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Sabbath School Lessons on Ecclesiastes
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Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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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!
- Read Ecclesiastes 11:1. Is Solomon talking about throwing
food in the water?
- 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.)
- 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.)
- Why would you be casting something essential into the
- 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.")
- 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?
- Is it business advice? If so, do you think it
- Is it advice for charitable giving? If so, do
you think it is true?
- 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
- How helpful is it to be selfish, if you want to
get ahead in life?
- Read Ecclesiastes 11:2. Is this a continuation of the
thoughts in Ecclesiastes 11:1?
- 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
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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?
- 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.