Keeping a sense of perspective

Today’s readings are Ecclesiastes 11, and Matt 22:15-46.

Depending on the version of the Bible you are reading, you may find the early verses of Chapter 11 rendered quite differently. If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, compare verses 1 and 2 in a few different versions.

Some translations (eg KJV, RSV, and ESV) talk about casting bread upon the waters.

Cast your bread upon the waters,
    for you will find it after many days.
Give a portion to seven, or even to eight,
    for you know not what disaster may happen on earth.

– Ecclesiastes 11:1-2, English Standard Version

The meaning may not be immediately apparent so some translations (e.g. NIV, The Good News Translation) have interpreted these verses as investment advice for profit. The NIV even adds in a heading to that effect.

Invest in Many Ventures

Ship your grain across the sea;
    after many days you may receive a return.
Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight;
    you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.

– Ecclesiastes 11:1-2, New International Version

On the other hand, some versions (e.g. The Living Bible, The Message) have very explicitly interpreted these verses as being about generosity.
Give generously, for your gifts will return to you later. Divide your gifts among many, for in the days ahead you yourself may need much help.

– Ecclesiastes 11:1-2, The Living Bible

I have always read Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 as speaking about generosity. While I’m no Hebrew scholar or expert on Ecclesiastes, I tend to feel that this view fits more with the overall tenor of the vanity or meaninglessness with which the author describes life and its pursuits under the sun. And when we view it in that light, perhaps it doesn’t matter either way.

Indeed the book’s relentless theme continues through the second half of Chapter 11 as it builds to the coming culmination in Chapter 12. In effect we are being pounded with

“by all means enjoy life, but make no mistake, life is short, and in the end you will meet your maker — are you ready?”.

Interestingly enough, it’s that same sense of perspective that Jesus has in mind as the Pharisees try to trap Jesus asking him about paying taxes to Caesar.

“By all means do what’s necessary in this world, but make no mistake, life is short, and in the end you will meet your maker — are you living with Him in mind?”.

It can be easy to read the exchanges with the Pharisees and the Sadducees with glee at how Jesus out-smarts them time and again, and cheer Him on as the hero—and there is nothing wrong with that—What a hero! As Matthew records, everyone was amazed.

It’s good though to make sure we’re not so busy cheering Him on that we miss the “kingdom perspective” in his answers, and perhaps miss whether we’re more like the Pharisees than like Jesus. As you read the rest of Matthew 22 keep looking for the Jesus’ kingdom perspective in each interchange.

His answer to the Sadducees in verse 29 is prefaced with why they are wrong:

You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God

Unless we seek to know the Scriptures and the power of God, we will not be able to keep a kingdom sense of perspective. My prayer today is that God will help me see the world and live my life with that kingdom sense of perspective, in a way that is real and grounded, and makes a difference.

May He bless you as you seek to know the Scriptures and the power of God.

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3 thoughts on “Keeping a sense of perspective

  1. Thx James. I too like the way the Message puts it:
    Be generous: Invest in acts of charity.Charity yields high returns.
    Don’t hoard your goods; spread them around.
    Be a blessing to others. This could be your last night.

    For me at least that is part of a kingdom perspective.

    Also I like verse 5. We sometimes think we know what God is up to. In general sense from scripture I suppose we do (holding the world together, calling people to himself, empowering the church). Then we make observations of our world and maybe even ourselves and we find it difficult to understand. God’s sovereignty is a wonderful comfort but also perplexing!

  2. Thank you James for your thoughtful reminder especially for linking the kingdom perspective for us and the reminder that prayer is what empowers us to live in that perspective.

  3. Thank you James. Keeping things in perspective can only be done when we look at life thru the lens of Gods Word. That’s is why its so important for the Christian to know his/her Bible. Even with the crisis that is happening in the Middle East God is in control. What a wonderful opportunity to reap a harvest with all these disillusioned Muslims leaving their countries for Europe and the world. Many have given up on Allah and are looking for answers as they see the destruction that’s has been caused. What a harvest field for Christians to be praying into. God wants these hurting people to be included in His family. If our eyes take this type of focus our hearts will be able to pray for God to send out the workers into this ripe field. May there be sufficient workers. May we love them well.

    Matthew 9:37-38. Then He said to His disciples,”The harvest is indeed plentiful, but the laborers are few. So pray to the Lord of the harvest to force out and thrust laborers into His harvest – Amplified Bible

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