Benjamin and I are college students, right? And college students are supposed to be poor. Everybody knows that! There are people coming out of college with thousands of dollars of debt right now, and we, of course, aren’t supposed to be eating anything other than Ramen noodles.
The weird thing is, we’re really not poor.
God has blessed us financially seemingly out of nowhere. We seriously find the money we need for things and wonder where on Earth it came from. We aren’t buying a mansion or even a house, and we can’t even really afford vacations, but you know, we’re not eating ramen!
Whenever we talk about this, we always wonder: Why has God chosen to bless us and not others? Should we be doing something with this money? Are we grateful enough for it?
Or how about this one: Should we feel guilty? (#firstworldproblems, anyone?)
How should we react when we are blessed by God?
I have been reading through Ecclesiastes the last few days, and coming to it this time has been incredibly eye opening. I have always thought of that book as the journals of a man who was frustrated with his life and with how far he had wandered from God. I had always seen in it only the desperation and hopelessness that comes from a life apart from Him, but that’s not what it is! It is about the joy that we have in the Lord. It talks about the fruitlessness of life without Him, but it speaks also to the joy and the blessing we have in God.
Because all blessings, financial or otherwise, do come from God. We can know that, “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17).
But what does that mean?
Well, first, we know that our life isn’t about being comfortable here and now. Ecclesiastes 2:11 comes after Solomon’s description of all the wealth he had and the great palaces he had built. It says, “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done and on the labor in which I had toiled; and indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun.”
Depressing, right? And it kind of makes blessings sound kind of… bad. As if enjoying them will mean that we have lost our focus and have started grasping for the wind. I mean, the Bible is very clear that Solomon received his great wealth from God, yet he still calls everything he did with it “vanity.”
At this point in reading, I’m thinking: Ok, so great riches are profitless and enjoying them like Solomon did was grasping for the wind. No more fun buys then? No more pretty clothes, nice house decor, or books to read?
But I kept going. And despite the fact that I had read Ecclesiastes before, I was amazed to find these next verses in there. (Have you ever had one of those moments where you are just sure that someone came and slipped in some extra verses since the last time you opened your Bible? I love how we can always find new truths in God’s Word!)
Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 says:
“I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God.”
Then Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 says:
“Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage. As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor—this is the gift of God. For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart.”
Wait, wait, wait. So the guy who just told me that all of his enjoyment of his wealth was shallow is now telling me to enjoy what I earn and even wealth if I have it?
I was confused. But as I studied those last verses again, it started becoming clearer. There was a difference between Solomon’s advice and how he had described his own enjoyment.
If you look at the last sentence in verse 20, it says of the man who is blessed with great riches that, “God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart.” This man is about God’s business and he finds his joy in the Lord, not his riches.
Ecclesiastes 5:10 says, “He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; nor he who loves abundance, with increase.”
It’s all about attitude.
We can’t love what we have more than we love God. Everything we have is a gift from Him and belongs to Him. But we should still enjoy them. Blessings reflect for us the love of God and His graciousness in giving us things we don’t deserve. We should be grateful for those gifts, not guilty.
But, more than that, we should be willing to use those gifts.
The other day I was scrolling through Facebook kind of mindlessly when a post from a girl in my class caught my eye. I skimmed through it and realized with a sinking heart that she was asking for a ride. This girl lived only a mile or so away from me and I could easily take her, but I loved my time in the car. I loved jamming to music or just quietly letting myself unwind from the day. I didn’t want someone I barely knew encroaching on that and making it awkward!
So I scrambled for an excuse. I have to give Benjamin rides to school sometimes… I reminded myself. And… it would cost more gas money! That’s not very responsible!
But God got to work on my heart. He reminded me that this was a chance to serve someone with the love of Christ. I had been blessed with a very nice car that I could use for Him and while I had also been blessed with a time of peace in my car, He reminded me that this life isn’t about my comfort. I had given my life and my time and my car totally for God’s wise and good use, and now I was holding them back for utterly selfish reasons.
I was humbled.
Blessings from God are just that – blessings. We should be grateful for them, enjoy life with them, and remember God’s goodness because of them. They aren’t something to be ashamed of and they aren’t something to be guilty for. This life was given by a God who loves to bless and I really think that our happiness and fun are reflections of the God who made us. But even our blessings should be constantly offered back to the God who can use them far better than we could.
All to Jesus, I surrender. That’s what I learned from Ecclesiastes.