Gorging Ourselves

Dr. Ron J. Bigalke

French doctors were startled when they discovered the reason why a man was suffering from severe stomach pain. Doctors were amazed when they took an X-ray, because they discovered an enormously dense mass in the patient’s stomach that weighed 12 pounds. The mass was so heavy that it forced the man’s stomach down between his hips. Doctors were able to remove the badly damaged stomach and its contents, yet (sadly) the patient died from complications.

The doctors were astonished by what they found inside the man’s stomach, because it was not a cancerous tumor. The 62-year old man swallowed approximately 350 coins ($650 worth), in addition to various necklaces and needles. Doctors concluded that the patient suffered from a rare condition known as pica, which is a compulsion to swallow items that are not typically consumed as food.1

When reading such a report, most people would conclude that the man was insane. As the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine remarked, when the details of the Frenchman’s case were presented, the patient was obviously “mentally impaired.” Certainly, young children need to be cautioned that swallowing coins is dangerous, yet one can safely assume that no one reading this article is tempted to swallow coins, especially $650 worth. We can be thankful that pica is a rare condition.

Nevertheless, we could ask ourselves whether we have ever gorged ourselves with things that are dangerous, such as the tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values (i.e. materialism). The pursuit of money, possessions, and power as a primary goal of human existence is not only spiritually hazardous, but also it results in despair.

The intent of Ecclesiastes 6 is to initiate pause for examining our lives. Are we sacrificing much time from our family and God because we crave wealth (and the influence, power, and prestige associated with it)? Are you losing necessary rest for the sake of your work or other responsibilities? Are you working too much for earthly, material gain?

Ecclesiastes 5:10-20 already discussed the misuse of money, and how to have a proper perspective. Riches (money) are a primary theme of both Old and New Testaments. God initially created wealth as a component of His creation, over which humanity was given dominion (Gen 1:26). The dominion mandate remained after humanity’s Fall into sin (Gen 3; 9:1-3), yet sin greatly tainted the process. Money, therefore, is addressed in sixteen of the thirty-eight parables of Christ Jesus, and wealth is addressed more times in the New Testament than references to heaven and hell combined. Money is addressed five times more than prayer, and while more than five hundred verses mention faith and prayer, there are greater than two thousand verses that address money and possessions.

Why is there such an emphasis upon money in Scripture? The answer is, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21). The Bible reveals that how a person uses money and possessions may be the single greatest evidence of his or her spirituality or lack thereof. Ecclesiastes 6 demonstrates that meaning, in that life is not obtained in ease or the abundance of things.

Ready for Eternity
Scripture challenges our assumptions concerning wealth. Ecclesiastes 6:1-2 describe a person that has wealth, yet no capacity to enjoy it. Most people believe that it would be wonderful to have much wealth and the prestige associated with it; however, “riches and wealth and honor” are “an evil” when they cannot be enjoyed (vv. 1-2). When a person has success, yet does not recognize “God has given” it, that individual is unable to be appreciative (v. 2). This results in a painful observance by others and an even more sorrowful experience for oneself (vv. 3-6). Success can never truly satisfy, when one does not know how to enjoy it because he or she does not recognize the “good things” from the Lord God.

Someone who is poor yet wise, and who is satisfied by that which his or her eyes can see, is “better than what the soul desires” (i.e. the one whose soul is never satisfied) (vv. 7-9). Scripture exhorts us to celebrate and enjoy life as a precious gift from God (v. 10). Human beings can never change or dispute what the Lord God has ordained (vv. 10-11).

God created Adam and Eve, and thus He knows everything there is to know concerning all humanity. Moreover, the Lord created Adam and Eve to enjoy each other. They were supposed to cultivate the Garden of Eden, and to produce something through the work of their hands. Genesis 2:9a reveals, “Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.” God created humanity to glorify Him, which is by enjoying life and by delighting in the Lord forever.

True and abiding happiness can only be found in an authentic relationship with the Lord God. However, all manner of troubles arise by craving things independent of Him. When fallen humanity (whether believer or unbeliever) imagines what is satisfying, true happiness is never obtained. To find authentic satisfaction means living a life of self-denial; not as an impossible ideal, but as a practical necessity. Jesus said, “‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). Self-denial is not merely the outlook believers adopt in the conversion experience; it is the posture and pursuit of the entire Christian life.

