Ecclesiastes 5:8-12

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, March 30, 2020 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

Power and money often go hand-in-hand, and that’s true for the book of Ecclesiastes as well. At the beginning of chapter 4, we saw the Teacher’s thoughts on power and its abuse, and how meaningless power can be in this life. In today’s passage of Ecclesiastes 5:8-12, we see the Teacher discussing money.

The Teacher begins in verses 8-9 by discussing the oppression of the poor: “If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still. The increase from the land is taken by all; the king himself profits from the fields.” There is a hierarchy in which anyone who is in authority over another has a tendency to lord it over them and oppress them in some way. This struggle for everyone to gain more power often brings oppression and poverty to those beneath them.

Verse 10 contains wise words for all of us: “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.” How true is that! It is rare to meet anyone who says they are completely satisfied with the amount of money they have. Even those who are considered rich are always looking for ways to make more money. We as humans are never satisfied with our income. We’re always wanting more; that is part of our selfish human nature.

But the teacher says that this, too, is meaningless! You may think that can’t be true as our society runs on money and the desire of all to gain more wealth. It is good to desire to have enough money to live. But when we are always desiring more and more money, we will have a strong desire to do whatever it takes to get it. That type of greed often involves a lack of care for our fellow human beings and oppressing others in order to get what we want for ourselves. This greed is not beneficial in any way.

When we have this insatiable desire for more money and material things, this can bring us frustration when we’re not able to get what we want. This frustration is not a healthy emotion, as it is driven by our greed, but we will also likely take it out on others and do things to harm them for our own selfish gain. We see this echoed in 1 Timothy 6:9-10: “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

Verse 11 continues on: “As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them?” It seems like the Teacher is speaking directly to our society today, doesn’t it? So many things that we yearn for and strive for just end up being things to look at that really don’t serve us any good purpose. We may spend many hours working to save up enough money for a big, fancy item, only to find it’s not what we expected. Now we have it, and all we can do is really look at it. The purpose of having material things should not be just so we can admire our collection of how many things we have amassed, but to obtain useful things that help us to live our lives and love others.

Finally, verse 12 concludes this section: “The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep.” If you labor enough to have a living wage, you’re able to sleep well and be at peace because you’re earning an honest living. But if you keep striving for great wealth and oppressing others to get it, then you’ll likely have so much anxiety over that that you won’t be able to sleep. A person who is content with what they have is able to live a life of peace rather than a life of greed.

The Teacher’s insights in this passage definitely ring true for our society today. Remember a few weeks ago when people began hoarding things like toilet paper, soap, and hand sanitizer because of the COVID-19 virus? Buying more than we really needed is a great example of greed. What benefit are these things to you when you don’t really need them? But if you only bought what you actually needed, making sure to leave some for others who would also need these items, then you would be content and at peace with the situation. If we love money (or even things like toilet paper), then we will never be satisfied, and we’ll keep chasing after these meaningless things.

While money is a necessary thing in our society, we must remember that everything comes from God. He is the only one who can truly provide for us, whether that provision is material things or the money to buy them. God can give us much, or God can take it all away; that’s His decision, and we need to trust God’s wisdom. Anything else is just meaningless.

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