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The Scriptorium

The Vanity of Riches (2)

Ecclesiastes 5.13-17

13There is a severe evil which I have seen under the sun:
Riches kept by their owner to his hurt.

14But those riches perish through misfortune;
When he begets a son,
there is nothing in his hand.
15As he came from his mother’s womb, naked he shall return,
To go as he came;
And he shall take nothing from his labor
Which he may carry in his hand.

16And this also is a severe evil –
Just exactly as he came, so shall he go.
And what profit has he who has labored for the wind?

17All his days he also eats in darkness,
he has much sorrow and sickness and anger.

The Story:Solomon concludes his brief words of admonition concerning the vanity of riches. Wealth is uncertain, and all our best efforts at being good stewards can sometimes come to naught. 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. Here 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. Will trusting in wealth enable him to do that? It is a grievous evil to squander the stewardship entrusted to us from the Lord and to fail to leave a legacy for those who follow us in this life. “Under the sun” this all too often the case.

The Structure:We can feel Solomon’s urgency in trying to get his son to think beyond his own selfish interests. 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 to step back and think about the larger demands and opportunities their lives represent. There aren’t enough resources “under the sun” to help us find the meaning, purpose, and satisfaction in life we were meant to enjoy. Only by looking at our lives from God’s perspective and living them within the framework of His truth can we find the wisdom we will need.

Excessive debt robs many people of the blessings of wealth. Why is debt so attractive? How can people avoid becoming enslaved to easy credit? How can they work their way out of it once it has begun to enslave them?

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.


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 the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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