DEAR FATHER PAUL: I have enjoyed your column for a long time. What is the very best short advice you can give a person in this day and age? Rachel
DEAR RACHEL: My, what a fascinating question … makes me really think, because I’ve been writing this column for over fifteen years now.
As I think and pray about your question, I seem to be somehow drawn to the advice that one of my Bible heroes and also one of history’s all-time greatest men gave at the end of his own long life.
I am talking about the advice given by the godly and wise King Solomon on the very last page of his autobiography … the Bible book of Ecclesiastes.
Written by Solomon near the end of his nearly forty-year reign over Israel about one thousand years before Jesus, in Ecclesiastes Solomon reviews his entire life and reign in twelve short chapters that any of us can read in less than an hour.
I highly recommend that everyone, even non-religious people, read Ecclesiastes. A couple of clicks on Google will pull Ecclesiastes up for you. Select one of the newer translations like the “New International Version” or the “New Living Translation.” Younger people especially will find Solomon’s own story a fascinating guide of “do’s” and “don’ts” to adopt as a “roadmap” for a satisfying and successful life.
In Ecclesiastes Solomon spends time talking about his huge successes and his huge failures in a long life. As a man, whom many call the wisest, the richest and the most powerful man who has ever lived, in Ecclesiastes, Solomon bares the depths of his very soul to all generations yet to come. His openness and honesty are touching and refreshing, especially when one compares Solomon to today’s leaders.
At the very end of the book … Ecclesiastes, chapter twelve, verses 13 and 14 … Solomon sums up everything he has learned (New Living Translation): “That’s the (my) whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear (reverence and love) God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. (For) God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.”
So to you, Rachel, and to everyone else who reads Solomon’s words …and for me also, as I myself am well into the autumn of my own life, my answer to your question, is the same advice Solomon gave all of mankind twenty centuries ago. Namely: “LOVE GOD, AND DO WHAT HE SAYS.” Just imagine what the world be like if all of us took Solomon’s advice?
DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION? Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will try to answer your question online at TheCitizen.com.
[Father Paul Massey is Canon to the Bishop of the Mid-South Diocese of the International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church and is assigned to Christ The King Church in Sharpsburg, Georgia. He is a chaplain to the Peachtree City, Georgia Police Department.]