The Evangelical Herald
There is a word in the business world that is behind all financial planning and commerce. Purchases, transfers, and exchanges of property or valuables are all done with this word in mind. Can you imagine the business world without the word "profit"? No, we can safely say that all commercial endeavors expect to make a profit. Businessmen may even borrow money to invest in ventures which they believe will be profitable. During the time they have their money invested in those ventures, they will be very concerned in their progress and will put many hours of study and work into them. A time will come when they will know if their ventures were profitable. If they were not profitable, not only was all that time, work, and study in vain, but they are now a debtor to their loan providers.
The relationship of God the Creator with man is much like a business venture -- God has loaned us life and we in turn employ it on certain ventures during our earthly journey. On a certain day, He will do some accounting to determine if those ventures or investments have brought gain or loss. In the parable of the talents, we see clearly that God wants a profit from His creatures. Those who did not bring forth a profit were cast out from His presence (cf. Matt 25:15-30).
The Preacher Finds No Profit
In the book of Ecclesiastes chapter one, verses one through three, we see Solomon saying, "The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. `Vanity of vanities,' says the Preacher; `Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.' `What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun?" As a man looking into all the ventures that men invest in while living on this earth, he concludes that all is vanity. Since the dictionary defines the word vanity as "empty, worthless, unsatisfying, fruitless, producing no good result", does this mean that man can not have a profitable life? What really does he mean?
Solomon's study involved the seeking and studying of all things done under the sun. He studied all investments made by man with their lives. By personal experience, he explored philosophy, pleasures, engineering and construction, farming, and even music making and concluded that there is no profit in all these endeavors. Interestingly, we see that his endeavors for fulfillment are not much different than today's preoccupations of mankind to find meaning to life.
Many may conclude that Solomon must have been a pessimist. Or maybe he was a cynic. Or was he guided by a basic error in his study? Surely, there must be satisfaction in accomplishing your dreams and aspirations of life. Surely, there must be satisfaction in leaving this earth a little better then you found it. Yet, we can see that it is true. A little closer look can show us that Solomon was seeing these business ventures carried out under the sun in this temporal world through the eyes of eternity (see Eccl 1:4-12). Since all things end and we ourselves die, the fruit of our labors die with us -- we will not be here to enjoy them.
A Time of Accounting
As we continue reading his report card on human activity, we are impressed that the report seems to point to the end of our loan period. At that time, we will have to do some accounting to God and show Him our investments made during our loan period. As managers of His investment, will these investments bring profits that will satisfy our Investor? The preacher concludes that all our investments made under the sun will not bring profit, but in the final analysis they will all be in vain.
So we must ask, "what activities can show a profit in the last day?" Has not the wise king Solomon shown us that all things are vanity? The answer and key to these questions is the phrase "under the sun". All endeavors studied by the wise man were done under the sun or earthly and so are limited to the temporal. The scriptures show us that only the activities that deal and are in harmony with God's eternal purposes can be worthwhile and profitable. Jesus told us, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matt 6:19-21).
Investing in Eternal Treasures
To begin a profitable investment with our lives, we must enter the reality of the eternal kingdom. As long as we remain in the temporal world, we will continue to invest in things that will end. How can we be involved in eternal investments? The good news is that it is the Father's will that all become citizens of this eternal kingdom. Even though our natural selves deserve to perish because "The soul that sinneth, it shall die", the King has taken our place so that we perish not and can become citizens of His Kingdom. (Ezek 18:20) We have been justified by His blood. Our sins have been forgiven and He has given us His Spirit to be re-generated into spirit beings. (see Jhn 3:16; Rom 5:1,8)
As spirit beings, how can we be involved in profitable living? Living under the light of the New Covenant, worthwhile activity will be done from an eternal perspective. Paul put it this way in First Corinthians, chapter ten, verses thirty two and thirty three, "just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved." Profitable living then is a life that is not seeking our own gain, but is a life of service to others so that they may come to know our Heavenly Father and have life. Because of our new position in Christ, our self-centered endeavors to profit will no longer govern our activities; rather, our activities will be centered in expanding and increasing His Kingdom. Even minimal tasks of man can become glorious endeavors for God. "There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all" (1Cor 12:5-7). The Bible tells us that at all times we should be conscience of working within the divine will, "…salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him" (1Thess 5:9-10).
Blessings of a Life of Profit
In order to be blessed with the sweet aroma of a fulfilled and satisfied life, the Bible counsels us to invest our lives on those things that are eternal. As Christians, our task is to be involved in the work of God. God has given to us the ministry of reconciliation of the world to Himself (cf. 2Cor 5:18-20). He has shown us how in Him we can invest on things that last - things that we indeed can carry into eternity. He tells us, "For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come" (1Tim 4:8).
We can invest our time and talents on people as we build love relationships, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God" (1Jhn 4:7). We can invest in service to mankind, "Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'" (Matt 25:37-40). We can study God's word to conform and build our characters like unto His, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2Tim 3:16,17). We can learn obedience and love of righteousness as we prepare to live in His Kingdom, "This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men" (Tit 3:8).
We, as did the wise king Solomon, must study and examine our lives and ask, "What things have I really invested my life on? What things am I really working for? On what have I set my heart on? Where do my interests lie?" Is it on treasures that are on this earth, "under the sun", or is it on treasures that are above in His everlasting kingdom? Is it vanity of vanities? Or is it abundant life in Christ as we bask in the knowledge that He, as King, is satisfied with our investments we have made in life? Through the power of the resurrection, He invites all men not to waste our lives, but that we may come to Him who can give us life and profitable living. We can look forward to that day when He utters those words, "Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world'" (Matt 25:34).