People have always wanted to get rich. In the past people headed to California to buy gold. Today, people go to casinos. They buy lottery tickets. And even if we aren’t active in these activities there’s probably a little part of us that wishes we were rich. Even preachers tap into this tendency. 24 hours a day on TBN self-proclaimed prophets finance their ministries by telling people God will bless them financially if they’ll just step out in faith and write a $100 check. The implication is that if you give you’ll get rich—rich like the preacher on the stage is. And people fall for it because we naturally crave wealth.
Many Israelites wanted to get rich too. That’s why the teacher wrote this section. He wanted to warn them of the dangers of pursuing riches and to encourage them to enjoy God’s daily gifts instead.
He does that with a poetic structure called chiasm. We’ve talked about this form before and it’s basically a form that has parallel points on the outside and the main point in the center.
Here’s what I’m talking about: Point one is found in the top and bottom. Moving inward is point two and point 3, the main point, is found in the center.
But this isn’t how we think in the west. We prefer a more linear style with the main point at the end so if we combine the parallel points and move the main point to the end it might look something like this…
- People who pursue wealth will not be satisfied (5:8-12; 6:7-9)
- People not enjoying life is a tragedy (5:13-17; 6:1-6)
- Enjoy God’s daily gifts (5:18–20)
You might want to use your bulletin to follow along. First of all…
I. People who pursue wealth will not be satisfied (5:8–12; 6:7–9)
Verse 8 starts out talking about the poor because they are often the ones who suffer as a result of those who selfishly seek wealth. He tells us…
“Don’t be astonished” by the oppression of the poor. It’s an injustice and the result of those who pursue wealth without considering those they step on to get it. The teacher is describing a government that is in business of protecting itself instead of watching out for those it’s supposed to serve.
Verse 9 says the poor don’t benefit because “the profit from the land is taken by all,” all of the wicked officials, and even the king. Don’t be astonished by this.
But there is no satisfaction in this. Verse 10. “The one who loves silver is never satisfied with silver, and whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with income.” The lover of money is never satisfied. It is their soul purpose in life to accumulate more and more, even if others suffer.
Money isn’t the problem, however, but the insatiable pursuit of it. “This too is futile.” It’s like a pursuit of the wind. It’s vanity.
In 1 Timothy 6:10 Paul tells us “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
The love of money is the problem not money itself. But we shouldn’t take this warning lightly because just a few verses earlier, in vs 3, Paul said this teaching about money was “the sound teaching of Jesus Christ.”
Jesus also warned against the love of money. In Luke 12:15 Jesus said… “Watch out and be on guard against all greed, because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions.” So we must be careful about greed and accumulating possessions.
In verse 11 the teacher says “When good things increase, the ones who consume them multiply; what, then, is the profit to the owner, except to gaze at them with his eyes?”
The wealthy have more money but thy also have more expenses. They have bigger car payments, bigger mortgages, they have to pay the maid, the house cleaner… All for what, the teacher asks? All the wealthy person can do is watch others consume his riches.
Not only is there no gain, if anything there is a negative gain. Verse 12: “The sleep of the worker is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of the rich permits him no sleep.”
The poor worker is better off because he can sleep at night. The wealthy lover of money stays awake at night worrying about all the people who want a piece of his pie and how he can keep from losing it all. There’s no satisfying sleep.
Jumping down to 6:7 he adds to this first point. “The appetite is never satisfied.” It’s like he eats and eats only to be hungry again in the morning. In 6:8 he asks “What advantage then does the wise person have over the fool?” None. Neither the wise nor the fools are satisfied with the pursuit of wealth.
But the poor do have an advantage. “What advantage is there for the poor person who knows how to conduct himself before others?” The answer is in verse 9.
“Better what the eyes see than wandering desire.” The poor live with what they can see. They are content. Of course you can be a discontented poor person but someone who is content, even if poor, is better off than a wealthy person with wandering desire for more and more. The wealthy lover of money is never satisfied and the teacher says “This too is futile and a pursuit of the wind”
II. People not enjoying life is a tragedy
And not just any tragedy. In 5:13 the teacher says it is…
…a “sickening tragedy” when people keep their wealth and don’t enjoy it. In the story of the rich fool in Luke 12:15-21 the man hoarded all his wealth in bigger and barns hoping to use it all one day. But that day never came. “… God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is demanded of you. And the things you have prepared—whose will they be?’”
In a similar way, the teacher warns us our wealth could be… “lost in a bad venture”. Overnight, we could lose it all with nothing for our children. “He was empty-handed” it says in verse 14. And verse 15… “he will take nothing for his efforts that he can carry in his hands.” He enters the world naked and leaves the same way, with nothing.
Think of Job, who overnight lost everything. He lost his servants, his oxen, his donkeys, his shepherds, his sheep, his camels, his house, and his children. After all that Job said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (1:21).
