Happy Are Those with Wise Leaders

“Woe to you, O land, when your kind is a child,and your princes feast in the morning! Happy are you, O land, when your kind is the son of the nobility, And your princes feast at the proper time, for strength, and not for drunkenness.” Ecclesiastes 10:16-17

Here we find three important qualities of good leaders:

1.     Experience – It is better to have leaders who are not young and inexperienced (“a child”) but who have the proper background for their responsibilities (“nobility”).

2.     Wisdom in timing – Timing is critical in effective leadership. There is a “proper time” to do things.

3.     Right motivation and purpose – A leader’s reason and purpose for doing what he does is important, even if a particular action is right. It is possible to do the right thing for the wrong reason (“for strength and not for drunkenness”).

Getting Set Free From Myself

“The wise heart will know the proper time and the just way. For there is a time and a way for everything, although man’s trouble lies heavy on him” (Eccl. 8:5-6).

Right now, my trouble lies heavy on me. And in the midst of my trouble, I pray for a wise heart. I want to know the proper time and the just way in this. I have despaired at times. But I have been comforted by remembering that God knows what is happening, he has allowed what is happening, and he can enable me to serve and please him in the midst of it. And, although I have missed this point up till now, he has allowed this trouble to lie heavy on me for my sake, so that he can take me deeper, draw me closer, make me stronger, open my eyes wider. How can I doubt his gentle, faithful care for me? And so I want to allow this trial to drive me to him, to lean more heavily on him, to learn to let him live in and through me.

And that is when I realize how much of my life is lived in my own thinking and power. I get along pretty well without him. But pretty well (according to my own or the worlds evaluation) falls far, far below God’s mighty power and eternally outpouring of joy and fullness.

“Thank you, Lord. Yes, I thank you, Lord, for this trial. Thank you for freeing me from myself and my small thinking and my mediocre living. Thank you for pushing out of my limited self by giving me more than I can handle. What a freedom!”

The Wandering of the Appetite

“All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied. . . . Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the appetite: this also is vanity and a striving after the wind.”Eccl 6:7, 9

There has to be something more to life than working to have food so that one can satisfy his hunger. He will be hungry again and must work all the time to eat. The wandering of the appetite is vanity. Chasing after our whimsical desires is like chasing the wind. Our appetites are never satisfied. What a shallow, unthinking, meaningless existence. And, sadly, how common!

Better is the sight of the eyes, the conscious, careful awareness that allows one to make decisions based on more than his appetites. I don’t have to chase my appetites. I am not an animal. I can deliberately choose to do something that I do not want to do. I am able to deny myself for a greater cause. I am able to see past the meaningless, unending, empty, and impossible aim of pleasing myself in the way the world does.

It is not God’s purpose for us to be miserable. And we certainly should enjoy eating, drinking, and working, for this is our lot (Eccl 5:18). It is the temporal vanity of finding our full meaning in enjoying this life that we must escape. There is something greater.

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

What is this path of life? What frees us from this world and enslavement to our appetites? Faith in the atoning death and resurrection of Christ, which breaks the penalty and power of sin and reconcile me to God, who is life himself. “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6).

"He who loves money will not be satisfied with money. . . .Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep."

Ecclesiastes 5:10, 12

The Benefits of Local Government

I was recently trying to explain to a friend of mine some of the basic principles upon which I base my philosophy of government. I was amazed to read a verse this morning (which I don’t remember reading before) that seems to explain one of these principle very well.

“If you see in a province the oppression of the poor and the violation of justice and righteousness, do not be amazed at the matter, for the high official is watched by a higher, and there are yet higher ones over them” (Eccl 5:8).

Solomon connects the oppression of the poor and the violation of justice and righteousness with multi-layered bureaucracy that places power further and further from the people. It has been observed throughout history that power has the tendency to corrupt those who have it. Lord Acton wrote, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” His conclusion is that the extent of the power is proportionate to the corruption.

How do we construct a government that reduces the probability of this tendency playing out? By allowing as much power as possible to be held by as many as possible as close to the people as possible. All I’m really talking about here is an emphasis on local government. This gives ownership, responsibility, and accountability to the people and those who lead them. It means that leaders are leading in their own communities so they have a vested interest. The well being of their lives, and that of their family and friends is directly affected by their leadership. And they are directly accountable to the people they are leading.

I would not argue, thought, that there is no need for centralized government and I acknowledge that there are certain matters that are best dealt with at that level. Some believe that an emphasis on local government with more leaders than less is inefficient. I have two responses to this argument. First, I believe local government is much more effective in preventing the oppression of the poor and the violation of justice and righteousness, which is more important than whatever efficiency may be in mind. Second, I would argue that the efficiency of a centralized government is an illusion. The further government gets from the people that it is supposed to be serving, the more resources are required to maintain it.

Two Are Better Than One, part 1

"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken."Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

As "the Preacher" continues through his list of vanities, he seems to make a few positive observations along the way. Here he explains that two people working and living together are better than one. There appear to be four reasons given for this. First, “they have a good reward for their toil” (v. 9). Two people working together produce more than one. This seems obvious by simple addition. But I think more is in view here. Two people working together will produce more than the same two people working individually. Couples, packs, teams, and communities have a dynamic that is encouraging and motivating.

One reason they produce more is also the next and separate reason two are better than one: “If they fall, one will lift up his fellow." Two people working together are better than one because they help one another in weakness and failure. People who work together can complement and fill each other out. Sometimes our individual weaknesses and failure become our destruction. But not if someone is there to help us. It’s like a safety net.

This idea is also tied into the work. Its not just the fallen person who would suffer, but the work. In the context of the mission of making disciples, this is a critical aspect to Christian community. It is not an individual task; we are to work together to accomplish it. And so we are called to exhort, correct, restore, forgive, strengthen, encourage, love, pray for, and bear one another up.

There is one other important dynamic to such teamwork: willingness to be helped. “Well, of course, why would anyone not want help?” PRIDE! We don’t even want to admit we have fallen and need help. Independence and self-sufficiency is the virtue of our culture that makes us weak.