A Time and Place

If a man is lazy, the rafters sag; if his friends are idle, the house leaks.

A feast is made for laughter, and wine makes life merry, but money is the answer for everything.  Ecclesiastes 10: 18, 19.

 

Every time I read a passage of Scripture in recent years I question my first take on it.  I don’t trust my judgment on most first reactions which is why it takes me so long to make decisions sometimes.  Scripture especially gives me pause; meaning I don’t trust my grasp of the subject or my immediate understanding of the words.

While I get verse 18 readily enough, verse 19 leaves me a little baffled.  It’s that Eastern mindset/philosophical style which trips me up and holds the world at bay for a minute or hours and days, months and years.

Anyone with half a brain will get that laziness produces faulty function in possessions.  The roof is there to keep the sun, wind and rain out and the people protected for a time.  For thousands of year the roof was made of mud and reeds/straw, which must be renewed every so often to ensure it works properly.  Constant vigilance is needed to keep the roofing material from sagging or leaking during wet weather, which just means laziness as factor guarantees bad function.

So I get the first phrase quite easily, since Solomon just got through with making a point that a land is blessed only when its princes eat a proper time—for strength and not for drunkenness.  I understand what a feast is for—i.e. laughter and being merry—but not how money ties in as the answer for everything.  Oh, I understand the acerbic (almost) caustic sarcasm in that last assertion as truth, but I don’t get how it’s tied into this subject.

In that frame of mind I have to chew on this until something clears.

Unless…Solomon is saying feasting might make life happy for a time but it’s money that provides the feast.  Without the means to supply the feast the merry-making won’t happen.  Lazy people look for money at the end of rainbows instead of the ethic of daily work.  In order for them to get to the merry-making they need money but refuse to do the work necessary to provide it.  If the rulers of a country are unwilling to put in the work it takes to provide their own feast(s), they will tax their fellow countrymen into poverty to get the means to sustain their lavish lifestyle.  Such a method can go on for a time but eventually the country will begin to “sag” financially because no one can afford to bolster up the economy.

Money (I wanted to say “Monet” for some reason) is also the answer to a lazy person’s desires as well as to anyone who lives responsibly.  Oddly enough, though the former will do very little to collect the desired income to fund his/her workless ethic, without said income the roof sags and fields go unplanted.  Laziness produces a form of negotiation we don’t see in the industrious people.  For example, anyone doing their best to avoid work will work hard to manipulate everyone around them into doing all the jobs they loath.  They also tend to see others as a means to an end, believing themselves to be either above such things or incapable.  The latter sound humble but really they are unwilling to get their hands dirty.  The industrious people, on the other hand, will work along side anyone they seek to inspire.  You won’t see them afraid to get their hands dirty at all.

Yet I don’t believe God is just the god of industry because feasts are used in the Bible constantly to show His provision and goodwill.  Some of the more work-oriented people among us believe God is more like them whereas the get-happy-oriented folks disagree and shout joyfully He is more like them.

I believe He’s both.

I generally use the NIV for my texts.  The Amplified Version treats verse 19 like this [Instead of repairing the breaches, the officials] make a feast for laughter, serve wine to cheer life, and [depend on tax] money to answer for all of it.  Whereas the Contemporary English Bible sticks closer to the NIV and my point Eating and drinking make you feel happy, and money can buy everything you need.

The problem with parceling out verses is that we take them out of the subject from whence they came (like my Shakespearian usage here?) because they don’t fit linearly into our style of reasoning.  Whew!  That was a long sentence but it had to be said because it’s definitely something I believe strongly.

I’m more inclined to go with the Amplified’s contextual interpretation, even though the brackets usually mean added words for clarity.  My reasoning goes like this:  Every government official I’ve ever dealt with or heard about through the news tends to view more tax money as the answer to the problems they face instead of frugal use of what they already receive.  In this context we see misuse of those funds for the pleasure of the officials rather than governing the country.

I’m going to simplify this for myself and hopefully anyone reading the blog:  Laziness by its very nature is neglectful of what is vital.  For the sake of pleasure, the necessities of life are ignored just so that all the fun can go on.  Solomon made his case earlier about everything having a time which means he’s continuing that theme here.  There is a time to dance and celebrate but not everyday.  There is a time to feast and get a good buzz on but not when justice or the house is sagging.  We must be aware of our immediate world for the sake of not only function but down time.  What I mean is we can’t really rest with a quiet mind if we know things haven’t been done up to snuff.

At the same time, even the Law designates breaks starting weekly with the seventh day off and ending in several feasts per year which act as vacations within a holy context.  I believe we can learn something from the Mosaic Law in this regard.  Since most people who practice legalism seem to find the law so attractive as proof of their specific slant on life, it would stand to reason that these same people would find these truths as well.  But they don’t.  Instead they focus on nothing but the performance of rituals with almost a determined blind eye for the things of grace, mercy and justice found there as well.  The legalistic approach then sets off reactions in some of their more sensitive members and these people become what I’m going to call legalistic for grace.  The hardliners of the Law become the permissive “liberals” of the message of Christ.  Boundaries almost become taboo while remaining important in some ephemeral state.  And while it appears these people are on opposite sides, they accomplish the same thing:  namely defeating the whole life God designed and intended for us.  Unfortunately for the grace side they become “legalistic” about grace—or their reactive interpretation of it.

To me both the legalistic or grace-only approach amount to the same thing.  Both sides are lazy and refuse to do the work at building and maintaining their spiritual house as they should.  One thing I’ve definitely learned from construction is that the structural work has to be done right for the finish to function properly.  To build a house using only the functionality as a guideline rules out the aesthetic appreciation God designed in us as well.  Gravitating toward utilitarianism might be natural for some but it’s definitely dysfunctional in the long run for God not only made a world to sustain life He made it beautiful and pleasing as well.  A house needs walls to hold up the roof, but the paint can be colorful and the trim unnecessarily creative because God designed us with this option.  Those who live devoid of artistic input or surroundings rob themselves of the complete experience God desires for them.  Those who live only for the art will suffer unnecessarily because God desires for them to be safe and live within boundaries which offer a defined place.  Both are necessary for us to function at capacity.

The Law commands a time for rest, contemplation, celebration and feasting/fasting.  When we get out of balance we tend to gravitate to one side of the equation or the other.  God desires us to recognize we need both.

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