corners just to grab a little more of a material future? It will destroy you; ruin your life; give you psychosomatic diseases; cause sleepless nights — everything you don't want. If you're constantly thinking: " How can I get that tractor?" "How can I get that new truck?" "How can I succeed in business?" "How can I get a vacation?" "How can, I get a raise?" — you're eventually going to destroy yourself spiritually and make most of your loved ones unhappy in the process.
But understand the balance! The Scriptures bear down fairly hard on security seekers, but they do not mean, taken in context with the many, many other plain scriptures on the subject, that a person can not with honesty and hard work build up and increase his material possessions and even be the recipient of a well-earned, generous salary increase. That is fine in God's sight!
If God has blessed you with a fair share of this world's material goods, David's advice is: Be thankful but don't set your heart on them (see Psalm 62:10). They could be taken away from you in a moment's time. Witness earthquakes and tornadoes. Job experienced just such a disaster, but maintained his spiritual balance. He said: " The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away."
"But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for. them a city" (Hebrews 11:16). Job understood that his real security was not in any thing that he possessed. Jesus said: "... A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (Luke 12:15).
Your Real Stake in Eternity. The people of God are called, in the Bible, pioneers that have no certain dwelling place; people who are seeking a heavenly Kingdom and placing their values on the permanence of spiritual things — looking towards things which cannot be seen with the naked eye.
Peter gives us a spiritual description of God's people: "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people [not odd or weird — but different — a select, unique people]; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of [spiritual] darkness into his marvellous light" (I Peter 2:9),
The people of God are of every color; they are from many different nations; they are of every conceivable calling in. life; of every type of ability; of every range of emotion. What binds them together is the common belief in God and in His Son Jesus Christ. They believe, to a man, that He will soon return to this earth as a great conquering King to rule it with a rod of iron. This is their stake in eternity!
Jesus Christ of Nazareth said: "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh" (Luke 21:28), Their expectance, their hope and their eagerness is not in a very shaky, questionable future based on something physical or material, but in a completely secure, fully guaranteed future, whether they live to the coming of Christ or not. They know that even if they die, they are going to be called right out of the grave to a fantastic, incomprehensible life for all eternity, (Read our free booklet entitled After Death... then What?)
Your Passport Into Eternity! As I've written before, there exists a fully certified cashier's check with your name on it. The date is the day of your baptism, The payment is in eternal life, The signature, written in royal red blood, is Jesus Christ of Nazareth! It's your passport into eternity!
All you have to do is turn the check in when He comes, and you have your stake in eternity, Your record and the character you've built, the real you, is going to last from the ages unto the ages — if our finite minds can remotely understand it.
Called-out Christians are called pilgrims and pioneers. We're to be innovators. We're to dream the great dream and, with faith in God, bring it to pass, We are the kind of people that are willing, like Abraham, to "get out of our country and our land into a place that God will show us." We are to be willing, like Jeremiah, to go to jail for our beliefs,
Very likely, Jesus Christ lost all of His personal property through confiscation by the government. What did He lose? Nothing! He gained eternal life!
What about Paul? He was beaten and whipped and he wandered about Asia Minor like a stranger having no certain dwelling place. He learned how to be totally satisfied — no matter what his state for the moment: "For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need" (Phil. 4:11-12).
Was Paul continually worried about his loss of status in the world of the Pharisees? About perhaps being unceremoniously kicked out of the Sanhedrin? About the uncertainty of his next meal or place to sleep? No! He wrote: "What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ" (Phil. 3:7-8).
The apostle Paul knew his real stake in eternity. He continued: "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead" (verses 10-11).
A Great Cloud of Witnesses. But Paul is not the only example. He wrote of a great company of men and women who never threw away a single principle of God's Word just to hang on to some physical amenity or piece of property somewhere. Abel gave his gifts to God (Heb. 11:4). Abraham was willing to give up all that he had seen and known (verse 8-9). Moses esteemed "the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt" (verse 26). "Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection" (verse 35).
These people of old knew where their stake in eternity was! "They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth" (verses 37-38).
Abraham " looked for a city which hath foundations [secure ones], whose builder and maker is God" (verse 10). Everyone of these men and women died in faith, not having yet received the great promise of the resurrection. They "confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (verse 13). "But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city" (verse 16).
The Futility of Materialism. Are you the kind of person whose loyalties only run as deep as your paycheck — your physical roots in this world? If so, when those things are taken away from you, you will probably abandon the principles, beliefs and spiritual values that you once thought were so important.
Paul despaired of the fate of such people: " For, as I have often told you before and now say again even, with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly [vile, KJV] bodies so that they will be like his glorious body" (Phil. 3:18-21, NIV).
Jesus Christ will change our vile bodies when He returns — but not our vile character. We've got to do that first!
Surest Prophecy. No one is sure when it is going to happen, but the second coming of Jesus Christ is the surest prophecy in all of the Bible. The heavens will be opened up and there is going to be a brilliant shining' light that will strike terror into the hearts of millions. Then a great trumpet blast will precede the sight of a huge army with a Great Being sitting astride a white horse coming in a blaze of glory — with millions of glorified former human beings behind Him to take over the reins of rulership on this earth. It's like that song they've been singing in recent days: "I really want to be there."
Those spiritual roots go down in every direction and on out into the entirety of space. I'd like a stake in that kind of security — that kind of future! What about you?