Corruption in Business

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Last week we looked at the flywheel principle which is causing the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer. I suggested that income inequality wasn’t social injustice, but the design of the universe. Most of us simply do not have a framework for how this can be possible, yet alone see it as part of God’s benevolent kingdom.

“Keven, something must be wrong with your assertion.”

The principle I discussed is still valid because of a generative (abundance based) economy (which is what the “Kingdom of God” is). One apple has several seeds. Each seed has the potential to become a tree generating hundreds of apples, thousands of seeds, and abundance of apples. That’s the design of God’s world. 

Investment is the work of replanting the seed instead of discarding it. Abundant futures require investments. Debt erodes the abundance of the future. Managing and investing whatever we have is the essence of the parables of the talents and minas. The principle is sound. Everyone who applies them, gradually increases what they possess.

The problem is corruption. As Richard Rohr says, there is enough for everyone’s need, there isn’t enough for everyone’s greed. We all want just a little bit more. Therein lies the problem. Everything we hate about corrupt governments, businesses and economies also lives within our heart too.

Corruption is a truth problem. We make corrupt decisions because we don’t possess the truth or because we won’t apply the truth we possess. A struggling student may cheat if he or she perceives it will give some sort of advantage. Our individual success requires that our employers are able to make advantageous exchanges in the marketplace. We’re interconnected. Corruption is NOT seeking to find an advantage, but prioritizing that advantage as a distinct thing from all others. It’s a form of “otherness” disease. Shareholder value very important, as we saw in the parable from last week. However, shareholder value is not distinct from all others in society (kingdom). Corruption is the loss of an integrated worldview.

Institutional power emerges when disintegrated people use an institution for personal advantage. Advantage obscures the truth. We close a blind eye to systems that give us our well being. We defend them, we protect them. Institutions make trades with us; “In exchange for our livelihood and identity, we will put the institutions interests above other people.”

Corruption is otherness disease which infects us with competition. The test of whether we’ve become what we hate is the amount of competition in our heart.  Carefully think about it. If you hate big corporations and their impact on government, but at the same time you hate it when a competing business gets work you could have obtained, then the same corruption lives in you. The only difference is the scope of influence on others.

You might say; “But I run a very honest, fair business, I’m not corrupt in my practices.” That may be true, and your business may be a better alternative in the long run, but if you want more power and influence in order to diminish another’s power and influence, then you don’t really understand corruption. There is nothing wrong with having power and influence, but there is everything wrong with desiring power and influence.

Consider the story of Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector (Luke 19:2). He had power and influence. Jesus had such an effect on his soul that he was finally free enough to let go of power, influence and identity. He remained the chief tax collector but his role in the institution was no longer used to his own advantage and the power he had he freely shared with others. Jesus said this is the very definition of salvation.

Salvation is when self promotion gives way to the promotion of others. It’s not the loss of the organization. Zacchaeus was still a tax collector. Salvation is integration. Zacchaeus no longer saw “others.”  Every example of corruption surrounds self interest. Every great transforming, redeeming work in the world, is based on the interests of others, but not to the exclusion of those who established it. Now you know corruption.

Corruption in business is the same as corruption everywhere. Corruption is the most widespread truth problem in the world. It’s a stranglehold that is loosed from the inside out, not from the outside in. The problem is not capitalism or big corporations. The problem is corruption.

The world is gradually waking up to realize that scarcity, fear and competition are the wrong ways to grow a civilization. There is a wave of conscious capitalism that is redeeming the world by using an others first model or servant leadership. We can each join the revolution at any moment, no matter where we are employed.

Because the switch from corruption to the promotion of others is flicked from the inside, a completely new world is actually possible within a single generation. Of course that seems like a pipe dream. While there are a lot of hard hearts that will not part with their power (because they think its theirs) the only heart we must concern ourselves with is our own. 

Whatever happened to Zacchaeus’ heart needs to first happen to ours. Salvation must come to our house too. Our consciousness must rise. And the moment it does, we move from scarcity, fear and competition, to abundance, liberty and service. We move from two-divided, to one-united.  

We don’t have to wait for the promised new world to arrive, because for some of us, it already has. What’s amazing is that the kingdom doesn’t come despite business, but because of it.

Engage in Business…

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The wealthy, middle, and poor classes will always exist. We all fall into one of four groups: those who excel, those who manage, those who can’t compete, and those won’t.

