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Lesson 12: The Way of the Wind *

Introduction: If you look at the "self-help" shelf in the bookstore you will find books on getting along with your co-workers, living well and getting rich. Solomon has been giving us advice on being good workers and getting along with others. Would God also give us directions on how to get rich - given Jesus' comment in Matthew 19:24 that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into heaven? Surprise! This week Solomon seems to be giving us rules for getting rich. Let's dive into our study of the Bible and see if you agree!

  1. Investing

    1. Read Ecclesiastes 11:1. Is Solomon talking about throwing food in the water?

      1. Have you ever thrown real bread into the water? (I've done it when feeding ducks. I can tell you it does not float for long.)

      2. If Solomon is not talking about food, what do you think is meant by "bread?" Why would he call it "bread" if he means something else? (Bread is essential for life. When I was a young man, "bread" was another name for money. I think Solomon is saying that you should cast out something valuable, something that you need to live.)

      3. Why would you be casting something essential into the water?

        1. Read Revelation 17:15. Does this text help us to understand the meaning of "water" as used by Solomon?(We are all familiar with the idea of throwing something that floats into the water and seeing it eventually float back our way. Solomon may be painting a word picture to help us understand the process that he is advocating. At a deeper level, I think Solomon intends to use water to mean "people, multitudes.")

      4. Let's put our conclusions together. "Give to people what is essential for life and after many days it will return to you." What do you think this means?

        1. Is it business advice? If so, do you think it is true?

        2. Is it advice for charitable giving? If so, do you think it is true?

        3. Is it advice for interpersonal relationships? If so, do you think it is true? (I think it is all of the above. I see all of this advice being proven to be true in each of these circumstances.)

        4. How helpful is it to be selfish, if you want to get ahead in life?

    2. Read Ecclesiastes 11:2. Is this a continuation of the thoughts in Ecclesiastes 11:1?

      1. If yes, how would you apply this to business? ("Casting your bread" would be to invest. Solomon suggests that investing your money in different ways ("diversifying your portfolio") helps you to avoid disaster.)

        1. Explain how you understand that to be true? (Solomon has been arguing that we cannot tell the future. If that is true, then you need to invest in all sorts of different things because you cannot predict which will be successful next year or the next decade. When I was young, because of my feeling about "end times" coming soon, I invested only in gold. This was a very poor practice. When gold did well, I did well. When disaster struck gold, it struck me too.)

      2. Would this advice apply to helping others? (If you help lots of other people, you may find at some point they are in a position to help you.)

      3. Why would Solomon choose to use the numbers seven and eight? (Seven is often used as the perfect or complete number in the Bible. Solomon suggests be diligent in completely diversifying. Go beyond "perfect" diversity - if that is possible.)

    3. Read Ecclesiastes 11:3. What kind of advice is King Solomon now giving us? Is this weather advice? Logging advice? Or, is he still on the topic of investing and helping others? (He is still on the same topic. When "investing" your money in business or in other persons, pay attention to the obvious. Just as a cloud filled with water alerts even the slowest person that it will rain, so investing in an obviously terrible business, or creating a dependancy in a person, is something that we should be smart enough to figure out on our own. We cannot predict the future, but we can tell the obvious.)

      1. What message is Solomon giving us when he talks about a tree falling where it wants? (You can diversify to avoid total disaster. You can use wisdom and common sense in investing or in helping others. But, some (bad) things may happen regardless of your best efforts. You cannot control everything.)

  2. Planting

    1. Read Ecclesiastes 11:4. Is it possible to be too cautious in investing our money and investing in others? (Apparently. Solomon teaches us that if we are going to get too concerned about the wind and the clouds we will never get our fields planted. We will never invest our money or invest in others. Pay attention to those clouds filled with rain ( Ecclesiastes 11:3), but don't be so focused on the potential bad things that might happen that you are paralyzed into inaction based on your fears.)

    2. Read Ecclesiastes 11:5. Should we try to predict the wind when it comes to planting? (No. This continues Solomon's theme about being overcautious. Since you are human and not God, you are going to plan for the future with less than perfect knowledge. Don't be overconfident about the future and don't be overcautious by refusing to move forward until every uncertainty is resolved.)

    3. Read Ecclesiastes 11:6. Solomon has been telling us to enjoy our life and our family. ( Ecclesiastes 9:7-9) Why is he now telling us to work day and night? (This is a continuation of the warning not to invest in just one place. We are wise to invest our time in more than one activity because we cannot know which activity will best succeed. Invest your time like you invest your money.)

  3. Living

    1. Read Ecclesiastes 11:7-8. What advantage does Solomon find in difficult times? (Dark days make you better appreciate sunny days. Difficult times can teach us important lessons, one of which is how great it is when we are not facing difficult times.)

    2. Read Ecclesiastes 11:9. A popular pagan saying of a few years ago was "Just do it." Is this what Solomon advises when he writes "follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see?" (Years ago, I gave a graduation weekend talk to a group of seniors. I told them that when it came to their future they should do what they enjoyed doing. Most likely, you enjoy working in the area in which God has given you natural and spiritual gifts. God has thousands of ways in which He can use and bless our work. Unless God has given you explicit direction for your future, follow your heart.)

      1. What limit, if any, does Solomon place on his "follow your heart" advice? (Solomon is not embracing a "just do it" philosophy of life. He warns us that God will bring our life into His judgment. Therefore, in following our heart we should follow our heart in a way consistent with God's instructions for living.)

    3. Read Ecclesiastes 11:10. If we follow Solomon's advice for living, what place should worry have in our life? (If we follow God's laws for living, if we understand that we cannot control the future, if we realize that the future is in God's hands, then we can banish our worries and throw away our troubles. We should not spend our time wishing we could go back to a time when we were young and worry-free. We can have that attitude of life now.)

    4. Friend, would you like to live a life free from worry about the future? Follow God's advice for investing, working and living. Will you commit to doing that today?

  4. Next week: The Conclusion of the Matter.

* Copr. 2007, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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