Ecclesiastes 5:8-20 Vanity of Riches and Honor

"If you see oppression of the poor and denial of justice and righteousness in the province, do not be shocked at the sight, for one official watches over another official, and there are higher officials over them.  9 After all, a king who cultivates the field is an advantage to the land.  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.  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 And 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.  18 Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one's labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward.  19 Furthermore, as for 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 of God.  20 For he will not often consider the years of his life, because God keeps him occupied with the gladness of his heart."

  1. What is vanity?
    1. It has many meanings; but for our purposes of looking at this text, it is the false pride and arrogance a person can hold of his own worth as well as the quality of being valueless or futile.
      1. Futility is the main focus.
    2. Such is all things if what is done, believed, and spoken of is not done for the glory of God.
  2. Vain glory or things done for your own glory and prominence are nothing more than straw and dung to be burned as waste when the fires of God's judgment test a person's works.
    1. You can see vanity in all things . . . if you simply look.
    2. Begin by looking in the mirror.  Are you vain?  Are you desirous of your own glory and honor?  What about your family?  What about those at work?  In Society?  In government?
    3. To what end do those around you (or even yourself) seek to serve themselves and exalt themselves?

    8 If you see oppression of the poor and denial of justice and righteousness in the province, do not be shocked at the sight, for one official watches over another official, and there are higher officials over them.  9 After all, a king who cultivates the field is an advantage to the land.

  3. V. 8-9. Futility in the government who oppresses those it rules.
    1. Do you ever feel that your hard work isn't enough?  Do you ever feel like someone else has taken what you earned?
      1. More and more people are feeling that in this world.
    2. Solomon added that one should not be surprised if the result of his labor were lost to the next highest authority.
      1. People take advantage of each other.
      2. They are sinners by nature; therefore, they do not properly care for those under their charge.
      3. That is why we need the redeeming quality of the gospel.  It saves and changes the person from selfish to selfless.
    3. Solomon described the oppressive exactions of officials at all levels.
    4. They were watching not to protect the poor and oppressed (cf. Ecc. 4:1) but to find ways to squeeze revenue out of those under them.
    5. This is a very common problem in the present day.
      1. 50% taxation.
      2. The leaders in Washington Pass more and more taxes on people.
        1. Our president has stated that we should be paying 80% of our income as taxes.
      3. Officials who don't pass laws to protect the family but pass laws to hurt it.
    6. It is easy to see the futility in work when the government takes what is yours.

    Vv. 10-12 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.

  4. Vv. 10-12 The coveting of Money and Possessions can keep you from enjoying what you have.
    1. Solomon argued that a covetous person never derives enjoyment from his wealth (v. 10) because his increased wealth merely brings him increased anxiety (v. 12b).
    2. While a laborer might rest content with little or much, a covetous person cannot sleep (his abundance permits . . .  no sleep, v. 12).  He has to be constantly on guard to protect his riches from the ever-growing number of people who would try to consume them.
      1. Have you found that the more you have, the more you worry about what you have and the more you want to protect what is yours?  It can easily consume you.
    3. Thus Solomon asked satirically what benefit a covetous person gets from increased riches except to keep an eye on them (v. 11, lit., "to look at them with his eyes").  In summary, Solomon argued that the only results of increased wealth for a covetous person are increased anxiety and increased vigilance--not increased enjoyment.
    4. Of course, this context represents someone without Christ.

    Vv. 13-17 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.  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 And 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.

  5. Solomon states how meaningless and empty it is to acquire riches.  He had seen how the acquisition of money had brought misery.
    1. This striving after money was an evil. Money and possessions become idols to serve . . . but they will only destroy.  All will be lost.
    2. Solomon emphasized this by referring to a person who had carefully treasured up or hoarded his wealth and then lost it all through some misfortune.
      1. Jesus echoed this sentiment in Luke 12:16-21, when he said, "The land of a certain rich man was very productive.  17 And he began reasoning to himself, saying, What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?'  18 And he said, This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.  19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry."'  20 But God said to him, You fool!  This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?'  21 So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."
    3. As a result of such loss, a man would have nothing to leave his son (Ecc. 5:14). Hoarding wealth may thus even bring harm (i.e., "misery") to its owner (v. 13).  This is worse than accumulating wealth without knowing who will control it later (2:17-23).
    4. In addition, in verses 15-17, Solomon argued that even if wealth were not lost but kept throughout life, one could not "take it with him."
      1. Everyone enters the world with nothing and leaves it with nothing (cf. Ps. 49:17).
      2. Since a person cannot take any fruits of his labor with him when he dies, he really gains nothing from his labor.
      3. All his effort is as wasted as if he had toiled for the wind. Solomon called this, too, . . . a grievous evil ("a depressing misfortune"; cf. 5:13).

    Vv.18-20 Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one's labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward.  19 Furthermore, as for 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 of God.  20 For he will not often consider the years of his life, because God keeps him occupied with the gladness of his heart.

  6. The only thing Solomon says that is good is to enjoy the fruits of his labor.
    1. Ultimately, the results of a man's labor (wealth and possessions and the ability to enjoy them) are gifts of God.
    2. It is right to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
    3. But what is the right way to enjoy them?  Selfishly?  Boasting?
      1. Giving, blessing others, helping, humbly.
    4. It gives peace to the soul and warmth to the heart to see your work bring benefit.
    5. But, as Christians, this peace and warmth come not because you look to yourself and your accomplishments but because you look to God.
      1. God gave you the ability to breath, work, and enjoy.
    6. It is the prideful who take credit for that which God has given.
    7. But IS this the only good thing?
      1. From the perspective of Ecclesiastes, yes.  From the perspective of the full revelation of God, no.
  7. Conclusion
    1. God wants you to work hard, but hard work and possession is not the goal in life.  Rather, Jesus is the goal.
    2. Phil. 3:14, "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
    3. Phil. 4:8-9, "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.  9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you."
    4. Matt. 6:33, "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you."

 

 

 

 
 
CARM ison