" 'But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, "We don't want this man to be our king." 'He was made king, however, and returned home.' " (Luke 19:14-15)
Although Jesus is telling a story about the nobleman who went away to become king — leaving money with his servants to invest — He includes this detail about his other "subjects." The citizens he was to rule didn't want him in office.
Since the parable is clearly about Jesus — who was about to die, be resurrected, and return to heaven before eventually returning to Earth as king forever — these subjects are clearly the Jewish religious leaders. Jesus' story showed that they rejected Him and that He would become king, anyway.
Many people reject Christ as Lord, but that doesn't stop Him from being the Lord of all. His poll numbers and approval ratings don't matter. There will be no election by the people. He will rule and reign forever. At the end of the story, the question will be, "Who was truly living by faith in the king?"
Think: Why would anyone object to the kingship of Jesus? What is the evidence in a person's life that he or she believes Jesus is the rightful king?
Pray: Thank God that He does what He will, even when some of us object. Ask Him to help you to continue to put yourself under His will.
Do: In a few sentence, write your best understanding of a king's job description.
"A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. 'Put this money to work,' he said, 'until I come back.' " (Luke 19:12-13)
We're going to spend this week listening to Jesus tell a story, a parable. It's one He told on or the day or so before what we call the Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday.
Jesus told this story at this moment for a few reasons. One was that many of His followers expected Him to become the King of Israel right away. He wanted to help them see that, like the king in his story, he would have to go away first and return later as the king.
He also wanted them to see that they had work to do while He was gone. If they really believed in His kingdom, they would eventually remember this story and be challenged to make the best use of their lives after His death and resurrection.
Think: If you had been following Jesus for years, expecting Him to overthrow the Romans and become the next king of Israel, how disappointing do you think it would have been when He died on a cross? How hard would it have been to keep living for Him after He was gone?
Pray: Thank God for Jesus' parable about the "ten minas." Ask Him to help you to understand and learn from it this week.
Do: Read in Luke 19:1-11 what happened between Jesus and a tax collector named Zacchaeus just before Jesus told this story.
"Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work -- this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart." (Ecclesiastes 5:19-20)
Let's be honest. Ninety-some percent of us reading these words would have to admit that on any kind of a global scale — even in the middle of our current economic mess — God has given us wealth and possessions. Are you willing to enjoy the ones you have?
Thousands of years later, the Apostle Paul wrote a chapter in 1 Timothy much like this one in Ecclesiastes. He said this: "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment."
Someone told me recently that one of the secrets to living with and without money is to learn to "want what you've got." Play with your toys, don't just collect them. Don't resent today's work; accept that this is what God has for you today. Be great at it and/or have great fun doing it. It's His gift to you.
Think: What are the top 5 things you want out of life that you already have? When was the last time you admitted that God gave you those things to enjoy because He loves you?
Pray: Ask God to help you to put all of your hope in Him. Thank Him that He richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
Do: Read 1 Timothy 6:6-10 and 17-19. Notice the similarities between what we've read from Ecclesiastes 5 this week and what Paul had to say about money and contentment. Also catch what Paul wrote about sharing our money.
"Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him — for this is his lot." (Ecclesiastes 5:18)
We've spent this whole week listening to the richest, wisest man who ever lived beat up on money. At least, that's what it sounded like. Actually, he was beating up on money as a goal or money as an answer or money as a reason for getting out of bed in the morning.
But his conclusions today and tomorrow are almost as surprising as his complaints. He doesn't tell us to be done with money, to take a vow of poverty. He doesn't tell us, as Jesus told the rich man, to sell all we have and give the money to the poor and follow Him.
Instead, he tells us to make a choice to be satisfied in whatever moment we find ourselves. Spend some of the money you have for food, and eat the food. Be satisfied with the food. Go do your work, whatever that is today, even if it is very hard and life is very short. And be satisfied with doing it well. And let that be enough for right now.