I’ll prove that the reason the rich get richer and the poor get poorer is NOT economic injustice, but God’s design for the world. Poverty is the result of a truth problem in either our apprehension or applicationThere is more than enough to go around, the rich are not taking it all, we all reap according to our skill.

Let’s look at the four groups.

Those that can’t compete are those who possess some loss of ability (physical, cognitive, age, disease) and are simply not capable of achieving the tasks required for work and production. These are the most vulnerable of society and are a group for which all voters/citizens agree should receive government resources.

There are those who CAN compete, but are at a disadvantage in a modern world due to racism, sexism, educational and IQ disparity, or cultural/geographical obstacles. While they can engage in business for resources, many in the US have discovered they can gain more resources from the government than by their means of production and use their disadvantage as an excuse not to produce. Voters disagree sharply over this group.

Those who excel have a very different worldview to all others. Since they can produce more resources in a free market than a government can provide, they view the government as an inhibitor rather than a benefactor and vote accordingly. Their success is not guaranteed. They must leverage any advantage they do possess to remain valuable to the marketplace; and that is where corruption of power enters the equation.

For all people, race, wealth, community, education, IQ, and health all aid in spinning the flywheel of production. The more advantages one has, the faster and more they can produce and thus earn.

Production is linked to citizenship. It’s not the basis, but it is linked. Each citizen brings value to the whole society while society places value on what each citizen brings. It’s a bi-directional responsibility.

Jesus uses these classes to teach a very valuable lessen about citizenship in God’s larger kingdom, namely: Production is linked to citizenship. It’s not the basis, but it’s linked.

There is a profound spirituality to production. Too often we hear about how struggle and poverty are the gateway to spiritual awakening. If this awakening doesn’t move us into production for the sake of others, the seed has died within us. In our world, wealth generators and earners are vilified and seen as having lost spiritual depth. I’ll prove that their success is really only possible because of the spiritual awakening they possess. It’s not just luck or corruption.

Luke 19:11-27 and Matthew 25:14-30 each tell a similar story of these categories of citizens. The amount of production is not important, but the disposition to produce is vital. The category that did nothing (could produce but chose not to) despised their king for making them work (Luke 19:14) and they didn’t think it was fair that some had so much more wealth than they did (v.25).

In Lukes account everyone got the same amount to invest. In Matthew’s version each received according to their ability. In both accounts, the unproductive citizen reveals a spiritual framework of fear and apathy. This cannot be understated. This is the biggest difference between the groups. Fear and apathy are a spiritual disposition that diminishes ones capacity to even try. Thus they are blind to their opportunities and become dependent on the State.

The bible is clear about caring for the widow, the orphan, the refugee and the poor. And while these are often the most vulnerable of society, their marginalized status does not mean they cannot produce in the marketplace or Kingdom. These parables of Jesus illuminate that those who use any excuse to dismiss their responsibility to produce, are not only diminishing their own humanity, but show hatred for their king.

The flywheel principle is a spiritual truth exposed here. “Those who have, more will be given, and those who have not, even what they have will be taken away (v.26).” This seems severe, unfair, or even cold, but it’s a spiritual truth that is grasped by all who join the spirituality of production. The kingdom depicted in scripture is place where equal effort of all is required, but equal return for that effort is varied.

Income disparity proves the rule. We all start with the same spiritual support but we all have different opportunities. Our gift to the world is to bring our creative impulse into production for the sake of others and in return we will grow what what we started with. It doesn’t matter if a CEO makes 1000 times more than me, what matters is that I engage in business (give my life away) until an account of this business is required.

For those who hate this system, you have every reason to fear. Those who don’t want this kind of kingdom to rule over them are engaged in self-slaughter (Luke 19:27).  Economic despair is the first indication that our disposition (soul) toward production is out of tune. Protesting will not dislodge this fundamental reality.

Your life is valuable. Your story is integral to the vitality of our cities. We are all required to know ourselves, find our gift and give it away for the sake of others. Anything less and we are not a citizen, but a plunder.

Harsh words for sure, but not as harsh nor severe as economic struggle. We seem to embrace one or the other.

Are we truly thankful?

Every year at this time I point out that true gratitude requires both an object and an subject. This year I’m adding another ingredient: awareness. As we gather around a meal and time with family this Thanksgiving, my hope is that these considerations will reverberate within our souls.

