This year Bill Gates weighs in as only the world’s second wealthiest person. His personal worth is $53 billion. Carlos Slim Helu beat him out by a nose, a mere $500 million. Warren Buffet staggered in at a paltry third place, earning only $47 billion this year.
With that much money, there is nothing Gates and Buffet need. They are not losing sleep over the recession the way we do. They do not have to drive on balding tires, climb under the sink to fix a leak, or worry about their kid’s future. They want for nothing!
But in rock ‘n’ roller Bono’s words, they still haven’t found what they are looking for. Is this why both branched out and begun using much of their time, energy, and money in philanthropic ways? Gates started The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000 and recently, with Buffet, challenged other billionaires to give away half of their wealth. Outside of being good, generous people, why would they feel the need to make even more of a difference in the world than they have already?
“Unlike the animals, who seem quite content to simply be themselves, we humans are always looking for ways to be other than what we find ourselves to be,” writes Eugene Peterson in The Message in his introduction to “Ecclesiastes.”
Solomon, one of the richest men in the world in his time, said it this way, “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.
TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
2 Corinthians 6:1-13: Paul’s main claim to fame is that he was a formidable theologian. But Paul also had a heart. Many times in his letters he expresses his love for the people he worked with and ministered to. “We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians,” he wrote, “and opened wide our hearts to you.”
Obviously, for Paul the gospel is as much about relationship as about information. The two cannot be separated.
Paul was also a poet. 1 Corinthians 13 is poetry straight from the heart of God. In today’s passage Paul describes his love for the Corinthians poetically: “through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown . . . ,” Paul expresses theological truth dripping in love and encased in poetry, what a concept!
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
As I read today’s selection in Ecclesiastes, I pictured Solomon in a white lab coat, holding pen and clipboard, surrounded by test tubes and steaming beakers, with beautiful women holding piles of money in trays. Strange, I know, but this first section reads to me like a report from poetic researcher, who has set out to discover the meaning of life. Solomon has tested it all: “money, sex, power, adventure, and knowledge” and found it all wanting (Peterson, The Message). Now he is filing his report. “All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”
My sister-in-law once tossed me a very hard question. “Is it eternally profitable?” she asked about some activity I was about to engage in.
That is Solomon’s question too. Then he leaves us dangling as to the answer. Solomon tells us that without God giving meaning to any and every aspect of our lives, “all things are wearisome, more than one can say.” But he does not tell us how to add God’s meaning to our daily routines.
I’m glad he doesn’t. It’s too crucial and complicated a question for a human to answer. I believe Solomon–and God–intended to leave us swinging in the wind. Because, only in our fruitless chasing and not finding, might we eventually run straight into the arms of God. “He [God] also set eternity in [our] hearts,” Solomon writes.
That’s why two of the richest, most powerful men in the world (Gates and Buffet) are still striving to make a difference, and as Bono and U2 tell us, still haven’t found what they are looking for.
Because it’s not here. Whatever eternity is, it’s too big, too beautiful, too grand to be contained in “money, sex, power, adventure, and knowledge.” Whatever eternity is, can only be found in the hand and heart of God.
- What do these for passages share in common?
- Can theology be expressed in poetry? Why or why not?
- What passage spoke most to you?
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