God · Life

This is living

I think I’ve found my favourite Bible verse. It was most likely written by King Solomon, renowned for his wisdom and exquisite wealth. Here it is:

After looking at the way things are on this earth, here’s what I’ve decided is the best way to live: Take care of yourself, have a good time, and make the most of whatever job you have for as long as God gives you life. And that’s about it. That’s the human lot. (Ecclesiastes 5:18-19, The Message)

At first sight it almost seems, for want of a better word, un-Christian. Take care of yourself? Have a good time? It almost sounds as if it’s bordering on selfishness. Personally, I was surprised to find that little tidbit in the Bible.

The more I look at it, though, the more the verse grows on me. The verse itself sounds exactly like something you’ll find in Ecclesiastes: a book full of gritty, honest, practical advice that King Solomon had curated through his years observing other people living their lives.

One of the major things that I’ve learned recently is the importance of assigning my resources. After studying, socialising, serving, working, teaching, travelling, playing so much that I was close to exhaustion, I was finally forced to admit that I was working close to my limits. I liked to think of myself as the person who didn’t say “no” to someone in need. An hour spent helping someone else was an hour well-spent.

It fast became clear that, when I give myself on a first-come-first-serve basis, I was ultimately no good to anyone. I’d taken on a lot of responsibilities throughout the year: more than I could cope with. I ended up quitting my part time tutoring job, leaving two students midway through their last semester before exams. I stopped being on teams at church. I hardly ever went out to socialise. I dropped out of the sports team I’d loved playing in. I became frankly hard to live with.

Though it seems less glamorous, selfless, and loving, I accepted that I need to take care of myself. In the short term, it feels like I am doing less. But I’m learning that giving sustainably is far more effective than giving without boundaries. When I am more discerning in what I am able to give, I am able to use my resources far more efficiently. And as for having a good time – I’ve come to realise that I am far more able to access these resources when I’m enjoying life.

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