The Scriptorium

The Vanity of Riches (2)

It won't bring true happiness, and you can't take it with you. Ecclesiastes 5.13-17

Ecclesiastes 5 (6)

Pray Psalm 25.20, 21.
Keep my soul, and deliver me;
Let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You.
Let integrity and uprightness preserve me,
For I wait for You.

Read Ecclesiastes 5.13-17.

Prepare.
1. How does seeking wealth become a thing of vanity and feeding on wind?

2. What “sever evils” does Solomon expose in these verses?

Meditate.
Solomon concludes his brief words of admonition concerning the vanity of riches. Wealth is uncertain, and it is a “severe evil” when the wealthy squander their riches on themselves alone (v. 13). “Under the sun”, all our best efforts at being good stewards can sometimes come to naught (v. 14). Economic uncertainties, unreliable partners, thieves and robbers, wrong-headed investments – all these and more can consume our wealth in a short space of time, leaving us nothing, and nothing to leave for our heirs (v. 15).

Solomon seems to be reminding his son that he needs to think about more than just himself. He will have children for whom he needs to provide (v. 14). Will trusting in wealth enable him to do that? He won’t live forever, and when he dies, he’ll leave this world as he entered it (v. 16). It is a grievous evil – and a source of much misery (v. 17) – to squander the stewardship entrusted to us from the Lord. We can’t take it with us; and if we consume it all now, seeking happiness by it, there will be nothing left for others. “Under the sun” this is all too often the case.

We can feel Solomon’s urgency in trying to get his son to think beyond his own selfish interests. He seems to be saying, “Think about how God sees you (vv. 1-7); think about your responsibilities to the people you will govern (or influence, vv. 8, 9); think about your children and the generations to come (vv. 10-17).”

In a narcissistic day such as ours, it can be difficult to get people to think beyond their own interests; nevertheless, we must try to help those who are inclined to mere self-indulgence – including ourselves – to consider the larger demands and opportunities their lives represent. There aren’t enough resources “under the sun” to help us find meaning, purpose, and satisfaction in life. Only by considering our lives according to God’s perspective, and living them within the framework of His truth, can we find the wisdom, satisfaction, and fulfillment we seek.

Reflect.
1. How should we manage our money and other wealth “under heaven” as opposed to “under the sun”.

2. Why do people suppose that they can find true happiness in material things? What would you say to someone who insisted this was true?

3. Why is it a “severe evil” (vv. 13, 16) to misuse the good gifts God entrusts to us?

If you are desirous of treasure, take the invisible and the intangible which is to be found in the heavens on high, not that which is in the deepest veins of the earth. Be poor in spirit and you will be rich, no matter what your worldly goods are. Ambrose of Milan (333-397), Cain and Abel 1.5.21

Thank You, Lord, for all the many good gifts you entrust to me daily. Help me to use them for Your glory as I…

Pray Psalm 25.11-15.
Focus on the Lord. Meditate on His covenant, and seek His way for the day ahead of you.

Sing Psalm 25.11-15.
Psalm 25.11-15 (Festal Song: Revive Thy Work, O Lord)
For Your sake, Lord, forgive.  All they who fear You, Lord,
shall know Your blessings day by day and follow in Your Word.

Your friends are they who fear and seek Your holy face;
Your covenant with them You share and save them by Your grace.

T. M. Moore

Where does the book of Ecclesiastes fit in the overall flow of Scripture? Our series of studies, God’s Covenant, can show you, and help you discover the great beauty of the unity and diversity of Scripture, and how it all points to Christ. To order your copy of this important workbook, click here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.