True thankfulness needs a object. We experience varying levels of gratitude everyday. From the common: “I’m so glad I found a parking spot.” to the profound: “I’m so glad you are still alive.” We rarely lack an object of gratitude. We can all find something for which we are thankful. This is about as far as it goes for some people. Those who struggle with gratitude are wrestling with entitlement. 

For what are you thankful? What is it that helped you, graced you or comforted you? What advantage, or freedom, or joy do you possess because of it? Is your list growing? The object is the easy part. We are thankful FOR objects, but does that make us truly thankful?

True thankfulness needs a subject. When we experience deep gratitude, too often the subject is presupposed or taken for granted. Let’s say a loved one is back from a military tour in a war zone. We would be thankful FOR the loved one being reunited, but often we overlook the authority to which our gratitude is directed.

We are thankful TO subjects, FOR objects. In the above example we would be thankful to the Military for allowing leave.  We are thankful to our employers for the day off. This takes a bit more consideration before this becomes visible, but as we do this a deeper gratitude emerges, but are we truly thankful yet?

That’s why I’m adding a third ingredient. True thankfulness needs awareness.  A small child is only enamored with the gift or object itself. As we get older, we recognize there is a giver beyond every gift, or a subject beyond every object.  Too often we are unaware of this reality. Like an inner Veruca Salt, we focus on objects without awareness of the subjects behind them.

We’re not truly thankful until awareness rises enough to honor the subject behind the objects. On the horizontal plane, these subjects are our parents, family members, friends, coaches, teachers, first responders, pastors, employers, and leaders, but awareness goes further

Awareness goes to a vertical plane or an inward deeper dimension. As our awareness of the subject and object enlarges, we gain a perspective on how all things connect together. We’re not silos unto ourself. People of faith are glimpsing a Subject beyond everything. A Subject that is an uncaused cause for all things, a Thread that ties all things together. Whether we recognize it or not, this is the Subject behind the gratitude we experience for our lives the moment we become aware of all the variables we can’t control. This level of gratitude displaces randomness, chance, or luck.

Whether you subscribe to the spiritual plane or not, gratitude is within your grasp each and every moment. May we all become increasingly aware of the Subject behind all the objects for which we are thankful. May we not fear exploring how far our gratitude can take us and how this awareness may change us and the rest of the world.

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Love Poet

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If the Song of Solomon were the only sacred text available, what would religion be like? Last week the poem of Solomon explored the microcosm of human sexuality. Today that poem reveals the macrocosm of love.

What does that mean? 

To paraphrase Ray Anderson, “the acts of love are the hermeneutical horizon for the being of love.”  In other words, we know what/who love is by how love acts. From this framework emerges a rather beautiful theology. Below are a few of my observations:

1. Love compels us.  Our world has some jacked up ideas about love. One is that love obligates us to do the right thing even if we don’t want to do it. This malware script is constantly played over and over in marriage counseling. How else do we keep a marriages together when unloving people forsake love? Solomon and his bride show no sign of obligation. They behave this way because love so grips their heart that it pleases them to please the other. It compulsory, not duty. It’s a reflex not a plan.

This can be seen in religious systems too.

Doing the right thing the wrong way is the same as doing the wrong thing, like the religious man’s prayer of superiority (Luke 18:11). Much of religion falls into this category. It seems right on the surface, but below its anything but love. Sadly, people ascribe this malware script to their faith, thinking God is staring down with a stink-eye waiting to punish sinners. Our poem flips the script and illuminates a God who is passionately desiring unity with us. This kind of love evokes reciprocation on our part. When it doesn’t, it’s because we just can’t believe God is that loving.

This couple is not waiting for the “shoe to drop.” Nor should our theology.

2. Love and trust go together.  The complete giving of oneself takes an immense amount of trust. However, without this kenosis (self-emptying) love never emerges. Protect your heart–remain a spinster. Trusting is a big risk, but its the only way to love deeply and freely. We confuse the order of love and trust. We’re convinced we will love first and build trust later. That order stifles love’s power leaving a person with a scorecard instead of a loving experience.  We trust first and get “all-in” or we will have no share of love. Theologically, the Christ story depicts a love that is all-in, to the point of death. That kind of love is reflected in this story.

3. Lust only exists when we aren’t free to love. Lust is wanting a part of a person but not the whole of a person. It’s dehumanizing because it makes an object out of a subject. Physical attraction is not lust. We will be sexually attracted to countless people in our lives. If both parties are free and available for love, then attraction can lead to consummation. Satisfying the attraction when one isn’t able to take on the whole life of the other stifles love. Those in relationships are simply not free or available for another because love creates a natural boundary. Lust is the “over-desire” (epithumia) not the desire, it exists when love is not free to bring the consummation of attraction.

