Damariscotta Baptist Church
Monday, September 24, 2018
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07/09/17 Sermon - What are the Motives of Your Behavior?

“What are the Motives of Your Behavior?”

Ecclesiastes 10

Solomon has written the next 3 chapters of Ecclesiastes in Proverb form. Rather than read them through the proverbial sayings of chapter 10 one at a time, I have broken them into sections and our Scripture reader, Art Conley, will read the section and then I will respond to it.

Our first section of Chapter 10 of Ecclesiastes deals with “The Evil of foolish leadership” - (Art reads 1-7)

Dead flies ruin everything they die in, don’t they? I suspect in Solomon’s day flies were commonplace and and it didn’t take long for them to make even the best perfume, stink. Solomon correlates this stench with what happens when a fool becomes a ruler.

A question arises as to whether this statement is autobiographical or if Solomon recognized that folly was present everywhere, even those chosen to be king’s could be fools.

Solomon also recognized that human life is political and has its political hierarchies. Regardless of where people live, whether in the aboriginal outback or as urban intellectuals, people are governed, one way or another. Solomon gives advice on how to deal with those in charge in order to make life easier. Practically speaking Solomon has a point. It’s best to stay on good terms with the powerful. Self-control is always best, especially when dealing with someone who has control over your well-being. Remembering that Solomon was king at the time he was writing this, so it is no wonder he considers it evil when slaves are on horses and princess are found walking. Solomon may have been against social injustices but he still insisted on keeping his social structure.

Our next section of Chapter 10 is entitled, “The Evil of Foolish Living,” verses 8-11.    (Art reads)

Solomon reminds us in this section, that accidents do happen. We have come to understand this implicitly and every workplace has signs for workers to read warning them that foolish behaviors could result in injury. We have also developed governmental agencies such as OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, to investigate and regulate workplaces in order to make sure we keep safe.  Solomon was heading up the OSHA of his day by giving wise warnings and encouraging his readers to be cautious and to reduce the possibility of accidents while doing hazardous work.. The verbs in verse 8, should be translated as possibilities not predictions, the New King James Version has translated them correctly in stating the one who digs a pit, “may fall” into it and if one breaks through a wall, they “may be bitten” by a snake.

Stones are apt to fall on those who quary them, as well as trees hitting those who chop them.

Verses 10-11 reminds us that “a word to the wise is sufficient.” Wisdom was to be used to save energy. Such as the sharpening of one’s axe ahead of time, or charming the snake before it bites. Wisdom presents the notion that without caution, one may have to pay a high price. “A stitch in time may save nine.”

“The evil of foolish talk” is the theme for the next four verses in Chapter 10, verses 12-15,  (Art reads)

Solomon was writing to his students who were striving to obtain positions of responsibility within the government or in business. His advice to them was to watch how and what they spoke. The words they used could mean the difference between succeeding or failing. Like learning how to charm a snake, Solomon said it was wise to tame the tongue.

He gives some negative results for the fool’s talk. Foolish talk is “self-destructive.” Even worse, the words the fool speaks are suicide-weapons, they “swallow” the one who speaks them.  

We have heard the phrase, “you may have to eat your words, “

Solomon has the words eating us!

Solomon describes a downward spiral of self-destruction, that begins with, what else?

“Foolishness” and results in

“raving madness.”

As the fool keeps talking, the result is, no one knows what is coming or what will happen after he is dead. Solomon ends this section with both the fate and the incompetence of fools.

They end up depleted and so befuddled they don’t even remember their way back to the city. Today we would say, “They don’t even have enough sense to come in, out of the rain.”

Solomon completes this chapter with “The blessedness of wise leadership,” in verses 16-20 (Art reads)

Solomon uses contrasting phrases, “Woe to you,” and “happy are you.” The “woe” language will lead to judgement and the “happy” language will lead to blessings. Woe to people who have a ruler that seeks only to have a good time, who is immature and seeks power for their own gain. Solomon also implies that this ruler is given to drunkenness.

Whereas the opposite is true for the one who is ruled by a leader who is the “son of nobility” and has learned the “proper time” to feast or party.

