Introduction: If we think that we should live a life in accord with
the teachings of the Bible and teach others to do the same, would the
end result be a little more heaven on earth? Is that a reasonable
belief? Or, is the presence of sin a permanent barrier to heaven on
earth? Are Christians properly criticized for leaving the solution
to problems to the Second Coming of Jesus? When the Lord asks us to
pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in
heaven” ( Matthew 6:9-10), is fixing problems on earth something to be
left to God? Let’s dive into our study of the Bible and learn more!
- A Moderate Approach
- Read Ecclesiastes 8:14? Is there a predictable reward for
right living? Will doing what is right bring a heavenly
result on earth? (Solomon says that he observes that just
the opposite happens sometimes. Bad people get good things
and good people get bad things.)
- Is that what you have observed, too?
- If so, why do you think that is true?
- Read Ecclesiastes 8:12-13. Isn’t this just the opposite of
what we just read? Is Solomon speaking out of both sides
of his mouth? (No. King Solomon once again states what any
reasonable person has observed. Life is better if you obey
God, and worse if you do not. However, there are
exceptions that reflect the fact that we live in a sinful
- Read Ecclesiastes 8:15. How does this fit into what we
just discussed? Is this the “heaven on earth” goal? (We
need to make the best of what we have now. The idea that
there is a perfect cause and effect relationship in life
is not totally true here on earth. Thus, Solomon explains
that obedience to God is the rule, and you should try to
- Bag Men
- Read Matthew 25:14-15. Who is the man going on a journey?
(This is a parable about Jesus leaving for heaven while
His disciples to wait for Him until the Second Coming.)
- Why are the servants given differing amounts? (The
text says “each according to his ability.”)
- What does this suggest about humans? (We are
created equal in the eyes of God, but God also
recognizes that we have different abilities.)
- Read Matthew 25:16-18. Do you think the five gold bag man
is a more faithful servant than the two bag man?
- Read Matthew 25:19-23. Does God treat the man who earned
twice as much any differently? (No. We have different
talents, but what is important is faithfulness with what
we have been given.)
- Did you notice the result for these diligent
- Read Matthew 25:24-27. Would it have been sufficient for
the one bag guy to have put the money in a bank? (It
sounds like it.)
- Notice that this one bag guy says that he was
“afraid.” Afraid of what? Capitalism? Investing? His
- Read Matthew 25:28-30. What are these bags? Are they
money? Are they natural talents? Are they opportunities in
- Would the one bag man be considered the “least of
these” because he had the least amount of bags, and
he ended up with no bags?
- There are some who say, “If you want to know
whose side God is on, find those who are doing
poorly, and you can know God is on their side.”
What does this parable teach about that idea?
(It is unreliable.)
- What spiritual lesson should we draw from this
parable? (God wants us to be diligent with what He
has given us.)
- What do you think it means to gain more bags of gold?
Could that be helping the least of these?
- If the one bag guy is the least of these, why does
the master take his bag and give it to the guy with
the most bags? (I don’t think the Bible generally
promotes taking from the poor and giving to the rich.
But, there is a strong thread in the Bible that
disobedience and distrust of God leads to an
unsuccessful life. Note what we previously read from
Ecclesiastes: these general rules are not always
- Hungry, Thirsty, and Sweet Smelling
- Read Matthew 25:34-37 and Matthew 25:40. This follows the
“gold bags” parable we just studied. Are these two
parables related? Are they making the same point? Are they
making different points?
- Are they teaching us that going to heaven is a matter
of multiplying our gold bags and helping the hungry
- Read Matthew 26:6-9. Let’s assume that the disciples, just
like you, were just considering the gold bag and hungry
and thirsty parables. Would their conclusion be natural
and obvious based on what they just heard? (Absolutely!
The woman’s “gold bag” just got poured out. The hungry and
thirsty are still hungry and thirsty.)
- Read Matthew 26:10. How does Jesus characterize the
reaction of the disciples? (They are “bothering” this
woman. What they say is not correct.)
- Read Matthew 26:11. What is Jesus saying about the poor?
Is this a problem that has a “heaven on earth” solution?
(Jesus tells us that the poor will be a continuing problem
- Let’s step back a minute and re-read Matthew 25:40. What
light does this add to this woman’s actions? (This woman
did not indirectly help Jesus by helping the poor, she
directly helped Jesus.)
- Did the disciples consider themselves to be poor? Did
they consider themselves to be hungry and thirsty?
(They don’t say that she could have sold this perfume
and divided the money among the disciples.)
- If the disciples did not consider themselves poor,
would they consider Jesus to be poor? (No. If they
did, they would not have protested that the value of
this could have helped the poor.)
- Read Matthew 26:12-13. What is the lesson for us? (Helping
the hungry and thirsty is one way to show God’s love, but
it is not the only way. We can show love to all of those
around us, not just those in need of help.)
- Let’s go back and re-read what Solomon says in
Ecclesiastes 8:15. Is this the same thing that Jesus
is saying to His disciples? Recall that Jesus was
“reclining at the table” when the woman poured the
perfume on Him.
- Are there conclusions about what we have read that we
can be rather certain about? (If we are faithful with
what we have, God will bless us. Helping the least of
these reflects the love of God. Helping our family
reflects the love of God. See, 1Timothy 5:4.)
- Are there conclusions from this that are less
certain? (Solomon’s point seems to be moderation.
Sure, bad things are going on in the world. But our
main focus does not have to be on that. Enjoying life
is also important. Some bad things result from
disobedience to God, and that creates a perpetual
- Was this unnamed woman being “moderate?” (There is no
evidence that she is wealthy, other than having this
expensive perfume. She poured it all out on Jesus.)
- If you regularly follow these lessons you know I
often have you read Malachi 3:10-12. What important
point is left unstated here? (Tithe is ten percent.
God could have stated it differently, “Keep ninety
percent and you will be tremendously blessed.”)
- Does this support Solomon’s approach – enjoy
life with your ninety percent?
- A song comes to mind, “All to Jesus I surrender, all
to Him I freely give.” Were the lyrics composed by a
Bible illiterate? (I understand this to mean that I
am one hundred percent devoted to God and doing His
will. Determining His will is the reason we are
discussing the ninety percent.)
- Read Ecclesiastes 3:12 and Ecclesiastes 5:19. How does
this combine the idea of happiness and joy and work? (God
wants us to have joy in life, even in our work. This tends
to explain that the five bag guy enjoyed his work on
behalf of God, while the one bag guy was afraid. Advancing
the gospel, helping the hungry and thirsty, loving our
family, brings happiness.)
- Read Matthew 26:14-16. Do you think it is a coincidence
that the story of the perfume lady and the story of Judas
are next to each other in the Bible?
- How is Judas unlike the perfume lady? (She gives
generously to Jesus in His last days on earth. He
seeks to profit from Jesus’ last days.)
- What is the lesson for us? Who ended up being
- Friend, do not lose sight of the fact that you are saved
by grace alone. Faith, not works, is the only way to
heaven. It is a fact of life that we act in accord with
our beliefs. Jesus’ parables teach us that faith changes
how we live. Living in accord with our faith generally
brings happiness. Will you determine, by the power of the
Holy Spirit, to understand God’s will for your life and
walk in His will?
- Next week: To Love Mercy.