- Published: Wednesday, 10 August 2016 14:33
Dear Church Family,
This past Sunday, we examined the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer – “Give us this day our daily bread” – and what it means to ask God to give us “a competent portion of the good things of this life” (WSC 104). In the words of Agur we find balanced wisdom as he prayed to the Lord, “Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion” (Proverbs 30:8). Thus, Agur provides an example for us to acknowledge our dependence upon the Lord in all things, and how we ought to seek contentment with His provision.
By way of application, we looked at the last three verses of Ecclesiastes 5 in which the Preacher gives what is a good summary of his philosophy of ‘life under the sun’ – “As to every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift from God” (Ecclesiastes 5:19). Acknowledging the good things of this life as a gift from God is essential to enjoying them.
These statements about enjoying the good things of this life as a gift from God are balanced out in the surrounding verses with warnings about danger and futility of the love of money. We didn’t have time on Sunday morning to examine these, but these warnings are especially helpful for us and the consumeristic society in which we live.
Specifically, the Preacher of Ecclesiastes gives three reason why the love of money will not satisfy:
(1) The love of money will not satisfy because moth and rust can destroy it (Ecclesiastes 5:10-14)
10 He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity.
11 When good things increase, those who consume them increase. So what is the advantage to their owners except to look on?
12 The sleep of the working man is pleasant, whether he eats little or much; but the full stomach of the rich man does not allow him to sleep.
13 There is a grievous evil which I have seen under the sun: riches being hoarded by their owner to his hurt.
14 When those riches were lost through a bad investment and he had fathered a son, then there was nothing to support him.
Covetousness is never satisfied. The one who loves money will never have enough. And, an increase in wealth often leads to an increase of dependents (v 11), a full stomach and difficulty sleeping (v 12), a lack of health due to a life of ease (v 13), and potential failure through bad investments (v 14). All of these verses may be summarized in Jesus’ admonition and command, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy” (Matthew 6:19). This is the warning from the Preacher, and it’s the first reason why the love of money will not satisfy: The love of money will not satisfy because moth and rust (or many dependents and a bad market) can destroy it.
(2) The love of money will not satisfy because you can’t take it with you (Ecclesiastes 5:15-17)
15 As he had come naked from his mother's womb, so will he return as he came. He will take nothing from the fruit of his labor that he can carry in his hand.
16 This also is a grievous evil-- exactly as a man is born, thus will he die. So what is the advantage to him who toils for the wind?
17 Throughout his life he also eats in darkness with great vexation, sickness and anger.
Ecclesiastes 5:17 is the Ebenezer Scrooge verse: a preoccupation with wealth and covetousness will only lead to a miserable and miserly life. The covetous and miserly man eats in darkness with great vexation, sickness and danger throughout his life. Verses 15 & 16 may be summarized in that common saying, “You can’t take it with you.” It’s not “he who dies with the most toys, wins” – the Preacher calls that “toiling for the wind.” No. Here’s the second reason why the love of money will not satisfy: The love of money will not satisfy because you can’t take it with you.
Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 are those verse that we considered on Sunday in which the Preacher exhorts us to acknowledge that it is good and fitting to enjoy the good things of this life as the gift of God. Those verses are immediately followed by the third reason for which the love of money will not satisfy.
(3) The love of money will not satisfy because others will take it (Ecclesiastes 6:1-2)
1 There is an evil which I have seen under the sun and it is prevalent among men--
2 a man to whom God has given riches and wealth and honor so that his soul lacks nothing of all that he desires; yet God has not empowered him to eat from them, for a foreigner enjoys them. This is vanity and a severe affliction.
Jesus taught a similar thing in the Sermon on the Mount, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19). Here in Ecclesiastes, it’s not a thief but a foreigner; however, the principle is the same: earthly storehouses are vulnerable to thievery and plunder.
In Ecclesiastes 5:10-6:2, the Word of God teaches us how we ought to think about the good things that we enjoy in this ‘life under the sun.’
On the one hand, we must be wary of our propensity for greed and covetousness because the love of money will not ultimately satisfy (Ecclesiastes 5:10-17; 6:1-2). In fact, the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil; it has shipwrecked many a faith and caused much grief (1 Timothy 6:10).
On the other hand, it is good and fitting to enjoy the good things in this life as the fruit of our labors, but ultimately the gift of God (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20). In fact, every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, a gift from our immutable and loving Father in heaven (James 1:17).
In the end, unless you recognize that your enjoyment of the things of this world is a gift from God (a gift that is graciously given, but could just as easily be taken away), you cannot enjoy the things of this world.
In Philippians 4, the Apostle Paul says something similar – something which, too often I think, people misinterpret and misapply. In Philippians 4:13, Paul writes, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” That is the conclusion of Paul’s statement that he has learned the ‘secret’ of contentment amidst abundance and suffering need (Philippians 4:11-12). Yet, I’ve heard people interpret what Paul says as meaning, “I can do all things – and have success in all things that I put my hand to – through Him who strengthens me.”
Yet, in the context of that verse, Paul is essentially saying: “I am content to be full or to go hungry, because I recognize that anything that I have is a gift from God.”
The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch