3 bits of political and religious advice

April 29th, 2011 · by Tom Stuart · News & Reflections, Overcoming

“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13 NIV)

Are you looking for some very practical advice on how to keep from getting embroiled in political and religious controversy?   Perhaps you just want to keep a level head and control your blood pressure.  Look no further than the book of Ecclesiastes. 

Both the political and religious news have an uncanny way of hooking a person’s interest and heating up debate.  Depending on the topic, the talk shows hosts, late night comedians, pundits and bloggers know how to stoke those fires and raise their ratings.  This week’s firestorm has been about Donald Trump and the “birthers” pressuring for the release of President Obama’s birth certificate. 

In recent weeks it was about excerpts from Rob Bell’s controversial book questioning the purpose and reality of hell.   The week of May 21st it will be the countdown to Jesus’ Return predicted by Christian radio broadcaster Harold Camping.  In the weeks that follow it will be something else.  Thankfully the royal wedding is giving us some reprieve from all this today.

Ecclesiastes tells us “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (1:9)   And so what better source of political and religious advice from a man who has done it all, had it all, seen it all and consequently knows it all?  It is a retrospective written by an old man who could have been a high governmental leader, if not King Solomon himself, and at the same time may have also been an influential religious leader and teacher. 

Here are Ecclesiastes prescriptions for avoiding controversy and lowering blood pressure when it comes to politics and religion.

1. “Do not say ‘why were the old days better than these?’ for it is not wise to ask such questions.” (7:10)  Idealizing the past and dramatizing the evil of the present can keep us from moving forward into a preferred future.  Here’s the reality, the world has always been going to hell in a hand basket!  That is why two thousand years ago Jesus came, to redeem His creation from self destruction.  Longing for the olden days as our golden days make us too negative, critical and fault finding of the present.  It breeds discontent and a complaining spirit.  Don’t long for the past and don’t live in the past.  It will keep you from accomplishing something meaningful in the present.  And besides, no one wants to be around someone who is always talking about the past.

2. “The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.” (7:18) The context for this verse is in reference specifically to not being self-righteous nor intellectually conceited.  That is good advice for our social interactions and more specifically great advice for our religious and political persuasions.  Taking extremist views of anything usually make for unnecessary trouble and at worst may even lead to some form of deception.  I like Alexander Pope’s advice.  “Be not the first by whom the new is tried nor yet the last to lay the old aside.”  Moderation is a virtue and makes for a peaceful and productive life.

3. “The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left.” (10:2)  This verse fascinates me.  The “right” in the Bible represents the greater good as opposed to the “left” which stands for the lesser.  Jesus is seated at the right hand of God and the right hand was the hand of greatest blessing. (e.g. Jacob in Genesis 48:13-20)  Of course in our day the right is a term for conservatives and the left for the liberals.  If we were to apply this advice to our politics the Bible would seem to indicate it is wisest to take a moderately conservative stance.  Could this also apply to our religious practices?  But in what regard?  Again the message seems to be – no extremes. You make out of it what you will.

The most important advice in the entire book of Ecclesiastes is at the very end.  In the second to last verse the writer concludes that those who want the favor of God must fear Him and choose to live a life that pleases Him.  (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

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2 Responses to “3 bits of political and religious advice”

  1. Thanks for the well timed word of caution Pastor.

  2. As always I appreciate your comments Morris! A friend of mine on Facebook added some good advice regarding leaning to the right: “As long as you don’t lean too far and fall over.” That is funny when you picture it but sad when you consider those who are leaning way beyond the tipping point.

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