The Scriptorium

The Vanity of Covetousness

It's the gateway to all sin. Ecclesiastes 6.9

Ecclesiastes 6 (5)

Pray Psalm 4.5.
Offer the sacrifices of righteousness,
And put your trust in the LORD.

Read Ecclesiastes 6.9.

Prepare.
1. What’s the difference between “the sight of the eyes” and “the wandering of desire”?

2. Which of these is “vanity and grasping for the wind”, and why?

Meditate.
Rehoboam’s problem was that he was coveting his father’s fame, wealth, and power. Covetousness is, in many respects, the gateway of all other sin. Whoever allows covetousness free rein in his soul will tumble through all kinds of temptations into the snares of sin (Jms. 1.13-15).

That’s why, Solomon implies, it is better to be content with what one has than to let his appetite wander to the things we wish we had (cf. 1 Tim. 6.6-10). An unbridled appetite can never be fully satisfied; it is like striving to catch the wind.

However, even though Solomon over and over counsels contentment, he knows that men “under the sun” will not be able to achieve it. Should not their lack of contentment living “under the sun” persuade them of their need for a more transcendent approach to life? And if we are diligent, as Solomon was trying to be, in pointing out the vanity of their lifestyle, might not this help them to consider something else, even life “under heaven”?

Even in confronting his son’s most essential problem – covetousness – Solomon shows himself to be a model of gentleness (2 Tim. 2.24). His approach is indirect, patient, and multi-faceted. He is trying by every means at his disposal to get Rehoboam to examine his motives and aspirations, and to consider the folly of his preferred course of life. In a secular and material age, such patient, gentle love for our neighbors must be part of our effort to lead them to their senses, so that they may escape the grip of the father of lies and find their way to the truth that is in Jesus Christ. 

Reflect.
1. Job talked about having made “a covenant” with his eyes, to keep from lusting (cf. Job 31.1). Do you think this is a good way to deal with all forms of covetousness? How might that work?

2. Why is covetousness a “gateway” for other sins? How can you tell when you’re beginning to fall into the snares of covetousness? What should you do then?

3. The “sight of the eyes” seems to refer to being content with what we have. How can thanksgiving help us to nurture contentment?

Our lot is appointed. We have what pleases God, and let that please us. The greatest possessions and honors cannot set us above the common events of human life. Seeing that the things men pursue on earth increase vanities, what is man the better for his worldly devices? Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6.7-12

Lord, give me contentment, and help me to guard against covetousness, so that I may…

Pray Psalm 4.6-8.
God has blessed you with many good things. Take time to acknowledge this with prayer and thanksgiving.

Sing Psalm 4.6-8.
Psalm 4.6-8 (Picardy: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent)
Wicked men may scorn and try us, casting doubt upon Your grace.
Send Your Spirit, Lord, don’t deny us till we see Your glorious face.
You Who sent Your Son to buy us, fill our hearts with joy and grace.

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

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.

You can download all the studies in this series on Ecclesiastes by clicking here. If you value Scriptorium as a free resource for your walk with the Lord, please consider supporting our work with your gifts and offerings. You can contribute to The Fellowship by clicking the Contribute button  at the website or by sending your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.

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.