Ecclesiastes 6:1-12

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, April 13, 2020 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

At the end of chapter 5, the Teacher was discussing money, employment, and material things. Here in chapter 6, he continues his discussion of evils that are difficult for mankind. The theme of this chapter is summarized in verse 2: “God gives some people wealth, possessions and honor, so that they lack nothing their hearts desire, but God does not grant them the ability to enjoy them, and strangers enjoy them instead. This is meaningless, a grievous evil.”

In chapter 5, the focus was on a person who has worked hard in their life and still strives for more. Here in chapter 6, the focus is on a person who wants to have the good life and can afford it because of his status in life. In this case, it’s tragic when the person cannot enjoy the things that God has given him for whatever reason. It may be that he dies too young with no children to inherit his possessions, so a stranger takes over the estate. It may be that he loses his property due to war, violence, or some other injustice in society.

Having all the possessions we want can appear to make us happy for a short time, but there is nothing sustainable about the situation. So many things can happen to take away the worldly wealth that we do have, many of which could be out of our control. Recently, our economy has become severely strained because of the COVID-19 virus. The stock market took a big hit, and millions of people have become unemployed because of it. If you were counting on that material wealth for your happiness, it’s now gone, through no fault of your own. In this context, material wealth is clearly meaningless.

In verses 3-6, the Teacher discusses having children and how that relates to wealth. In the Hebrew culture, having many children was seen as a sign of great prosperity as they were a sign of God’s blessings on your life. But even having many children will not guarantee happiness in this life. Some even say that having many children will cause you to remain in financial poverty because of all their expenses, so you won’t be able to enjoy the financial riches of this life.

The Teacher compares one who cannot enjoy their riches to the life of a stillborn child, that they are both equally meaningless. He implies that a life of misery is no better than never having lived at all. Even if we get to live for 1000 years (verse 6) but all those years are miserable, we’ll still die and we all go to the same place. There is no more meaning in a long but miserable life than in one that never even began in this world.

Verse 7 gives us some wise words: “Everyone’s toil is for their mouth, yet their appetite is never satisfied.” We do need to work to live, and God has created us to do work, but we always seem to have an appetite for more than cannot be satisfied. It doesn’t matter whether you’re wise or foolish (verse 8); this applies to all of humanity. Some people are incredibly wise and they use that knowledge to make more money for themselves, as they are always yearning for it. Others may not be so smart and use dishonest means to try and get more money for themselves. Both are always greedy for more.

We should strive to live by the words of verse 9a: “Better what the eye sees than the roving of the appetite.” We should be content with what we have (“what the eye sees”) rather than having this insatiable appetite for more. God has truly blessed us if we even just have enough to get by, and we should be content in this. We will never be satisfied when we’re always longing for more. Otherwise, “This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (verse 9b).

Verses 10-11 go on to say: “Whatever exists has already been named, and what humanity is has been known; no one can contend with someone who is stronger. The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?” We are not necessarily free to choose our lot in life, as God is supreme and stronger over us. We do have free will, but many circumstances that determine our amount of material wealth are outside of our control. If we complain about it (“the more the words”), that won’t profit us anything and will simply make us frustrated with our situation, rather than being content in what God has given us.

Verse 12 addresses morality in all of this: “For who knows what is good for a person in life, during the few and meaningless days they pass through like a shadow? Who can tell them what will happen under the sun after they are gone?” Even if you live a good life according to society’s moral standards, you don’t know and can’t control what will happen in this world. Perhaps if you are moral, you may live a better life than one who is immoral, but perhaps not. That is for God to decide, not us.

Life is short and the future is uncertain; that is a fact. But it is not all just meaningless! We know that God is certain, God is consistent, and God’s love for humanity will never waver. People who don’t know God will get swept up in the allure of material wealth, but those who do know and strive to follow God should set an example by being content with whatever it is that we have. It’s not a sin to strive for more, but what is our motivation? Are we simply not satisfied, or are we striving after what God has for us?

Material wealth is not meaningless, but our attitude toward it is what is important. Do you praise God for what He has given you? Or are you continually seeking more for your own selfish gain? Consider what your heart desires, and ask God to turn your heart more toward His desires and less toward your own.

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