Theologically, this holds true as well. Idolatry is the forsaking the consummation of love for something temporarily satisfying. We turn good things into God things and objectify the Subject. Consummation is subject to subject.

4. Horizontal and the Vertical. Human love is the practice arena for divine love. Religion always messes this up by elevating the love and worship of their deity so high while simultaneously treating those around with contempt. Paul said we could worship with the voice of an angel but if we have not love for others we are just noisemakers (1 Corinthians 13:1). This is the litmus test of all real belief. There are no enlightened road-ragers. There is no genuine love of God if we compete with others instead of promoting them. James called this “dead faith” and it’s the biggest hypocrisy in the world. If your church hates certain groups of people, your worship is pointless.

Solomon and his bride “self-empty” and promote each other. They are compelled to do it. It’s not a chore. This is how Mother Theresa and countless others self-emptied for the most needy. When service replaces duty, our soul is meeting love. We love God by loving others.

5. Unspeakable Power.  The last observation I’ll offer is the indescribable power that love produces. Physical attraction in the prime of youth and beauty are a gravitational pull of love depicted in this poem. The power of love to overcome any gaps in union cannot be underestimated. Love is a magnetic force that overpowers it’s subjects until unity is shared. It’s power can bring anything together. To the degree that any division resides within our soul, any amount of “us vs them”, to the same degree love is being resisted.

“Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is ONE.” (Deuteronomy 6:4) This “shama” is not an argument for monotheism. It’s the biggest statement of complete unity ever phrased by human lips. Our differences are to be celebrated and serve the purpose of expanding the love between us and the divine.

So yes, the love poet can teach us about God. Yes a human story of sex and love can open up into a theology that brings every tribe, nation, tongue (and religion) into a single frame. Every bit of pain, suffering or evil perpetrated in the world stems from a void where love is intended to dwell. The longing for love that we all possess proves there is a consummation. 

This is love. Unity is the flow of God. We see and experience it everyday. The Song of Solomon proves that the love between us here and now is just a sliver of the love that exists as Ultimate Reality.

Thus the love of God need not be known only as a theological ideal, but it is experienced by our love shared with others.

 

 

Sex Poet

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We’ve been reading between the lines of Solomon’s wisdom literature. Today we take a voyeuristic look at what’s behind his graphic poetry in Song of Solomon.

Solomon and his bride depict a free but connected sexuality that has not been damaged by the two powerful belief systems of our modern times: fundamentalism and secularism.

1. Fundamentalism. Sex remains today a cultural taboo because fundamentalism has convinced us that sexuality is wrong, depraved, inappropriate or at least a deeply private matter. Human sexuality not really celebrated in fundamentalism, but only tolerated within the narrowest of confines. This vein runs so deep, that even sexual attraction has become synonymous with the sin of lust. This is a poor interpretation of “epithumia” (Greek) translated as “evil desire” but actually means “over desire”.  Fundamentalism has lied to the world by telling us that our sexual desires are sinful and need to be eradicated if we would please God. Self-governing our sexuality is wise, but vilifying it corrupts the gift.

The damage this does to humanity is incalculable. Sexual energy and the experience of our sexuality is no more a sin than the capacity and desire for food. (For more readThe Food Network and Porn ) The sex=sin equation is highly effective and plays into the narrative that religion uses to keep people afraid, repentant, and dependent on a purification system. Sexual shame fills pews and creates a living hell in marriages.

2. Secularism. Many who won’t subscribe to the fear tactics of religion have given full vent to their sexual appetite. While free from the trap of fundamentalism, they fall headlong into the trap of secularism. Timothy Keller said that appetites are not good gauges. Our humanity is diminished if wisdom does not counter-balance our appetites. Sexuality, just like food, has a beautiful and meaningful purpose in our lives, but just because we want something and are free to have it, doesn’t mean we should.

The damage this does to humanity is incalculable. Appetites grow and morph over time. The result is that without wisdom, we lose our humanity as we objectify one another and erode our capacity for true intimacy and knowing. Sexuality has become a commodity that is parceled out piece meal into a culture that can no longer tell the difference between a subject and an object. While free from fundamentalism, this is anything but the liberation it promises. Free sex is never free. Casual sex is an out of tune soul and creates a living hell because is neglects love.

