Ecclesiastes 6 (4)
Pray Psalm 4.1.
Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have relieved me in my distress;
Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer.
Read Ecclesiastes 6.7, 8.
1. How are the wise man and the fool alike?
2. How is the poor man better than either of them?
In a strictly “under the sun” world, what else is there to do but toil and eat? People consume on themselves whatever they earn, and little of lasting value is left over from their labors.
Neither are people satisfied with this, for, having eternity in their hearts, they know inherently that they are made for something more permanent. Their soul wants more than material things. If both the wise man and the fool are left dissatisfied by a materialistic life, then what difference does it make if you’re one or the other?
The poor man – assuming he knows contentment – is better off than the worldly wise or the fool. For he knows how he should walk in the land of the living (that is, “under heaven” rather than “under the sun”): not in the pursuit of things, but in the enjoyment of a contented soul (v. 8).
Solomon wants to help his son think through the folly of trying to find a satisfying life apart from God. His method of argument here is to push the “under the sun” perspective to its logical conclusion: Get and consume all you want; you know such misguided appetites won’t satisfy your soul. Such a life leaves you anxious and wanting, rather than content and at rest, like the poor man.
Since only life “under heaven” can be made to make sense, all other worldviews are false, and can be shown to be finally unworkable. Showing people this may not ensure a conversion, but it should have the effect of raising hard questions that many people “under the sun” may never have faced.
1. What does verse 7 suggest about how secular people see their work? Is this how God’s people should view their work? Explain.
2. What are people like whose souls are not at rest? How does the Gospel bring satisfaction to the human soul?
3. Solomon’s use of “the poor man” in these verses is meant to suggest a man who is not seeking material advantages, but who lives content with what he has, and concentrates on living as he ought. How does this counsel apply to us in our generation? What does it suggest about the priorities we ought to embrace?
Everything that human labor produces in this world is consumed by the mouth, ground by the teeth, and sent to the stomach for digestion. Even when a bite to eat delights the palate, it seems to give pleasure only for as long as it remains in the mouth, for when it passes into the belly, it can no longer be distinguished from other food. The soul of the diner is afterwards not fulfilled… Jerome (347-420), Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6.7
Lord, grant that I may work for that which satisfies my soul and enables me to…
Pray Psalm 4.8.
How will you know the peace of God throughout this day, so that you end the day in peace and rest as well?
Sing Psalm 4.8.
Psalm 4.8 (Picardy: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent)
Safely in Your peace, let us lie, Lord; keep us in Your love and care.
Rooted in Your strong and wise Word, may we know Your comfort there.
Guard and keep us till we die, Lord; go before us everywhere.
T. M. Moore
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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).