The Bonfire of Vanity: Advice From the Wisest Man Who Ever Lived

Tom Wolfe understood all about vanity; so too, apparently, did an older and somewhat jaded King Solomon: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, NIV)

The book of Ecclesiastes is the most pessimistic book in the Bible. It was written by King Solomon, who had seen it all and done it all.  He experienced all that life had to offer and had grown jaded and a bit cynical. In chapter one he began with “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” (verse two) He says “all things are wearisome” in verse eight, “there is nothing new under the sun” in verse nine, and draws this conclusion in verse fourteen: “I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.”

Solomon reached these conclusions at the end of a long life full of wealth and achievement. When he was a young man about to assume the throne of Israel, 2 Chronicles 1:7 says that “God appeared to Solomon and said to him, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” Solomon asked God not for wealth or power, but for wisdom; pleased with his choice, God gave him wisdom and all of those other things as well. (Kind of a preview of Matthew 6:33 in real life.) As a result, Solomon lived a long life populated with fame and fortune.

“King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart.” (1 Kings 10:23-24) The visiting Queen of Sheba told him, “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard.” (1 Kings 10:6-8)

People magazine or TMZ would have covered the goings-on in Solomon’s court, and I imagine there was no vanity he didn’t have the opportunity to see or do. He built the biggest temple, lived in the most opulent palace, and married the hottest women on the planet. So why is all that important, and what does it have to do with us? I would think that the observations of one of the wisest and most experienced men in all of history would be worth consideration.

After everything he had seen and done, Solomon arrived at the conclusions he listed in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, which essentially tells us two important things: 1) Fear and obey God. Solomon tells us that having a healthy respect for your Creator makes sense, no matter how rich and famous you are. He also gives a shout out to obedience, which is always the natural result of respect. It’s not difficult to submit to the authority of someone worthy of respect. Solomon, a wise man, believed it made sense to obey God, which leads to his second point:

2) Remember who you are accountable to. “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” It’s not about your reputation or your public persona or the few good deeds you’ve done. We are accountable to God for every deed, every thought, and every hidden thing. One of the wisest and richest kings in history concluded that God’s judgment matters. Jesus said, “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the Day of Judgment.” (Matthew 12:36). Paul (Romans 14:12) said that “each of us shall give an account of himself to God.” If Solomon, Jesus and Paul think we should get ready for judgment before God, perhaps it would be a wise thing to do. Are you ready?

The wisest and the richest king, who had the best of everything--
The purest gold, the finest wines--a thousand wives and concubines!
He wisely judged the rights and wrongs! 
He frolicked in the Song of Songs!
There was no truth he could not teach, 
Nor pleasure that he could not reach...
The Queen of Sheba sang his praise, 
And stayed with him for many days,
Impressed with Solomon and his ways...
Of all men on the planet he, with all his hospitality
Was foremost of humanity, but out of all he got to see,
The cynical reality was this: that all was vanity.
The king then gave this reprimand:
"Fear God, and keep the Lord's command,
Since He alone will be the One
To judge the secret things you've done!
It's nothing but insanity 
To chase the worldly vanity.
Beware the world's ingredients;
Fear God, and be obedient.

 

To buy my latest book, Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

 

Words Matter: Is What you say Helping or Hurting?

Words matter, don’t they? Have you ever stopped to consider the power of words and how much they influence what we think and what we do?
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11, NKJV). This quote from Proverbs extolls the positive potential of words and reminds us that they are actually communications currency. They express how we feel and what we think. Without them we are on an island longing for expression.