The Song of Solomon represents the highest goal in human sexuality. The wisdom tradition offers the vast freedom of “anything goes” so long as it falls under the law of love. Sex apart from the wisdom and law of love is degrading, dehumanizing and selfish. Love (eros kind) apart from the sexual intimacy can hardly be called love at all. (Sexual intimacy need not be intercourse) Love is not surface level and sexuality should not be either. Love doesn’t hold anything back. Love gives itself completely away. If we have sex without love, we are just acting creaturely or biochemically and not fully human. We disrespect our bodies, our self, and our Maker.

Now we have lens to read Solomon’s poem. We should not blush, apologize nor spiritualize this amazing book of poetry. It proves that porneia (sexual sin) is harmful not because it reveals too much, but because it reveals too little. If this was our only spiritual book, our faith could be amazing.

Ideal sexuality emerges from the bedrock of love. Love makes each person totally free and totally empowered. Love expands in the presence of others, longs for, and needs others to manifest itself. Love accepts us as well as the other. Love is the third, larger thing that both parties fall/merge into. It has no bottom, but is diminished when only one person withholds. Thus, sex is the bi-product of love, not vice-versa. Order is important.

These lovers showcase the best definition. It elevates sex by marital commitment. It proves they take the whole person’s life, not just their body. These poems illuminate that graphic sexuality can be beautiful. Yes, honoring sexuality requires some discretion, but it must not be completely hidden or else something is lost?  If these poems were a movie, would it offend you? Would it be a sin to watch? Would you rather your kids kill one another playing Fortnight than to see it? How easily we have traded true love for foolish piety.

These poems are here to wake us up to the power of love. The bride offers wisdom to her young entourage which essentially says: “You need to know that love like this exists, but don’t awaken this kind of love until it pleases.” In other words, let love do what love does. When it grips you, don’t resist it. If it’s love there is no need to play it safe. If you can’t tell the difference, then stay put, stay single, stay hopeful and ever learning.

When I was growing up, church taught me not to have sex instead of how to love. This gave me license to “not have intercourse” with the girls I dated. Little did I know that all the “outercourse” in the world only taught me to objectify the women I was supposed to learn how to love. Most people’s sexual pasts are even more jacked up than this, so is it any wonder our world is in need of some serious sexual healing?

Well, its possible. Not by rewinding the clock. Not by some revirgination ceremony but by finally learning to love. (Where are your accusers?) All the broken, depraved, selfish, and dehumanizing sex can be redeemed in love. Victims of abuse need not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Love and trust go together, and next week we will explore how we sadly confuse the order of these two things as well.

(For more see Getting Better When You Can’t  or Divine Sex )

 

Politics and Perspective

Politics only exists because there is a differing perspective.

Politics only exists because there is a different perspective. Yes, you needed to hear that twice. If all people are in alignment there can be no disagreement.

Of course, everyone is different. We look different. We are different ages. We’ve all had vastly different experiences. Even our siblings with similar upbringing can be complete opposites.

Some of us are strong, others weak. Some wealthy, some poor. Some possess intelligence, others are simple. Some of us are healthy, some are sick. We are old and young and in-between. Some people actually like Taylor Swift’s music.

We all start life viewing only from our perspective. Some will sadly end life that way too. Along the way, it is the differing perspective that opens us up and shines a light into our blind spots.

Differences create friction which is supposed to exfoliate our thick outer layer. Diversity is designed to cure our myopia.

Voting used to be the way we communicated to our political leaders our hopes for our country. Instead, voting has become a team jersey and a weapon to be used upon those sporting the enemies colors. In our “booth” we are empowered to pick who we will hate. We leave feeling patriotic, even heroic after we gulp down the elixir of a forced binary choice.

Today, the most political vote is with our wallet. The informed voter is not the one who sides with a team, but the one who is willing to vote their conscience at each swipe of their card. Real political money comes from our love of comfort and few of us will vote against that. The news machine (fake or otherwise) is the photographer distracting a toddler with a squeaky toy. We anesthetize ourselves with our 50″ light show.

Politics sells the illusion that we are all divided. So long as we pick a team, we all keep losing. Back and forth the baton of power is passed, while both sides are fleeced with either ethical and tax violence.

If I sound cynical, its only because I’ve seen another way and I’m impatient for its arrival. There is a way where both diversity and unity exist in harmony. It’s the only model where both sides resolve into a perspective greater than each perspective. A shared vision that we can all embrace.

