commentary: A Time for Thanksgiving (2008)
God Corrects Because He is Good
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 29-Nov-08; Sermon #912c; 9 minutes
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting on Solomon's appraisal of money in Ecclesiastes 10:19, suggests that modern Israel seems to have great difficulty managing money because of an addiction to greed. Wealth, without a powerful character, is a destructive drug. Unfortunately, our people's greed has put them on the verge of the greatest depression of all time. There is a time when "less" is actually more and pain can be an effective teacher, yielding the peaceable fruit of righteousness. Mortgage foreclosures and job losses are becoming critical, testing the limits of our faith. We, as God"s called-out ones, need to place unconditional trust in God and His providence, the kind of trust David exemplified in Psalm 23. This particular psalm shows God's goodness in the midst of our affliction. God gives us pain as a preventative of something far worse. God is good because God corrects.
In Ecclesiastes 10:19, Solomon says, "A feast is made for laughter, and wine makes merry, but money answers everything."
What Solomon says is true, especially regarding money, but only in the narrow sense that he intends within the context. Money can make things a great deal easier in life, but Solomon is not saying that money will buy a person salvation or that money can buy character. Neither can money heal an illness. Neither can it completely remove a stain on one's reputation, nor can it buy true friendship. But on the other hand, the wealthiest nation that has ever existed on the face of the earth is fairly far into the process of learning how important money is, and this does fit within the context of the end of Ecclesiastes 10.
The deeply-rooted, foundational issue facing Americans today is not really the great wealth per se as being the problem, but rather what needs correction as the real problem is the failure to judiciously manage the wealth. The real problem is that the money, when combined with an uncontrolled desire, causes many of our fellow Americans to allow the money to manage them.
Simply creating more money is not the solution because the addiction to greed will continue unabated. The solution is to learn to appreciate this combination's power by not letting it get the upper hand so that one becomes its slave. Wealth without a balanced character is a powerful drug that damages many perhaps entirely innocent of causing the problem, besides one being drugged by this green opiate. So now, many Americans who handled well what little wealth they were blessed with are going to suffer perhaps greatly in the greatest depression since the 1930s and perhaps even the greatest depression ever.
So why? Well, here is a generality: It is because the addicted money managers on Wall Street and the addicted money regulators in government, combined with millions of addicted Americans who spent themselves into economic oblivion, have broken the back of the economic vitality of the entire nation. We have perhaps reached the point in the history of this nation, and also in the history of the people of God, when it is time to learn a lesson from another proverb, a lesson vital to our physical and spiritual growth. This proverb is that there are times when "less is more." In other words, a time when the suffering of the pain of famine, or the suffering of the pain of a lack of wealth, becomes a teacher far more valuable than anything else we might be given.
Pain can be a wonderfully effective teacher. Hebrews 5:8 says of Jesus, "Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered." Hebrews 12:11 adds, "Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."
The pain of this economic crisis is already hitting some among us. Work is becoming ever more difficult to find for those in the construction industries. Major corporations such as banks and heavy industries like the automobile industry are laying off people by the tens of thousands in some cases. Mortgage foreclosures because of job losses among the middle class are beginning to mount up rapidly.
The middle class is the economic group that I find that the overwhelming majority of church members are in. Perhaps, brethren, we have reached a critical time in our spiritual lives when the rubber of our faith is of necessity going to hit the road of our pilgrimage to the kingdom of God. Will we find any traction to continue on? We will, if we continue to use our faith.
I have no doubt whatever that all of us believe that God exists, but that is not the problem that we face. The problem we face is, will we trust Him in areas vital to life and salvation at one and the same time?
Perhaps we should acquaint ourselves with one of the major purposes of Psalm 23. According to surveys, this is Americans' favorite biblical passage. Technically, it appears to be a brief expounding of a few of God's names, but I think that perhaps a brief listing of a few of God's names describes it better because little expounding is given. But the reality is that this is a song or a prayer of David, showing his confidence as what as to why he could trust God even through the most difficult of trials.
These reminders are drawn from his experiences that he already had in his relationship with God, and they are good for us to know. Each name listed provides instruction in what God says that He will supply to those who continue faithfully, entrusting Him as they live and they work their way through a very deep trial, the kind of trial we are just beginning to face. Overall, this psalm is briefly expounding God's goodness, regardless of what one may be going through. Too often we fail to see that the pain of suffering is an element of God's goodness.
In Psalm 119:67, the psalmist says, "Before I was afflicted, I went astray." If we will permit this to occur, pain corrects before things get worse. God brings pain. He causes pain because He is good. If He did not, He would not be good. Pain saves one from a worse fate. Psalm 23 gives comfort because it shows He will bring things to a better end if we trust Him. And though these are sobering times, they are also times to be thankful that God is good because God corrects.