10He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver;
Nor he who loves abundance, with increase.
This also is vanity.
11When goods increase,
They increase who eat them;
So what profit have the owners
Except to see them with their eyes?
12The sleep of a laboring man is sweet,
Whether he eats little or much;
But the abundance of the rich will not permit him to sleep.
The Story:Any who may think to find satisfaction and fulfillment in riches and wealth need to think again. Ask any winner of the lottery how many friends he suddenly has – and just how long they remain his friends. The allure of wealth is what it can gain us. Once it has done its work in getting us things – all of which become boring and perish – the wealth we thought would bring us happiness is gone – and so are the friends. The faithful laborer lives one day at a time and retires each night, content with a day’s work and a day’s pay to go with it. The rich man tosses and turns on his bed, worrying about what will happen to his wealth. An alternate understanding of the last part of verse 12 might be that the rich tend to overindulge in the good things of life, and this can be unhealthy. Either way, if Rehoboam – or any of us – thinks he’s going to be happy once he’s rich, take it from one who’s “been there, done that”, this way lies vanity.
The Structure: Solomon’s admonition moves smoothly from false views of religion to false views of power and influence to false views about wealth. Each of these things is good in themselves – Solomon will get around to saying this at the end of chapter 5. However, as ends in themselves, they are deceitful, destructive, and even diabolical. Our own age has been described as an age of materialism, relativism, narcissism, and superficiality. The manifest lack of happiness and peace, evident in so many ways, serves to confirm the wisdom in Solomon’s warnings to his son, and makes Ecclesiastes all that much more an important and timely book for our day.
How can you see that wealth and things are not bringing the people of our day the lasting peace and happiness they desire? Are Christians tempted to seek happiness in wealth?
Each week’s studies in our Scriptorium column are available in a free PDF form, suitable for personal or group use. For this week’s study, “Approaching God: Ecclesiastes 5,” simply click here.
T. M. Moore
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.