Compromise does not get us there. A higher consciousness does. Once awake, our vote becomes the very next choice we make. Our vote is the next conversation we have. Our vote is our next purchase. Our vote is how we treat our bodies, our communities, and our cosmos. Our vote is whether we will plunder others for resources or divest ourselves for the sake of others. Compete with each other or complete each other.

Our vote is whether we will love one another as we have loved ourselves. It requires no registration, no patriotism, no partisan politics, only a wide angle lens. All of us share equal power.

May we awaken to our real lives and vote not only today, but everyday.

 

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Wise Man Says: Enjoy your Toil

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Over half of the U.S workforce is unhappy at work. Friday afternoon and Monday morning are completely different experience for most people. For the vast majority, work is a means to an end, and NOT an end in itself. Our work seems like endless, repetitive toil, which is perceived as devoid of meaning.

In many countries in our world, there are fewer jobs than workers. In these deeply impoverished places, not having work is a far greater problem. This realization keeps Americans getting up each and every day. “At least I have a job.” is the mental stop-gap that keeps people showing up to jobs they don’t particularly enjoy.

It is still true that having a higher education typically correlates to higher income jobs, but book knowledge doesn’t open the doors it once did. In many cases, “Who you know” can get you much further than “What you know.”

The recipe for success has been proven many times: attitude+service=opportunity. These are not skills to be “taught,” they are dispositions that must be “caught.” Pick any job in the world from “Sign Twirler” to CEO,  the person who really gets into their work with an attitude of service and gratitude will always outperform those who merely execute the metrics of their work. Attitude and service are the rails upon which promotion, higher-pay, and greater opportunity arrive.

These vital ingredients are not aspects of any role at work, they are characteristics of the soul. Success in this world is predicated upon what happens inside. Yes, there are exceptions. Yes, corruption exists virtually everywhere. Make no mistake, achievement is not the same as success.

Jobs give us a sense of purpose and identity. Having a purpose is great, but gaining an identity from work is the very definition of the loss of self. If this confuses you or you disagree, then chances are very good that you are a “climber” in search of an identity. Your ambition drives you on to attain higher levels of attainment (which you have confused as success). If each level up validates and shapes our self image, then our soul is sick or out of tune. Work was not intended to name us.

Early in Solomon’s life, he also was a climber. Unlike most of us, he had the resources to accomplish anything, and he did. He built everything the mind could imagine. He denied his heart no pleasure. All of it was great, but it came with a sobering reality: It was all just vanity, a chasing after the wind. There was little to be gained by all his wisdom and toil, his death was as certain as the fool’s death.

If you knew you would die in 48 hours, would you spend your time at work? Like the Blues Traveler song: “It won’t mean a thing in 100 years.”

We will all be forgotten. Even those we remember remain mostly unknown. Our work might endure, but not for millennia. While our minds and hearts yearn for greatness, timelessness, and even immortality, there is something about the scope of our life that we must reconcile. We have but a “few vain days under the sun.”

Solomon learned that the greatest gift of God was not found in the “big stuff”, the ego projects, or in raising our flag of self-importance, those are vain wind grabbing efforts.

“Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he (God) has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun.  Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol (place of the dead), to which you are going.

Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:9-11)

The wisdom to enjoy our life and toil is not insignificant. Solomon repeats this theme several times within this book. He also goes on to say that our ability to enjoy our toil, is a gift of God.

To unpack what Solomon is saying we must reflect upon the curse of Genesis 3:17-19. In the Jewish creation narrative, God punishes Adam and Eve. “in pain shall you eat… by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread.” 

Enjoying our toil is the gift that overthrows this curse.

The design is that we would all work, all the days of our lives. To take joy in our toil means that we have found acceptance in our lot, and this reverses the curse of work in our lives. Acceptance is a gift given to us each and every moment, but we so often prefer resistance.

I used to pump portable toilets. That is where I learned this lesson. I found joy in my toil. I gained a heart to serve. I accepted my lot with great joy though with much toil. Then and only then, did my life begin to change.

The gift has never stopped giving as joy in my toil has never stopped. This wisdom from Solomon allowed me to see opportunities and enter them with the same heart of service. As I have done that, God has prospered every endeavor of my life.

If life is not what you had hoped it to be, as long as there is today, then there is time to change. Solomon’s wisdom reveals that the outside always conforms to the inside, NOT Vice-Versa.