Sin is fundamentally an expression of discontent with the Lord God (and in that sense can be related to the first sin in the Garden). As opposed to receiving and rejoicing in God as the paramount gift, fallen humanity foolishly pursues contentment in created things (cf. Rom 1:18-25). When the Lord Jesus returns for His church to “bring us to God” (1 Pet 3:18), to a great extent He will even be saving believers from themselves. Similar to a child playing with matches, an addict with his or her dependencies, or a wealthy person satiated with greed, fallen humanity does not know how to deny self. Sinners continue to gorge themselves on things imagined to satisfy, yet which only make life worse. Unsurprisingly, the Lord Jesus said—without any uncertainty—to anyone who would even consider following Him, “he must deny himself.”

God created human life for enjoyment; not so that people could temporarily hoard that which is ephemeral (cf. Matt 24:35; 1 Cor 7:31; 2 Pet 3:10; 1 John 2:17). Happiness can never be obtained with material things, which is an unalterable truth because one “cannot dispute with him who is stronger” (Eccl 6:10). Whether one is—foolish or wise, poor or wealthy, young or older—the name “man” [humanity] has already been given, and thus it is impossible for the created to “dispute” with the Creator.

Materialism is a form of secularism (a way of life and thought concerned only with the world, and opposed to thinking in terms of what is sacred or spiritual) that has even influenced people who do not explicitly reject sacred or spiritual matters. Materialism expresses itself in people’s lives through an insatiable desire for bodily comforts and worldly pleasures, and typically is focused upon money, possessions, and things of the moment rather than spiritual values. Materialism is the inevitable consequence of the failure to love God more than anything else. For this reason, Jesus cautioned, “‘For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36; cf. 1 John 2:15-17).

People who are solely dependent upon possessions—in addition to merely human material, philosophical, and scientific interpretations of realities—have made reason their god, and such dependency can only lead to damnation and ruin (cf. Ps 14:1). Scripture dismisses worldly wisdom (and materialism as its corollary) as futile and meaningless (Eccl 1:12-18; 2:1-11, 17-26; 1 Cor 2:6-8; James 3:13-18). A person who loves the Lord God and affirms the authoritative revelation of the Bible, does not perceive any contradiction between philosophical or scientific truths and biblical truths, because God’s truth is all truth (John 1:3-9, 14; 8:32; 14:6; 1 John 1:5-6). God is the foundation of knowledge and wisdom, and thus genuine intelligence and understanding will lead to the Lord and His holy, inspired Word.

Society consists of those who believe in God and those who do not; yet it is incumbent for all people to live together peacefully. Religion provides ethical and social values that affect people in their private and public lives, and thus constitutes a basis for responsible living. The Bible exhorts Christians who encounter materialism and secularism to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matt 5:13-15), which is to “‘Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good words, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (v. 16). Authentic, effective, and practical Christianity is proven by one’s manner of living, which is not to be materialistic or secular; rather, the believer is to demonstrate love for both God and one’s neighbor (Matt 22:37-40).

Ecclesiastes 6 concludes with two rhetorical questions: (1) asking, “who knows what is good” for his or her life; and, (2) what will occur on earth when they are gone? The queries demonstrate human ignorance, and thus the answer is obviously “no one.” The simple truth, according to the Bible, is that no one knows what is best in this vain life of shadows (v. 12). All that is known with certainty is that those who know God as Lord and Savior will experience absolute peace in His presence (Luke 16:19-31).

Compared to God’s existence, the lives of human beings are “like a shadow.” When they reach an end, one certainly hopes to impart an enduring legacy; yet there are no guarantees, for all is subject to God’s sovereignty. The exclusive choice is to be happy or miserable by recognizing that “many words...increase futility” (Eccl 6:11). God reveals that He has created everything, and thus (ultimately) only He can make a person happy. Foolishness would be to think that happiness is derived from things. Therefore, in the will of God, be certain to make the most of today’s blessings and opportunities, and then you will be ready for eternity. 

1 Associated Press, “Hundreds of Coins Found in French Patient’s Belly” [article online] [NBC News, updated 18 February 2004, accessed 19 April 2018] available from http://www.nbcnews.com/id/4304525/ns/health-health_care/t/hundreds-coins-foundin-french-patients-belly).

Midnight Call - 07/2018

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