Who has also learned that one never does so for drunkenness, but exercises self-control, reserving strength in order to take care of the kingdom.

The next verse reminds us that there are consequences to being lazy, and those consequences will be seen by everyone and will reveal one’s laziness. The lazy person’s house has a roof collapsing, and the plumbing doesn’t work. The worker, earns bread and wine, and has laughter and joy in their life. The line that states that money is the answer to everything, is not a timeless principle, but an indication that for those who work and make money, they can afford to take care of their leaky roofs and leaky plumbing.

Solomon completes this section with a warning, that we are to be careful what we say, especially about the king, or ruler. Because the walls have ears, and the king has informers networked everywhere. You never know who is in the room and who is loyal to whom.

Even today we may hear words against us and when asked we may say, “A little bird told me.”  Suffice it to say that a wise person’s speech does not have curses and is not full of reckless statements but is full of words that edify and bless.

Chapter ten has Solomon reminding us of the benefits of wisdom and how the wise keep their speech in line with the goals they have, whereas the foolish have problems with self-regulating their speech. Whether we recognize it or not, psychologists today have determined that humans are intrinsically “goal oriented.” Scripture backs this up repeatedly by giving reference to the purpose or the motive of our words and our behavior and how this impacts our lives. Scripture teaches us that we indeed, have goals in life that we want fulfilled, the trick is making sure the goals we have line up with the goals that glorify God.  1 Corinthians 10:31

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Let’s face it, many people have a purpose or motive that drives them to do something that they are not even aware of.  James, the brother of Jesus recognized this and wrote in chapter 4, verse 3,

“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

We may not be aware of our motives but God is. God knows both our thoughts and our motives for the things we do. One of the best ways to understand someone’s actions is to first understand what they want. What motivates us, is what determines our behavior. The person who is foolish, according to Solomon, is the person who speaks disrespectfully, without grace, and without thinking.

They do so because that is what seems right to them. Basically, they have problems with self-regulating their behavior. They have their own goals and standards in which they live by and that is what motivates their behavior. The debate is still out as to whether self-regulation is a genetic or learned behavior, or a bit of both.

However, scientists have studied the brain and have discovered that for those who believe in God, the brain is changed in such a way to aid in the development of more wise and self-regulating behaviors. Does this mean that Solomon’s wise sayings are relevant today? That our behaviour can be determined by our motives?

According to scientific research, there is a direct correlation between spirituality in children and adolescents and improved emotional regulation in regards to:

  • Less substance abuse

  • Less violence

  • Less tendency to delay sexual involvement

Even into adulthood, religiousness relates to:

  • Less marital conflict

  • More consistent parenting

  • Improved relationships among all family members

It has also been proved that one’s faith promotes:

  • Prosocial values

  • Compassion

  • And overall life satisfaction.

I don’t need to tell you this, many of you already realize this in your own lives. It’s those times in your life when you experience the opposite that you need to stop and check your motives.

When our motives are God centered we experience positive results.

When we are experiencing negative results, it may be wise to check our motives.

When our motives are God centered we can be certain that God is in the moment, when our motives are “me” centered, that may be the time when struggles begin. When we are not seeing the “fruit of the Spirit” love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, than we know it is time to check our motives. Seek prayer and self-regulate.

Does prayer really make a difference? Well, in my research for this chapter I came upon some research I think you will find interesting. In 1993, a study was conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, where they studied the brains of Franciscan nuns who had fifteen years or more of practice in meditative prayer.

The nuns were asked to pray for forty-five minutes while the scientists measured their brain activity. The researchers discovered that while praying the sections of the nun’s brains that were affected were the sections of emotions,

sense of self, and

focus of attention.

This and other studies determined that with a long history of prayer, the frontal lobe of the brain was thicker and larger. It is the frontal lobe of the brain that regulates

our ability to focus our attention,

to concentrate on things, and

to both control and regulate our emotions.

So how does this relate to wisdom?

Believers who spend their time praying may actually be changing their brain and

increasing their ability to self-regulate and

increasing their ability to not respond impulsively.

Therefore, my recommendation is for us to commence prayer.

Dear God…….