Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time
Archbishop Loren Thomas Hines
August 4, 2019
Readings: Ecclesiastes 1:12-14; 2:18-23, Psalm 49
God has blessed us with all things. We’ve been given everything pertaining to life and godliness; we lack in no good thing. God’s provision for us is more than enough to allow us to live out the life He has given us.
God created man in His own perfection, in His image and likeness. When He formed man from the dust of the earth, He breathed into man and that man became a living soul. God shared His soul to man – a living soul, and that life will never die as God never dies. Jesus said even if you die, you will live on. Our life is not limited to the flesh.
If God’s soul is within man, that soul is holy and righteous. Therefore, the very core and nature of man is righteousness and holiness. To say that our nature is sin is a lie. We have a soul that is of God and this gives us hope that we can be what God wants us to be.
In Ecclesiastes, Solomon said that the dust will return to the earth but the spirit will return to God who gave it. Our soul is from God and we will not lose it. Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon, the son of David. David was the very heart of God but he couldn’t build God’s temple as he desired because he had been to many wars and shed much blood. Solomon was given the privilege to build God’s temple. He was blessed by God. Many great men from all over the world came to see him to see the greatness of his kingdom. He was blessed with great wealth. In the midst of all these blessings, Solomon disobeyed God, getting wives who were outside of the covenant of God. He did this out of pride. He wanted to be accepted by all the kings of the world so he took their daughters for his wives. In so doing, he lost his mind. He became like an animal, feeding on grass. But he was restored and went on to write Ecclesiastes where he said that all that he had ever done and possessed were vanity because they didn’t save him nor gave him hope and joy. He’s making us understand that even if we can do things for ourselves, all of it will be lost in the end. We may work hard to build our kingdom or wealth but we can’t take it with us. In the end, all will be lost to someone and we wouldn’t know what they will do with that wealth. Children who inherit waste away what their parents built up for years because they don’t want the responsibility. The things that we do out of our own abilities don’t count much with the life God has given us. Solomon said everything he built under the sun was wasted/vanity because those who came after him didn’t preserve them. “What I toiled for, I leave for another. All that I’ve done is vanity (paraphrase).” He said it’s chasing the wind. Can you see and chase the wind? This isn’t saying that we shouldn’t be blessed materially, but this shouldn’t be what drives us. What matters is what God gives us. We brag about our accomplishments and wealth but it is God who enables us to have them.
Man is not sinful by nature but by choice. He destroys or hinders the life that God gave him by his wrong choices. The first example given to us in Scriptures is Adam and Eve. They were given everything they needed but they disobeyed God, choosing to eat of the forbidden fruit. It was their choice; they weren’t forced. That choice brought death. The choices we make should be those of God so that our efforts will not be wasted. I want us to understand that man is not sinful by nature. To say “I’m a sinner” is not true. We may sin but our nature is holiness and righteousness. Ephesians 1 tells us that before the foundation of the world, we were chosen to be holy and blameless. This is who we were when we were created. We have violated that by our lust and greed. We’ve put our confidence on earthly things, things “under the sun”, as Solomon puts it. But God can take the things we’ve lost and make them even better, if our attitude is right.
In Deuteronomy, God tells us to choose life and live. He’s telling us that if we choose life, we will enjoy His blessings. We should understand who we are, that God created us in His image and likeness. As Solomon said, the dust will go back to the dust but the soul will go back to God because He gave it. It belongs to Him. Luke 12 tells us that man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things he possesses. Possessions don’t bring peace and security. Money can be lost at any moment. The financial markets in the world today are unstable. Only the things of God are permanently secure.
In the Gospel, Jesus was approached by a young man who asked Him to talk to his brother and make him share the family inheritance with him. In Jewish law, if the father passes away, 2/3 of what he leaves behind goes to the oldest son because he takes over as patriarch of the family and the responsibilities that go with it. The younger gets 1/3. In the Gospel, the younger son received his share, but because of lust and greed, he wanted more. Jesus told him that He wasn’t the young man’s judge or arbitrator. “Beware and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” Jesus then shares the story of a prosperous farmer with abundant crops, so he decides to tear down his old barn and build bigger ones, then take life easy. But God says to him, “You fool! This very night your soul is required of you, and now who will own what you have?” So is the man who lays up treasure for himself but is not rich in the things of God. The wealthy want to build more for themselves but don’t treat their workers well when their wealth is intended to bless and give hope to others. I believe that today, there’s enough wealth in the hands of man to bring the whole world to a level of prosperity. But many have greedily held everything for themselves even if they can’t take anything with them when they die. When we face Christ, we will be judged for the work of our hands, if we have done them for God or for ourselves.
Today we destroy much of creation in the name of progress. The life we have depends upon the choices we make. We have to put on the new man and renew our mind. We have been so influenced by the world. Our lives would be so much more beautiful and peaceful if we lived according to the ways of God. Colossians 3:12 tells us to put on a heart of compassion. This is our responsibility. We don’t ask God to do this for us. We are to put on a heart of kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, forgiving each other just as the Lord has forgiven us. It’s our responsibility to forgive. When we don’t put on this heart of Godly character, we offend God who tells us that “beyond all these things put on love”.
In many cases our problems don’t require others doing things for us, but us doing the right thing, making the right choices. We have all sorts of excuses why we are the way we are, but we choose to be that way. We choose whether or not we’re going to follow God and walk in His principles. We love pointing fingers; it’s never our fault. But many times it’s our fault because of the choices we make. If we’re listening to the voice of God, He will guide us in everything. The principle is to follow the commandments of God, then God will provide all our needs. It doesn’t mean we just sit down and do nothing, but we acknowledge that He is our source. He knows our needs. We shouldn’t rely on what we think we need based on the dictates of the commercial world. When we make the wrong choices, our righteousness is disturbed. Ecclesiastes talks about our spirit being vexed; that trouble causes difficulty in the physical body because of the wrong choices we make. We must learn to walk according to the ways of God.
Colossians tells us to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in regards to its lusts. When we have an insatiable need for things we don’t need – clothes, shoes, anything material – this is lust and this can drive us to the point where we are destroyed. God wants to provide our needs and use them for His glory and honor. We must realize who we are and how God has blessed us, and stop seeking the things that aren’t necessary for our joy and peace. Empty your closets of things you don’t need and share them with those who don’t have enough. God supplies all our needs. If the supply doesn’t come from Him, we probably don’t need it. Choose you this day who you will serve. Choose life.