Jump Start # 3287
Ecclesiastes 4:4 “Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity.”
When one studies Ecclesiastes, there are certain words that keep popping up over and over. Vanity is one of those words. Striving after the wind is another common and repeated expression in Ecclesiastes. But one that is often not given much attention is “I saw.” Four times, in chapter four, that phrase is used. “I saw,” is sprinkled throughout the book and it gives us the standpoint of what is written. This is not Heaven’s perspective, but what Solomon saw. He did not draw his conclusions after spending hours researching old papers and documents. This wasn’t something that he learned in school. He didn’t get this information from reading God’s word. The basis of his writings were what he saw. That is the standpoint from which Ecclesiastes is written. It is a perspective based upon the eyes of Solomon. And from what he saw, he drew conclusions and made judgments.
And, like Solomon, we do the same thing. We see something, or, we hear something, and from that we form conclusions and judgments. Sometimes those conclusions and judgments are wrong. It’s hard for us to admit to that because we based our thoughts upon what we saw. “I saw,” isn’t always what there is to see.
First, visual perceptions can’t see everything. Habakkuk begged God to do something about the injustice in his days. God was doing something. He told the prophet that he would not believe what was happening. He had no idea. He couldn’t see what all God was doing. Job is another illustration of this. Job didn’t know about the conversation between God and Satan. We know about it, but Job didn’t.
We see things from our corner of the world. We cannot see all the other corners. This limits our vision and it impacts our conclusions and judgments. Because we don’t see something, doesn’t mean things are not happening.
Second, visual perceptions often miss the backstory. Just about every story has a history Something led to something else. Not aware of that history, we can draw conclusions that are just not completely true. Visual perception doesn’t give us the whole story. What led up to what we now see is something that we often do not see.
Third, visual perceptions cannot read motives or attitudes. What was the reason for what was done? We can see with our eyes the outcome, but our eyes cannot see the motives. Did anger lead to certain actions? How about jealousy? How about greed? How about lust? How about wanting to help someone? The motives reveal the intent. We can drive through town and see a brother in Christ walking into a bar. That’s what our eyes saw. From that, we can believe he’s going in to get a drink. From that, he’s meeting someone and likely having an affair. From that, he’s a drunk. From that, he’s living a double life. From that, we want to run and tell the elders. We are ready to accuse and bring charges against this person. What began with our eyes leads to wild rumors and speculations. But, what if his car had broken down and he wasn’t getting any reception on his phone, so he walked into the bar to make a phone call? What if it was all very innocent? What I saw, led to what I thought, but all of that could have been wrong.
We sometimes call this jumping to conclusions. Rash and quick judgments often hurt innocent actions. Job’s friends were guilty of this. Their opening speech declares, “According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity and those who sow trouble harvest it” (4:8). Job’s children all died in a sudden storm. From the observation of Job’s friend, they were being punished for some sin. They harvested trouble because they had sowed trouble. Yet, this wasn’t right. Their conclusions and theology were all out of alignment. There were things happening that he did not see.
So what are we to make with all of this?
First, before I make conclusions based upon what I saw, maybe I ought to have a conversation and find out what really happened. Don’t enter the conversation with your mind made up, like Job’s friends. Don’t come with guns blazing. Ask, don’t accuse. Come with gentleness and kindness.
Second, not everything I see is my business. We like to make everything our business, from what we see posted on social media, to what we overhear in the church building, to what our eyes see. A busybody is not a compliment that comes from God. Being busy in the kingdom is not the same as a busybody. It’s hard for some to leave things as they are. It’s hard for some not to want to know everything that is going on. Somethings are simply not our business.
Third, our own perspective has a way of tainting our vision. If we look for trouble, we’ll probably find it. If we try to see what’s wrong, you’ll find it. I have gone to eat at places that I did not want to go to. Before I got out of the car, my mood was sour. I had made up my mind that I wouldn’t like the food. Every little detail that I could complain about, I did. The tables were too close to each other. The menu didn’t have the food I wanted. The server seemed too busy. There wasn’t very many ice cubes in my cup. I looked at the fork and knife carefully to see if they were clean. My perspective colored how I saw things.
This is true politically. No matter what great ideas are presented in Congress, some will shoot them down simply because they come from the opposite party.
Nathanael had a perspective problem when he declared, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” His mind was made up. Didn’t matter what he saw. His attitude colored his vision.
Better than I saw with my eyes, is I saw in the Scriptures. That’s the right vision. That’s always the correct way of seeing things.
Solomon’s journal that we call Ecclesiastes, changes as he leaves the horizontal vision of life under the sun and starts looking at things vertically, Heavenward. The same changes for us, as well.