Lenten Reflections: Dust to Dust
Friday, March 15, 2013Ecclesiastes 5: 8-20
Mark 9: 2-13
By Marilyn J. Seiber
I love the lyrical reality of Ecclesiastes. In simple yet compelling words, the writer hits you with life’s truths, the reality of human nature that we all recognize but often choose to ignore. Verse 8 starts with, “If you witness…the oppression of the poor and the denial of right and justice, do not be surprised at what goes on….” The question is not do we witness it, but do we think about why it happens and whether we should “pass on by” or do something about it.
Frankly, I am always filled with admiration for people who tirelessly work on behalf of the poor, seeking justice through fair and affordable housing, food pantries, equal education, children’s safety, and labor and employment fairness. Seeking justice in God’s world should be job one, but so often we are so busy, so distracted.
Then Ecclesiastes gets to the heart of so many problems—money and the constant desire for it, which creates rampant consumerism and a "gotta have it" society. The writer does get into Economics 101 and the multiplier effect (“When riches multiply, so do those who live off them”), but that is not the central point. The central truth of the possible effects of wealth and riches is that no matter how much you have, it is never enough. Worrying about money and riches brings stress and emptiness, says the writer. “Gnawing anxiety and great vexation are his lot.” He sees a “singular evil”—“ a man hoards wealth to his own hurt, and then that wealth is lost through an unlucky venture.” Stock market, gambling? Wealth can be gained and used for good or evil. The chase for wealth can bring a whole society down—witness the financial crisis and great recession. Was the gain by the few worth it to them? “You can’t take it with you” is the saying. And Ecclesiastes says, “he came from the womb of mother earth, so must he return, naked as he came.” Dust to dust.
This should make us re-evaluate our lives and what is important, what brings happiness, peace, and contentment. We must learn to appreciate our lives, count our blessings, and work to do right in the world “throughout the brief span of life that God has allotted.” If we do this, says Ecclesiastes, “[we] will not dwell overmuch upon the passing years; for God fills [our] time with joy of heart.”
Prayer: God, fill our hearts with joy and give us the wisdom to work for right and justice, to appreciate the gifts you have given us, and to share these gifts with others.
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