By: Undre Griggs, Jr.
As a child, my parents made it clear I was to live in a manner that would not embarrass my family or me. My dad would go a step further and say, your name is all you have at the end of the day. They can take your job, they can take your friends, and they can take your wealth; but they cannot take your name. The writer of Ecclesiastes is expressing the same sentiment. He wants the reader to understand dying with a good name is better than being born in wealth.
Ecclesiastes 7:1-4 (ESV): A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
We already know the writer of Ecclesiastes believes that life on this earth is a life “full of vanity and misery”. It stands to reason that the writer is reminding us that the indulgences of the flesh are not beneficial in the long-run. As a result, it is better to mourn at a funeral than it is to celebrate at a wedding. It is better to find sorrow than it is to find laughter. Notice that those who are wise (because they are living a life that is pleasing to God) are in the house of mourning. The wise can see the “vanity and misery” of the world, so they do not indulge in the pleasures of this earth. It is only the fools who are focused on short-term pleasure, while living in a world of corruption and misery. Maintaining a good name in spite of the ability to prosper through wickedness and corruption, shows one’s ability to focus on God and His ultimate reward on Judgment Day.
Proverbs 22:1-4 (ESV): A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold. The rich and the poor meet together; the Lord is the Maker of them all. The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it. The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.
The apostle Paul speaks on the love of money being the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10). People are willing to steal, cheat, and make decisions based on personal gain when they love money. However, when you are focused on maintaining a good name, you are humble and live a life of respect to the Lord. You are focused on spreading the name of God and furthering His kingdom, even if that is at the expense of your well-being. In addition to the fact that people will find it difficult to speak ill of you, you will not be tempted by all the world has to offer. You will stay clearheaded, understanding that the precious ointment of the world comes at a great cost. Focus on humbly maintaining your good name in the Lord and everything else will take care of itself.
By: Undre Griggs, Jr.
God wants us to know that He is there for us whenever we need Him. If you are in need of a friend, He will be your closest confidant. If you need some advice, He will be your trusted counselor. If you need protection, He will be your shield. God will strengthen you in the way you need and when you need Him most.
Isaiah 41:9-11 (NIV): I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. “All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish.
Whether you are believer or a nonbeliever, you will face some form of persecution. As a believer, our objective is to only face persecution for Christ’s sake, never from our own misdeeds. The problem does not come from persecution, but from fear to persuading us to trust in something other than God. When your trust in God fades, you start to lean on the security of the world. You start to befriend the strong and vote for the powerful; even though they reflect the traits you should avoid the most.
Proverbs 29:25-26 (ESV): The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice.
The apostle Paul encourages Christians to remain faithful to God in the face of persecution. Paul reminds Timothy that Christians do not have a spirit of fear, but a Spirit of power, love and self-control. Your victory is in the life, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ and there is no weapon on this earth that can change that. It is only by us relying on what the world has to offer that can alter our fate.
2 Timothy 1:6-7 (ESV): For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
What makes succumbing to fear so damaging is the fact that it requires a person to believe that God is not trustworthy. Whether you do not trust in His will or you trust too much in the will of man, you are leaning too much on your own understanding. When we trust ourselves more than we trust God, we begin to rationalize, justify and compromise our values. Paul wants us to remember that the power of God’s love is all we need, and even if that does not provide what we want here on earth, it will surely be more than we ever dreamed in heaven.
By: Undre Griggs, Jr.
As the saying goes, “show me who you hang out with and I can tell you something about yourself”. This is because we traditionally hang out with people we are comfortable being around. Comfort can be derived in many ways, but the most common form of comfort is acceptance of who we are. This is not to say everything our friends take part in is a direct reflection on us, but it is saying people who frequently disagree with each other tend to have fewer interactions.
1 Corinthians 15:33 (NIV): Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
We should not be confused by the notion we can have friends we disagree with on a core level. Our core values should be something we are unable to compromise; so each time a core disagreement arises, it will likely be a point of contention. If it is not an issue, then it is reasonable to conclude one of the participant’s core values have changed or it was never a core value to begin with. Much the same as siblings or a spouse will inherit characteristics of their loved ones; we will absorb tendencies based on who we surround ourselves with. This is part of the reason we often see the Bible telling us to limit our interaction with divisive and ungodly people.
