3. Wisdom: God vs the World
When people are seeking truth, they are often seeking out a form of wisdom. It becomes a matter of choosing the basis of their faith, and this may mean looking at different philosophies and choosing the one that appears to speak truth.
The book of Ecclesiastes is a search for truth and meaning. In this case, the writer sought the truth in many areas. In chapter 2, this included pleasure and possessions.
Ecclesiastes 2:1.: I said in my heart, "Come now, I will test you with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasure"; but surely, this also was vanity. 2. I said of laughter -- "Madness!"; and of mirth, "What does it accomplish?" 3. I searched in my heart how to gratify my flesh with wine, while guiding my heart with wisdom, and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the sons of men to do under heaven all the days of their lives. 4. I made my works great, I built myself houses, and planted myself vineyards. 5. I made myself gardens and orchards, and I planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. NKJV
In many ways, this is one of the strongest ambitions of people throughout the world. Society is geared around people wanting to improve their position and gain more goods and happiness. In Ecclesiastes, however, the long term effect is considered, and it is found that there really isn't profit in this ideal
Ecclesiastes 2:11.: Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done And on the labor in which I had toiled; And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun. NKJV
The same idea is expressed later in the book, when the value of present pleasure and mirth is evaluated.
Ecclesiastes 7:4.: The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, But the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. 5. It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise Than for a man to hear the song of fools. 6. For like the crackling of thorns under a pot, So is the laughter of the fool. This also is vanity. NKJV
Pleasure may be pleasurable, but from a distance it can appear very empty, - “like the crackling of thorns under a pot.”
Serving the Creature
The book of Romans looks into an example of cause and effect in people looking for truth in pleasure. The apostle Paul starts the section by considering the people who suppress “the truth”,
Rom 1:18.: For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, NKJV
Paul then goes on to justify the wrath, showing that the people are without excuse,
Rom 1:19.: because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, NKJV
This is stating that God can be seen through his creation, so the excuse is not about a lack of knowledge of the existence of God. In fact the did know God,
Rom 1:21.: because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. NKJV
They knew God, but they didn't glorify Him. Instead of glorifying the truth of God, they looked for truth in their own wisdom,
Rom 1:22.: Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23. and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man -- and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. NKJV
Their own wisdom had lead them away from the truth of God through pride. There had been a choice here, and the people had chosen to find truth in themselves. God's reaction to this was to allow them to have the consequences of their own actions,
Rom 1:24.: Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25. who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. NKJV
The passage goes on to show the level of depravity the people sank to as a result of this. They became,
Rom 1:30.: backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, NKJV
Now the cause of this was twofold:
- They chose to serve the creature rather than the creator. (ie themselves)
- The creator allowed them to suffer the natural consequences of the decision.
The Choice - Luke 16
Luke 16 presents a parable that shows that we are given the opportunity to choose what truth we would like to live by. This choice also had consequences attached to it, however.
Luke 16:1.: He also said to His disciples: "There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. 2. "So he called him and said to him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.' 3. "Then the steward said within himself, 'What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg. NKJV
A situation is presented here where the steward is in a difficult position. Whatever the outcome, he looks like finding himself in a poorer position. He made a decision, however, to cut his losses.
Luke 16:4.: 'I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.' NKJV
The plan here was to use his present position to gain good faith among other people. By making friends, he could salvage some of his livelihood.
Luke 16:5.: "So he called every one of his master's debtors to him, and said to the first, 'How much do you owe my master?' 6. "And he said, 'A hundred measures of oil.' So he said to him, 'Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.' 7. "Then he said to another, 'And how much do you owe?' So he said, 'A hundred measures of wheat.' And he said to him, 'Take your bill, and write eighty.' NKJV
At this point, the steward had given discount debt clearances before he lost his position with the master. While not stated, this is likely to have been a dishonest dealing, and made the steward even more unjust. This is not the way that things are described, however,
Luke 16:8.: "So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light. NKJV
Instead of being angry at the steward for a greater loss, he commended him for his shrewd dealing. This seems a little strange, until the context of the parable is revealed. The master is talking at a deeper level than the superficial loss of the debts. Jesus shows this as he makes his recommendations,
Luke 16:9.: "And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. 10. "He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. NKJV
Even this seems odd. Jesus is here making the recommendation that his listeners associate with the unrighteous. The recommendation, however, is based on the assumption of failure. What he is saying is that if you are going to fail, you might as well do it with style. The important point here is that it is no use being a partial believer. Such a person misses out on the glory of God, and may also miss out on the pleasures of the world.
Of course, a wavering person on hearing this, is going to feel uncomfortable with the idea of completely abandoning the belief, and is so forced into thinking about the situation. Later, the message is spelled out simply,
Luke 16:13.: "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." NKJV
It is a choice between two masters. These masters represent the source and view of truth. A person can either see God as truth, or otherwise the concept of truth comes from worldly views.
This parable shows that the current pleasures are a true reward for seeking the pleasures of this world. Following the truth of God is a fair choice, because both sides have their rewards. The wicked who followed their own ways in Romans 1 found pleasure in what they did, and essentially received their reward. It was a mixed reward, containing pleasure, mirth, violence and death.
We have an option of who we will serve. It can be the truth of God, or we can search for our truth elsewhere. The book of Romans spells out the reward for each option.
Rom 6:16.: Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? NKJV
Each of the options has a natural conclusion, and this is the reward for that option. In choosing to find truth without God, the reward is quite clear - we see that in our everyday lives, and it includes all of the mirth, depravity and death that can be seen. In contrast, following God's Truth, with faith in His salvation, offers far more,
Rom 6:22.: But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. NKJV