When I went to Angola in 1975 as a BSU Summer missionary, I discovered that culture shock was not being surprised by what other people do, or dealing with “When in Rome”, but it was the difficulty of communicating, of having things to say and being unable to say them. In a Portuguese speaking nation, my halting Spanish only helped a little, and I became frustrated over the narrow boundaries it set for me. I could barely get directions or ask for help (and that was with the Portuguese, forget about trying to understand any of the very common native dialects like Mbundu or Ki Mbundu). It was ironic that I was proud of being called articulate in an article written about my upcoming trip, and I floundered around in frustration once I got there. I felt like I was stupid and slow, and was sure that everyone else felt that way about me too. I realized how much of my image of myself was tied to being able to say words, or in this case, being UNABLE to say them…

Words have magnitude. They can assassinate character and start wars. Words can connect us or they can divide us. Solomon knew the value of words, and he compared them to expensive jewelry. He said that ONE word spoken at the right time was a treasure, a work of beauty and craftsmanship. He compared it to something beautiful made from precious metals, something temporary that offered lasting and incorruptible value. One easy application of this verse is: say something nice to everyone you meet today. Give them verbal jewelry, and bless them with spoken treasure that has lasting value.

And while you are thinking about saying nice things, don’t forget that what we say cuts both ways: Do you remember the nicest thing someone ever said to you? (Probably not) But I bet you remember the meanest. There are things that still come back to me from middle school and high school, hurtful words that I remember from over 45 years ago, sitting there still trying to hide the golden apples in my memory. So today, give someone words of encouragement that will stand atop all those old words of discouragement. Give them fresh shiny jewelry that sparkles from the corners of their minds. Speak something “fitly” today!

Jesus understood the value of words, too. He said “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” (Luke 21:33) So far (although it’s only been 2000 years) he is absolutely correct. He says that words are the one currency we handle here on earth that will mean something in eternity. What we say here, and how we feel about words will matter forever. “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:26) Get to know what Jesus says, and do not be ashamed of it. You might find that it’s worth far more than apples of gold in settings of silver.

A word fitly spoken can heal a heart broken,
And can feel like a gift while it offers a lift!
A word can be used to deliver tomfoolery,
Or it can be like some beautiful jewelry,
Meant to embellish, to bless, to adorn!
Such words are a gift that is meant to be worn!
It’s easy to give them; just try it, you’ll see
They are silver and gold you can give folks for free.

To buy my latest book, Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle edition, go to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Wisdom is Precious. If You Have Some, Share it With the Rest of Us!

“Then he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; Keep my commandments and live; Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding!” (Proverbs 3:4-5, NIV). Make a quick mental list of things important to you that were taught to you by someone else. The obvious things like reading, riding a bike, swimming, and driving a car come to mind… And then there are the subtle things like manners, values, appreciation, and humility: undoubtedly some aspect of all of those skills or behavior was taught to you by someone else. Having teachers makes an AMAZING difference in the quality of our lives, in our ability to solve problems, and in the opportunities that life brings our way. Say a quick prayer of thanksgiving for the people who have taught you the things you value the most.

Then think of what Solomon said: Apparently wisdom and understanding can be readily acquired—anybody can get them. And yet they seem to be in short supply all around us. It’s surprising that something so available to anyone can be so rare. Voltaire said “The thing about common sense is that it is not so common.” The same can be said about wisdom. While understanding involves learning the details and being able to grasp subject matter or content, Wisdom is a little more complex. It is mentioned 222 times in the Old Testament, and Jewish rabbis regarded it as a virtue emanating from God’s character. I’m thinking it was even more amazing. In Proverbs 8:22, Wisdom says, ““From everlasting I was established, from the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth.” He describes being present for all of creation, and says, “Then I was beside Him, as a master workman; And I was daily His delight, Rejoicing always before Him, Rejoicing in the world, His earth, And having my delight in the sons of men.” (Verses 30 and 31)

Hmmm… Wisdom was there from everlasting, from the beginning, was a master workman in creation, and delighted in the sons of men. John 1:1-2 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him…” To me, Wisdom sounds perfectly interchangeable with the Word. The Word=Jesus=Wisdom. Perhaps one of the reasons that wisdom seems so rare in our world today is that not very many people recognize its source or follow its teaching. How about you? What wise thing have you acquired lately? And what wisdom have you passed on to somebody else? Any of you have some wisdom you’d be willing to share? Think of your best wise saying and post it here!