Romans 16:17 (ESV): I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.
If we maintain good character, bad company will not want anything to do with us. Shining a light in a world of darkness is the surest way to have a limited amount of friends and an abundance of adversaries.
John 15:18-19 (NIV): If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.
Jesus wanted to make sure His disciples knew if they lived as He did, the world would hate them. The passage also holds true for us today; if we live as the world lives, the world will welcome us with love. The people we befriend are a direct representation of this passage. If they are a part of the world and they befriend us, then we may be a part of the world or at least accepting of it. We should take no part in ungodly acts, but use our interactions to expose them (Ephesians 5:11). If we speak truth in love as Jesus did and shine our light, we will be able to influence those around us for the better. This leads us back to the opening statement; show me who your friends are and I will tell you something about yourself. The question for each of us to answer is whether that represents our understanding of ourselves, and if not, what can we do to change?
By: Undre Griggs, Jr.
As Christians, we understand the cost of sin to be death. As people who live in the world, we understand that all sin is not seen as equal. The world will say that nobody is perfect to justify the complacent response to sins that “everyone” commits. One of the more downplayed sins of the day is the sin of gossiping. When asked which is worse: gossiping or murder; gossiping or adultery; gossiping or stealing – the answer rolls off the tongue in each case. Gossiping can be seen as a small thing, but in actuality its consequences are just as great. Instead of which is worse, what if the question were...
Which sin will erode trust among peers?
Proverbs 11:13 (ESV): Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.
Which sin could make your religion worthless?
James 1:26 (ESV): If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless.
Which sin does God consider wasting time?
II Thessalonians 3:11-12(ESV): For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.
Which sin will ruin friendships?
Proverbs 16:28 (ESV): A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.
Gossiping is saying something that we should not be saying (1 Timothy 5:13). We often find gossiping comes when we believe someone mistreated us, or someone is getting away with something. We feel compelled to take matters into our own hands, but the Bible says vengeance belongs to the Lord (Romans 12:19). We have to trust Him when He says all things done in darkness will come to light (Luke 8:17). We do not get a license to sin because we believe someone mistreated us. We do not have the ability to categorize sins as small or large. We are commanded not to let corrupting talk come out of our mouth and there is no exception for, “unless you have a good reason”. If you encounter a problem, you have to speak with that person first; if that doesn’t work add a witness; and if that doesn’t work, bring it to the congregation (Matthew 18:15-17). Too often we start by speaking to the masses instead of the individual. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
By: Undre Griggs, Jr.
Cain, like so many of us, wants God to be pleased with the work he is doing. Also like so many of us, Cain was trying to do things according to his own preferences, instead of obeying God’s will.
Genesis 4:3-5 (NIV): In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
We find from the account in Hebrews 11 that Abel’s faith was the reason his offering was better than Cain’s. Abel provided God the “firstborn of his flocks”, while Cain offering God “some of the fruits”.
Hebrews 11:4 (NIV): By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.
While it is not explicitly stated, it would seem God believed Cain understood what was expected of him. Like any parent, God is not pleased when His children do not obey His directions; even if they complete the task. If we want our children to buy a loaf of bread, they cannot take it upon themselves to purchase a pack of cheese with the change. As Christians, we cannot add or ignore the guidelines found in the Bible and expect God to be pleased with us. We have an understanding that obedience to God is how we show Him that we love Him.
John 14:23 (ESV): Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
If we ignore His words and fail to meet His expectations, God wants us to know He is not pleased with us. Jehovah is a just and fair God, and as such, He will reward us if we do right and walk the path of righteousness. If we do wrong, like Cain, we open ourselves up to sin and that can lead us down the path of destruction. Stay strong, show your love to God through obedience, and do not lean on your own understanding.
Genesis 4:6-7 (NIV): Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”