Lower your expectations for money and notice what a satisfying moment this one can be. More tomorrow.
Think: How many of your moments do you spend feeling satisfied with what you have and what you're doing? Do you think you can choose to be satisfied in any given moment, even if you don't have everything you wish you had? How does being a Christian help make that even more possible?
Pray: Thank God for the moment you're in right now, and ask Him to help you to be satisfied with what He's given you to do in this moment. Repeat.
Do: Spend the next few days noticing how often you choose to be satisfied with the moment you're in and how often you reject satisfaction in the moment because you don't have what you want.
"Naked a man comes from his mother's womb, and as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labor that he can carry in his hand. This too is a grievous evil: As a man comes, so he departs, and what does he gain, since he toils for the wind?" (Ecclesiastes 5:15-16)
Solomon's number one reason that making money is a lousy life goal is so well-known it's become a cliché: "You can't take it with you."
Even if you avoid all the other ways in which money disappoints — taxes, no such thing as "enough," the high cost of owning stuff, the worry of owning stuff, the pain of spending, and sudden economic catastrophe — nobody gets by this one. Everybody dies naked and broke.
Why spend a lifetime hoping and wishing and scheming and working your tail off for money if when the lifetime ends, you just leave it all behind? And we still need money, so how should we work for it and think about it? Solomon will finally give us some positive answers to those questions starting tomorrow.
Think: The fact that everyone dies can either make life feel pointless or give the time we have on this side of heaven all that more meaning. Which do you feel more often? How does being a Christian change your response to the shortness of our lives?
Pray: Ask God to keep reminding you when you need it that money will always fail to truly satisfy you.
Do: Make a quick list of 3 things you can do this week that will still matter after you've died. (Note: This is not a trick question.)
"I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner, or wealth lost through some misfortune, so that when he has a son there is nothing left for him." (Ecclesiastes 5:13-14)
Next up on Solomon's fail list: Money is fickle. People pile it up and pile it up hoping that money will give them security, take care of them when they're old, or keep them from having to worry.
Instead, a percentage of the rich can't bring themselves to spend any of it even when they really need it. Some misers with millions in the bank die from malnutrition or diseases that could have easily been cured if they'd been willing to pay a doctor to look at them.
An even larger group of wealthy folks experience some sudden economic disaster. They turn around and notice all their piles have blown away overnight, either from their own bad choices or something completely beyond their control. All it takes is one financial catastrophe to prove that money can't be trusted to provide what we really need.
Think: Are you ever tempted to think that if you or your family just had enough money, your problems would be over? Why do you think cash is so undependable?
Pray: Ask God to help you to believe that money is not a good place to look for security or peace of mind.
Do: If they're willing to talk about it, ask someone with a retirement account (like your parents or grandparents) how many dollars disappeared from that account in the last year or so.
"The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep." (Ecclesiastes 5:12)
Maybe you read this verse and think, "I don't really need all that much sleep; I wouldn't mind some more abundance to keep me up at night." Most of us would sell our sleep for dollars. Eventually, many of us do.
But Solomon's point here is that money and cool stuff fails in another way: Taking care of it all takes time, attention, energy, and often worry. It's not just that we lose sleep; wealth can also steal our peace of mind.
When we're hungry for money or the stuff it can buy, we're hoping for exactly the opposite of that, aren't we? "If I just had [fill in blank], then I'd be content." Solomon shows us the lie: "Having" often swipes the contentment we thought we were buying and gives us a maintenance list instead.
Is your next purchase worth it?
Think: Have you ever heard anyone talk about having lots of stuff as though it were a burden? Have you ever heard anyone talk about being happier back in the day when they were more broke? Why would anyone say those things?
Pray: Ask God to help you to trust Him, not stuff, to bring you peace of mind. Ask Him to give you the courage not to expect money or things to bring you contentment.
Do: Do you have an abundance? Take a quick inventory of everything you personally own. Put a check mark next to anything you have to continue to take care of or replace or protect.