Honest to God?

after Ecclesiastes 5

Watch carefully your step when you draw near
to God. Fools play at worship, coming to
Him to be seen and heard, more than to hear.

They tip their hats to God, and think they do
Him some great service; but their sacrifice,
such as it is, is worthless. So, if you

would come to God, don’t think it just a nice
thing to assuage your guilty conscience, and
don’t pile on vows or promises, or dice

your words. God knows, and God will understand
your motives and designs. He will not let
you use Him for your ends, for in His hand

are earth and heav’n and all life. And yet
He welcomes your approach, especially when
you come to honor and adore Him. Set

your heart to hear more than to speak, and then
you’ll find Him. He is not a fantasy
or dream, materializing only when

preceded by so much activity.
Activity provides the stuff of dreams;
and fools are known by many words. So be

content to listen for Him Who redeems
those who seek Him sincerely. Then, when you
declare your firm intention—as it seems

to you—to do some work for Him, delay
not to fulfill your vow. Fools make all kinds
of promises to God, but seldom pay

what they have vowed. But God Almighty finds
no joy in fools. Pay what you vow, or do
not vow at all, for foolish vowing blinds

you to the truth, and makes you subject to
the discipline of God. Do not allow
your mouth to cause your flesh to sin, for who

can save you then? And do not say your vow
was all a big mistake, when someone sent
to you by God inquires, observing how

you’ve failed to keep your promise. God will vent
Himself against your folly and your lies,
and bring your cherished work to naught. Repent

of all such vanity! The night-time skies
are filled with empty dreams, but they amount
to nothing; and the vows of him who cries

by words, though they be more than you can count,
will know more of God’s anger than His grace.
Fear God! For this affection is the fount

of wisdom. If you see before the face
of God and men, oppression of the poor,
the violent perversion and disgrace

of righteousness and justice, to ignore
this would be wrong, and just to wonder at
it is no better. Evil from the floor

to ceiling stretches where vain men have sat
to judge the nation, foolish men who wink
at one another’s wickedness, so that

corruption spreads throughout the whole. You’d think
that we would tire of this, and want to see
our land abound in good, and not just sink

more deeply in corruption’s mire. Are we
all fools? We think we will be satisfied
with wealth and ease; but this is vanity.

When goods increase, and we hope to abide
in happiness, then they increase who eat
up all our wealth, and thus is peace denied

us. For the sleep of working men is sweet,
though they have much or little. But the man
who trusts in wealth finds sleeping well a feat

impossible to master. Nothing can
console or comfort him against the fear
of losing all he clutches in his hand

so tightly. He might have a son, but here
again, a son may bear his name, but he
consumes the wealth the rich man holds so dear.

The man who lives beneath the sun must see
that nothing from his labors will remain
with him, when it comes time for him to be

committed to the ground. It is insane,
and sorely evil, to spend all your days
in works and projects, hoping you might gain

by these some lasting peace and well-earned praise.
You came into world with nothing, and
you’ll exit it the same. And all your ways—

your worries, all the labors of your hand—
you’ll leave behind. And then in darkness you
will eat the food of worms. So understand

me; here is what I’ve seen: It’s good to do
your work with satisfaction all the days
God gives you underneath the sun, and to

enjoy your food and drink. These are the ways
of every man who hopes for nothing more
than this world’s goods and pleasures, and who strays

from God—though God is always there before
him, blessing him with many gifts and good
things. But as wealth increases more and more,

instead of thanking God, as all men should,
he fixates on his work and things, as though
these were the means of any joy he could

hope to obtain in life. He does not know
that these things are from God, Who loves him so.



T.M. and Susie Moore make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont. He is Principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, and the author of 8 books of poetry. He and Susie have collaborated on more than 30 books, which may be found, together with their many other writings and resources, including the daily teaching letter Scriptorium, at www.ailbe.org.

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2 Responses

  1. C.B. Anderson


    It was a refreshing change to read something of universal value, rather than the constant stream focusing on the endless quotidian maladies that afflict all of us nowadays. I think you have nailed terza rima; you seem quite at ease with it. Other authors have not handled this form so well. Evan permitting, I shall publish some of my own terza rima on this site in the not too far-distant future. Yes, T.M., humility is prudent and perforce necessary when approaching the godhead. If He is what He is said to be, then no tinge of dissimulation will ever profit the false supplicant. Much the opposite!


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