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Sunday, October 6, 2013

The book of Ecclesiastes

This Sunday, Oct. 6th, 2013, our morning Bible class will start out on a journey of study in the book of Ecclesiastes. I've taught this book before and I think it's a tremendous study of the wisdom of Solomon seen in his explanation of the relative value of earthly things versus spiritual things. I told the class last week that we'd be seeing a phrase repeated throughout this study regarding the "earthly things" and that phrase is: "all is vanity." With that thought and phrase in mind, I'd like you to consider some thoughts based upon it.

A few years back someone coined the phrase "beautiful people." The way it was used then, and still today, applied to those people being either wealthy or practiced in the ways of temporal/worldly pleasure. Or both. This got me to thinking about what really constitutes a "beautiful person" so I thunk on it for awhile and I'm going to share my thoughts with you here.

My first thought is that the world is hung up on this idea of physical beauty, isn't it? And, being the astute and observant people that we are, we know that not everyone is not beautiful in the way that the world looks at beauty. Oh, the TV wants us to believe that everyone looks like the beautiful and handsome actors seen in the commercials, but we know that isn't true, don't we? But, they want you to believe that if you drink (X-brand) beer, you'll be a "beautiful person" too, just like the ones seen in the ad.

But, there's another category of products that really whet my editorial juices, plus make me laugh when you really stop and think about it, and that is the cosmetics offered for sale. Think about this - only "beautiful people" are seen in their commercials, yet they're selling a product to make people look better. That must mean that they recognize that there must be people who are not beautiful, but by using their product, they can be. Like the models seen in the ad. Why don't they use plain, unattractive people in their ads and then show how the product improved them to the beautiful stage? You know the answer to that.

How this thought fits with our coming study of Ecclesiastes is simply this: the cosmetic products are advertised in the manner that they are so that they appeal to our "vanity." Because most everyone wants to be beautiful too. And if they use the same cosmetics that the beautiful people use, they too will be one of the "beautiful people."

Some years ago I read that the cosmetics industry was an 18 billion dollar a year business and I'm pretty sure that figure has been surpassed by today's market. And, from what little research that I've done (noticing prices in stores and ads), they don't make becoming beautiful cheap, do they. And furthermore, this "vanity" and these products are not relegated to just women's "vanity," a lot of men are just as "vain." Don't believe me, just check out the ads for all the men's products available in the cosmetic marketplace.

It's been opined that if a woman went through one of the current glamour/fashion magazines and used all of the products in it and they worked as advertised, she'd have "silky-smooth, blemish-free, firm, perfectly textured, youthful skin, devoid of lines and wrinkles." She'd have a "natural-looking glow" along with a "natural glowing blush, huge expressive eyes with long, dark, thick yet soft eyelashes."

She would also have "soft, smooth, kissable lips" covered with a "frankly fabulous color." Her hair would be one of the following descriptors: "Full-bodied that glows with health, shiny, shimmery, soft and sexy." And the hands, can't forget the hands, can we? She'd have "moisturized fingernails covered with a shimmery sheen" or more likely today, be beautiful fake nails applied by a specialist in such products. As to her complexion, we could go on for several paragraphs about that but, suffice it to say, it would be "beautifully tanned, rich deep and long-lasting."

This industry and it's product sales in the billions is built upon the "vanity" of human beings. I'm reminded of another word that sounds a lot like "vanity" that is applicable to the real result of aforementioned commercials and that word is - fantasy.

Of course, there's the old saying "Beauty is only skin-deep" and that old wheeze fits perfectly with our thoughts here. You see, that's as far as the cosmetics can go. They cannot have any effect on the inner person. They may be able to "cleanse the skin" but they can't "cleanse the soul."

An interesting thing I found about the cosmetics industry is that there is really no control over it by the government other than if a product makes mis-leading claims or is known to be harmful if used. Plus, the industry is very careful to NOT promise that their product will chemically alter the body in any way because it is regulated by the "Food And Drug Administration." If they did that, they would then come under the regulations of the "drug" category and not the "food" regulations. So, they walk a very tight line in advertising their products.

Oh, they can make their product sound good by the terms they use in their ads, but don't really say anything that gets its category changed. A good example of this is seen by the use of the term "hypoallergenic." Know what that means? If not, join a large club of people who don't know either. But, you got to admit that it sure sounds scientific, doesn't it?

Actually, there is no standard definition of that word. Basically it means that their product contains no known allergens. And, since there isn't a large amount of allergens available, the company would be stupid to include one in their product, wouldn't they? The use of that word is only designed to sound like it really means something which then allows them to charge more money for the "hypoallergenic" product.

Solomon talks a lot in Ecclesiastes about putting one's trust and faith in things of this world and how worthless that is as far as what's really important to mankind. Remember, everything of this world is "vanity." So, instead of spending a lot of time, effort and money on things that cannot affect the most important part of us, our "soul," that is where we should concentrate our "cleansing" efforts. Because, no matter how beautiful or ugly our human forms are, they have no bearing on where our soul resides eternally.

Ecclesiastes 12:7 tells us what does have a bearing on where our soul rests forever. It tells us what part of us needs to be "cleansed," or allegorically in keeping with our editorial today, where we need to apply our beautification efforts. It says there that upon the occasion of our death "the spirit returns to God who gave it." And, it's the condition of that "spirit," that "soul" when it "returns" that determines how beautiful we are to God.

It should have no "wrinkles or blemishes." It didn't have them when God issued it to you and, in order to arrive back to Him in an acceptable condition, all the stains of the world must be removed. Not just covered over, but "washed" clean. And there is only one product available that has any cleansing effect on the soul - the "blood of Jesus Christ." "And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood." (Rev. 1:5)

Acts 22:16 tells us how this product is applied: "baptism" into Christ's blood will "wash away your sins." The attempt to use any other product, or to use it in a manner different from the "label's" directions, won't work. Should that be tried, either case, we can only apply Solomon's words here: "All is vanity."

Respectfully submitted,

Ron Covey

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