Jump Start # 2424
Ecclesiastes 2:17 “So I hated life, for the work which had been done under the sun was grievous to me; because everything is futility and striving after the wind.”
When we study our Bibles and we read the lives of so many characters it is easy to really like some. I like Barnabas. I’d love to spend a day with him. Peter reminds me too much of myself, but I can connect. Solomon, who wrote our verse today, is not one I have ever liked. He seems like a spoiled rich boy. Living in a palace, the son of a king, having servants all around him, I doubt he ever did much work. And, here he is in our verse complaining about work. It was grievous to me, he says. I hate life, he says. Really? Try trading places with the poor guy who is building walls and paving roads and constructing houses for you. He’ll never live like you do Solomon. Get a little dirt under those finger nails. Step outside in the sunshine and help a guy carry a load of bricks.
In the first half of Ecclesiastes, chapters 1-6, Solomon refers to himself sixty times. Sixty! The word “vanity” is found in every chapter of Ecclesiastes except one. “Chasing after the wind” is used fourteen times. And, the expression, “life under the sun,” that’s used 29 times. He complains. He whines. He’s not happy, although he has everything that money can buy.
Solomon’s problem, as is with so many today, was not where he was, but his perspective. Every year prodigals want to leave home for the bright lights of the far country. Get out and find myself. No rules. No one telling me what to do. Off they go, and without any direction, guidance or God in their hearts, they make a real mess of things. Solomon’s problem was that he was looking at everything under the sun. Life under the sun wasn’t fair, fulfilling, nor lasting. Everyone dies. What’s the difference between man and beast, they both die. What’s the difference between a good man and a wicked man, they both die. Solomon had a vision problem. He was looking at everything under the sun. Horizontal living can be depressing. We kill ourselves working and working, so we can retire someday, and eventually end up in assisted living hoping that our money doesn’t run out. Boy, that sounds exciting doesn’t it? Sitting in a wheelchair, eating applesauce, watching 24 hour news over and over, day after day, until we finally leave this world, is not a picture that many want to talk about. This is about as good as it gets when you look at things horizontally. What is there to look forward to? Knee replacements, pacemakers, false teeth, walkers, hearing aids, and mountains of pills to take every day—that’s how the picture ends when one looks at life under the sun. Horizontal living doesn’t have very many happy moments.
If this is what life is under the sun, then what is it like “above the sun?” What does vertical living look like? How does that picture change when one walks with Christ? Certainly a person will age. The body will wear out and fall apart. That happens whether one is a Christian or not. Paul admitted that the outer man decays. The outside doesn’t get better with age. But what vertical living does is change the inside. Our inner man, our heart, our attitude, our faith, gets better, stronger and richer the more we look above the sun.
Here is a few reasons why:
First, with trials, God gives us a compass. The world has no explanation for suffering. Some use it to deny the existence of God. The Christian knows. This world is broken. It can’t be fixed. The compass points us towards Heaven. Jesus suffered. He suffered without complaining. I can do the same. Jesus endured. I can do the same. Jesus looked beyond the suffering. I can do the same.
Second, with guilt, God gives us forgiveness. His grace is amazing. He gives us a rest from the burdens we carry. He offers us a better way and a new way. He doesn’t give up on us. Even though we may be broken, He can fix us and use us. He believes in us and puts into our hands His word and His kingdom.
Third, with death, God gives us hope. Death isn’t the end of the story. Death isn’t the final word in our book. Jesus was raised and so shall we. For the righteous, death is a blessing. It is a gain. It is a victory. It is nothing more than passing through a door into another room. It is leaving the horizontal world. Death is the passage that takes us to where we want to be. The Christian welcomes death. He knows he will be so much better once he passes through that doorway.
Horizontal living is obsessed with labels, size of TV screens, who kissed who in Hollywood, and things that will not matter in a dozen years, let alone in eternity. Horizontal living is about climbing your way to the top. It’s about looking good for others. It’s about here and now. It’s about whatever makes one happy. And, using Solomon’s own words, horizontal living is vain, empty and useless. It is chasing after the wind.
That phrase, ‘chasing after the wind,’ is ridiculous. First, no one can see the wind. You may see leaves or trash blowing across a parking lot. That’s the result of wind, but it’s not actually seeing the wind. Second, you can’t catch the wind. You can’t hold it in your hands. You can’t stop it. You can’t put it in a jar. And, this is the point of that expression. It is useless. It is worthless. It is a waste of time.
All around us are horizontal people. Listen to their conversations. Look at what impresses them. We must be vertical people. We must be glorifying God more. We must be more thankful. We must be kind, helpful, generous and thoughtful. Horizontal thinking is concerned about right and left. Vertical thinking is about up and down.
I hate my life, Solomon said. I just want to tell him, go do something for someone. Go help someone. Get busy and quit whining about your life. Get a life!
Horizontal or vertical…which way are you going?