I have thought deeply about all that goes on here in the world, where people have the power to hurt each other. (Ecclesiastes 8:9 NLT)
It’s kind of a running joke in my family that I overthink things. I think deeply, I think broadly, and there’s no doubt that I think too much about things that don’t matter as much as I “think” they matter. And I think way too much about things that I have no control over. And I think… Anyhow, I can relate to Solomon (the author of Ecclesiastes) in terms of thinking deeply about all that goes on here in the world! I can’t really relate to his wealth and power, and I certainly can’t relate to his harem of somewhere around a thousand wives. But the “thinking deeply”, yes, I can relate to that!
Solomon’s very thoughtful writing in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes is sprinkled with priceless gems of wisdom about values and behavior…
- Wisdom is better than folly.
- Good is better than evil.
- Enjoy life as and while you can.
- Think seriously about the meanings and consequences of the things people do and the things you see.
But Solomon sees the world as a place “where people have the power to hurt each other.”
Solomon is approaching his thinking from the perspective that “What you see is what you get!” At least at this point in his philosophical and theological process, he thinks that there is neither reward or punishment beyond death. He has no present hope of eternity and so his conclusions often contain the word “meaningless!”
At the time he is writing, Solomon is one of the most powerful, and certainly one of the richest, men of his time. By his own admission, he has denied himself no pleasure that ever occurred to him to desire. His world is totally in his control and he is able to satisfy his every wish or whim. Yet when he “thinks deeply,” his conclusions are that the world is primarily a place where people have the power to hurt each other and that life is meaningless and without hope.
There is an amazing contrast between Solomon’s perspective on the world as a place “where people have the power to hurt each other” (He’s not wrong about this, but it’s not a very joyful point of view) and the perspective the Apostle Paul has as he writes in Ephesians chapter 4! Paul, who is writing from a prison cell, not a king’s palace, writes from the perspective of a man who has voluntarily given up wealth and power and has suffered great persecution for his faith, and yet his writings are full of challenge and encouragement and hope. Listen to these words from Ephesians 4:1-7, 32…
1 Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2 Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit, and bind yourselves together with peace. 4 We are all one body, we have the same Spirit, and we have all been called to the same glorious future. 5 There is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and there is only one God and Father, who is over us all and in us all and living through us all. 7 However, he has given each one of us a special gift according to the generosity of Christ. 32 …be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:1-7, 32 NLT)
Instead of viewing the world as a place where “people have the power to hurt each other,” Paul’s perspective is that the world is a place where people are learning to be kind to each other, to serve each other, to make allowances for each other’s faults, and to become unified for a common purpose. It’s a purpose that involves neither wealth, pleasure, comfort, nor power, but is simply the purpose of being Christ’s body doing Christ’s work on earth.
Sometimes when I “think deeply” I get discouraged and find myself thinking like Solomon. I may begin to think, “What’s the point in all the things I try to do to help? Does it really matter? Does anyone notice? Is what I do making any difference at all?”
Or I may think, “Is there really a reward for serving and sacrificing and giving? Wouldn’t it be better to focus my energy and attention on taking care of myself and just let others take care of themselves?”
Or I may think, “Do people really care about each other? Do people want to help and heal and encourage, or do they only want to hurt each other?”
Here’s an example of my overthinking: Do I get discouraged because I am thinking like Solomon or am I thinking like Solomon because I’m discouraged? I don’t know. I do know that line of thinking burrows me deeper and deeper into self-pity and self-centeredness.
I do know that I want to think more like Paul. I want to judge not by outward appearance and external circumstance and short-term results, but to think in the light of eternal purposes and eternity with Christ. Here’s more from Paul:
9 So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time. 10 Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone, especially to our Christian brothers and sisters. (Galatians 6:9-10 NLT)
Father, today I purpose to not be short-sighted and self-centered in my thinking and my attitude. I purpose to live in the light of eternity and see the world not as a place “where people have the power to hurt each other,” but as a place where Jesus has given us the power to hear each other, to help each other, and to heal each other. In Jesus’ Name!
As always, I’d love to hear from you and I welcome your comments and questions. If you’re reading on the blog, leave a comment below. If you’re reading from the email, click “Reply” and tell me what you’re thinking.