Job had a good perspective on God’s blessings but of those who never took the opportunity to enjoy God’s gifts He says in verse 16… “This too is a sickening tragedy: exactly as he comes, so he will go. What does the one gain who struggles for the wind?” Nothing. “What is more, he eats in darkness all his days, with much frustration, sickness, and anger.”
Now, for an Israelite meal times were the best part of the day. They were happy, social times with family and friends. But the for those who don’t enjoy God’s gifts, especially family, they live a wasted life eating alone in darkness. In other words, there is no joy in their life.
This is a “sickening tragedy.” It’s a great evil. Furthermore, in chapter 6:1-3, he continues… “Here is a tragedy I have observed under the sun, and it weighs heavily on humanity: God gives a person riches, wealth, and honor so that he lacks nothing of all he desires for himself, but God does not allow him to enjoy them. Instead, a stranger will enjoy them. This is futile and a sickening tragedy. A man may father a hundred children and live many years. No matter how long he lives, if he is not satisfied by good things and does not even have a proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he.”
This is even more tragic because the man in this story has it all. He lacks nothing he desires. He has 100 children and a long life. He has riches and wealth but no joy because “God does not allow him to enjoy them.” Why or exactly how this is we don’t know. But don’t miss the point which is it’s a “sickening tragedy” when we don’t enjoy what God has given, no matter how wealthy we are.
This person had a miserable life and a miserable death. worse than that of a stillborn child. It’s worse for the wealthy person who does not enjoy God’s gifts. Verses 4-5 say… “For he comes in futility and he goes in darkness, and his name is shrouded in darkness. Though a stillborn child does not see the sun and is not conscious, it has more rest than he.”
This gives great comfort for those who have lost children because it confirms that they are now at peace. But it’s not such good news for the living who keep striving after riches without enjoying any of it. They are worse off than a stillborn child.
Further, in verse 6… “And if a person lives a thousand years twice, but does not experience happiness, do not both go to the same place?”
Imagine what you could accomplish if you lived 1000 years? Without happiness, that’s a wasted 1000 years. It’s a tragedy. It’s a sickening tragedy.
Two powerful points have now been made by the teacher. The first is those who pursue wealth will never be satisfied. And the second is that it is a sickening tragedy when people don’t enjoy their life.
The third point is his major point…
III. Therefore, enjoy God’s daily gifts
“Here is what I have seen to be good:” This isn’t vanity, it’s not a struggle after wind. It’s what’s good. “It is appropriate to eat, drink, and experience good in all the labor one does under the sun during the few days of his life God has given him, because that is his reward.”
It is good to enjoy what you eat an drink and labor at. Life doesn’t have to have a tragic ending. We don’t know how many days we have but we can determine to get up each morning and enjoy the blessings God has given us. We don’t have to have great wealth to have joy. All of us can find enjoyment even in the little things.
For Christians, that joy comes from the gospel. It comes from knowing you deserve death but have been given eternal life. Those that feel entitled have no joy because they are always seeking after what they think they deserve. Those that understand they are entitled to nothing except eternal punishment in hell find joy in even the littlest of blessings.
And if you do have great wealth the advice is the same. Verse 19: “Furthermore, everyone to whom God has given riches and wealth, he has also allowed him to enjoy them, take his reward, and rejoice in his labor. This is a gift of God…”
Money and wealth are not evil. They are gifts from God meant to be enjoyed and to help others. In a 2008 study it was found that those who give, regardless of how much they earned, were significantly happier than those who didn’t. “It is more blessed to give than receive.” Instead of pursuing riches, we should be pursuing daily enjoyment of God’s gifts. Instead of beginning of the day with the question “What am I going to get done today?” the question becomes “How am I going to enjoy what I have to do today?” Instead of praying “help me to finish everything I have to do” we pray “help me to enjoy what I have to do.” In some cases the answer to that prayer might mean doing less.
Verse 20 gives us a benefit for living this way: “for he does not often consider the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with the joy of his heart.”
You’ll have joy in your heart and time will fly by. Have you ever been so focused on something so enjoyable that time seemed to just fly by? Maybe you were reading a book or drawing or spending time with friends.
God says approaching life with the purpose of enjoying your daily gifts will result in you not having time for negativity because you’ll be occupied with all of the joy in your heart.
We have a choice. Either pursue wealth and be miserable or pursue enjoyment of God’s daily gifts and be joyful.
Now, this doesn’t mean you should quit doing things that don’t give you joy. You might say, “I don’t get much joy in cleaning the toilet so I won’t clean it anymore. Or, I don’t find joy in getting up early so I’ll sleep in. I hate my job so I’ll quit.” This is missing the point.
The point is that God has given you these opportunities, opportunities you may not like, but joy can be found in doing them as we serve the Lord.
The greatest joy comes from seeking God’s kingdom. Jesus said in Matthew 6:33 that it’s the gentiles who seek after wealth and riches “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.”
See, when we focus first on God’s kingdom then we are free to enjoy his daily gifts of food and drink, work and health, family and friends, forgiveness and salvation.
So don’t be a lover of money. Be a lover of God’s kingdom and enjoy His daily gifts.