10th February 2024
Read (Ecclesiastes 4v6)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
I don’t remember much about the 1980s but as I look back one of the movements that existed was that of the “yuppie”. Yuppie was short for “young upwardly-mobile professional” and it defined the generation which was making money and moving quickly up society’s ladder.
In the UK, the comedian Harry Enfield critiqued Margaret Thatcher’s government and the yuppie movement with his “loadsamoney” character. In the USA, the movie “Wall Street” portrayed the spirit of the age with it’s main character declaring “Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms - greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge - has marked the upward surge of mankind.” According to Gordon Gekko in “Wall Street”, greed is good.
It is a fool who folds his hands and refuses to work but he is joined by another fool who driven by greed seeks to fill both his hands by endless work (v6). In our culture being exceptionally busy is often seen as a virtue and for many the spirit of the 1980s is alive and well in 2024. We rarely stop to smell the roses and endlessly look for the next thing. We do not work to live but we live to work and not satisfied with what we have, we make an idol out of career and daily strive to climb to the very top.
Is having a career sinful? No. Is earning a substantial wage sinful? No. Is applying for that promotion sinful? No. Instead, Solomon speaks to that condition of the heart which is marked by greed. It is a never satisfied, never happy, never content condition that seeks full hands and full pockets and ultimately is a chasing after the wind. Greed is not good, it betrays a poor spiritual condition.
The alternative is to have only one handful which is complemented by a life of quietness (v6a). This condition is one that is satisfied, happy and content. It is a life which does not require an endless pursuit of “stuff” but finds joy in quiet contentment. Such a life is possible and it is lived in the fear of God. How so? Because the truly wise understand that Christ is our greatest treasure. The rich fool gave no thought to his soul and spent his final day building bigger barns (Luke 12v18). His life was demanded from him and he lost everything.
So for the follower of Christ neither laziness or greed is an option. Rather, we would do well to pray the prayer of Agur son of Jakeh who said “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me.” (Proverbs 30v8). I call this Agur’s prayer for “enough to do him”. He didn’t seek treasure or fame, instead he asked for enough to do him. It may not have been popular in the 1980s but perhaps it is time for Agur’s prayer to make a comeback?
Brothers and sisters, if you have Christ then you have everything. You don’t need to fill both hands in this life, the riches you have in Jesus are more than you can carry or count. Greed is not good, but God certainly is.
Q65 What is forbidden in the fifth commandment? The fifth commandment forbiddeth the neglecting of, or doing anything against, the honor and duty which belongeth to every one in their several places and relations.