How does wisdom come to be? The Bible offers it for free,
And says that it can be acquired by anybody so inspired.
If we just had a Holy Book where we could read and take a look
And gain the wisdom of the ages written there upon the pages!
There is a Book that you can read where wisdom gained is guaranteed,
Whose timeless truths will make you wise if you will exercise your eyes…
If you gain some wisdom there, then take a little time to share!
Just write for us a little note to share your favorite verse or quote:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Israel was Given a Mission, but the Temple didn’t Build Itself!

Solomon was given a Mission, ordained and blessed by the God of the universe. Since you’ve also been given a mission, perhaps it would be instructive to see what Solomon did!
“I intend, therefore, to build a temple for the Name of the Lord my God, as the Lord told my father David, when he said, ‘Your son whom I will put on the throne in your place will build the temple for my Name…’ When Hiram heard Solomon’s message, he was greatly pleased and said, “Praise be to the Lord today, for he has given David a wise son to rule over this great nation.” … The Lord gave Solomon wisdom, just as he had promised him. There were peaceful relations between Hiram and Solomon, and the two of them made a treaty. King Solomon conscripted laborers from all Israel—thirty thousand men. He sent them off to Lebanon in shifts of ten thousand a month, so that they spent one month in Lebanon and two months at home. Adoniram was in charge of the forced labor. Solomon had seventy thousand carriers and eighty thousand stonecutters in the hills, as well as thirty-three hundred foremen who supervised the project and directed the workers.” (1 Kings 5:5-16, NIV)

Wow, this was a pretty big construction project—as far as Israel was concerned, it was the biggest one of all time… God could have chosen David to build the temple, but he didn’t. Solomon was given a clear mission by God, and he went out committed vast amounts of resources, workers, and leaders to get it underway. He worked hard to fulfill his mission. It should be instructive to us that the Lord gave Solomon a job, and he then did everything he knew how to do to get it done. God could have just created a temple and set it right down in Jerusalem, but he gave that task to Solomon. The king could have waited for workers to appear miraculously, and for timber and stone to materialize, but he realized that God had put him where he was to have an impact on the world, and he applied himself to doing God’s work. He exercised his own wisdom and position in leveraging relationships and managing people, and he used all of his skill as king to serve God. He knew that he had been chosen by God to perform a task, and he believed that God had put him there to get it done. Here’s the point: Why are YOU where you are? What mission has God given you? How much have you committed your skill and resources to make it happen? We may not be building a temple, but we ARE a temple (I Corinthians 6:19-20), and we HAVE a mission (Matthew 28:19-20). There is something to be done that only you can do. The fabric of eternity is woven with millions of seemingly unrelated tasks that change the world for good, and not all of them get headlines. The small commissions matter just as much as the big ones in God’s economy, and He has chosen the weak things of this world to confound the mighty. Jesus told us to love each other, to love “the least of these”, and even to love our enemies. Who will you love today? God has a job for each of us to do. What will He do through you? It only remains for you, in Paul’s words (Philippians 2:12-13), to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to act to fulfill his good purpose.” Go. Fulfill.

 

God gave Solomon a mission: build a temple, fit for me;
Put it in the center of Jerusalem for all to see!
Solomon secured the workers, more than a hundred thousand men,
Working shifts in Lebanon to bring the cedars back again.
Everything was organized--the workers getting stone and wood,
And Solomon made certain they were doing everything they could.
See, God gave Solomon a mission, so he had to do his best;
He had lots to do, but this priority outstripped the rest.
No matter what transpired, he knew he had to get the Temple done:
God gave Solomon a mission--but he's not the only one.
Jesus gave us all a mission, there in Matthew twenty eight:
"Go and make disciples. I am with you. Don't procrastinate!"
God has given us the job of reaching out to every man;
I hope, like Solomon, that we are doing everything we can.

 

To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread