this section Solomon brings to us something new: the fear of God. Up until
this point God is seen as the one who ordains the order of thing; one who
cannot be bargained with but must be accepted. In this section his vision
rises to the beginning of wisdom: the fear of the Lord.
Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 NASB
(1) Guard your steps as you go to the house of God
and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they
do not know they are doing evil. (2) Do not
be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence
of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words
be few. (3) For the dream comes through much
effort and the voice of a fool through many words. (4)
When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! (5) It is better that you should not vow than that
you should vow and not pay. (6) Do not let
your speech cause you to sin and do not say in the presence of the messenger of God that it was a mistake. Why should God be
angry on account of your voice and destroy the work of your hands? (7) For in many dreams and in many words there is
emptiness. Rather, fear God.
there is any characteristic most noticeable in the American Christian today, it
is the confidence with which he approaches God. When we think about the
future, we usually do it this way:
dream big. We have a great idea for all sorts of wonderful things, and we
submit our plan to God for his approval.
submitted – it doesn’t take that long – we begin to tell others at church
and elsewhere of our great idea.
discover that “it is vanity.” God takes no ideas from us, but rather
accords to us that which is in his plan. No matter how smart you are, God
has another idea, it seems.
delight in fools
wisdom gives us the correct method:
when you are in the house of the Lord, listen rather than talk. Don’t
tell him what to do; instead, ask him what to do.
be hasty about it. Think things through.
The idea that Christianity is nothing but emotional has no support in the
your words be few.” It’s much more difficult to get in trouble, with God
or with man, when your mouth is shut.
dreams do come true – with effort. Just because you can talk about it
doesn’t mean God is obligated to make it happen.
you make a commitment to God, keep it. If it angers your fellow human
beings when you don’t keep a commitment – and they are sinners just as you
are – how much more is God going to be angry?
God. Remember who is the Creator and who is the creation.
last may seem strange; “after all, God is a God of love, right?” Have you ever
angered your spouse? You have? They don’t love you? Love is not incompatible
with anger – especially for the holy and righteous God.
Ecclesiastes 5:8-17 NASB
(8) If you see oppression of the poor and denial of
justice and righteousness in the province, do not be shocked at the sight; for
one official watches over another official, and there are higher officials over
them. (9) After all, a king who cultivates
the field is an advantage to the land. (10)
He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance
with its income. This too is vanity. (11) When good things increase, those who consume
them increase. So what is the advantage to their owners except to look on? (12) The sleep of the working man is pleasant,
whether he eats little or much; but the full stomach of the rich man does not
allow him to sleep. (13) There is a grievous
evil which I have seen under the sun:
riches being hoarded by their owner to his hurt. (14)
When those riches were lost through a bad investment and he had fathered a son,
then there was nothing to support him. (15)
As he had come naked from his mother's womb, so will he return as he came. He
will take nothing from the fruit of his labor that he can carry in his hand. (16) This also is a grievous evil--exactly as a man
is born, thus will he die. So what is the advantage to him who toils for the
wind? (17) Throughout his life he also eats in darkness with great vexation,
sickness and anger.
is there oppression?
problems of pain and evil have been with us since the beginning. Solomon, by
having this passage following his section on fearing God, brings us some
measure of understanding of this problem.
exists. Get used to it. It is a normal part of the condition of fallen,
even out of such oppression some good may come. The “Beloved Leader” may
conscript laborers to work his fields, but at least somebody will get
something to eat from it. Indeed, it can be argued that God will allow no
evil out of which he cannot bring a greater good.
of all is this: the oppressor in your face reports to a higher one. On
it goes up the chain. At the top the ruler is still under God; and God is
not finished with him yet. Nor you.
the oppressor’s lot
course, the normal human reaction to oppression is not to revolt; rather, it is
to accept oppression as normal – and then try to find a way to join the
oppressor class as quickly as possible. But do you really want to do that?
that such people are always poor – for they always want more.
while very often such folks have an abundance of “stuff,” there is usually
an abundance of people around to want more stuff than is available. Get
yourself elected president and you’ll find there are fifty people for
every fat job you can fill.
while we’re at it, who sleeps better at night? And how do you think that
Solomon knows that?
I’m told, is the sudden perception of the absurd. Jack Benny made a career of
posing as a stingy tightwad – and then getting what he deserved, while the
His most famous gag was this: a mugger comes up behind him, sticks him up and
says, “Your money or your life!” After a long pause (timing is everything) the
mugger says, “Well?”
thinking, I’m thinking!”
is absurd; hoarding your wealth is absurd.
points out another absurdity: what if you have the money and lose it? If you
never had it, your children don’t expect to inherit it. But if they have
silver spoon expectations… then what?
at the end of your life, it comes down to this: there are no pockets in a
shroud. What good did your money do you?
Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 NASB
(18) Here is what I have seen to be good and
fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one's labor in which he
toils under the sun during the few years
of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward. (19) Furthermore, as for every man to whom God has
given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to
receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God. (20) For he will not often consider the years of his
life, because God keeps him occupied with the gladness of his heart.
just what are you supposed to do? Solomon is nowhere near the Christian
answer, but he sees it in what we might call a pre-Christian light. It’s
pretty simple, really.
eat, drink and enjoy. You need to eat and drink anyway – you might just
as well enjoy it.
it as a reward from God for your hard work. Much depends on the way you
look at things.
is short, eternity is long – best to focus on what’s at hand.
can see in this the Christian doctrine of vocation. God has provided a way for
you to make your living in this world; whatever that way is, enjoy it. Take
pleasure in your work; do not regard it as simply “the way I make money.”
Prostitutes make money too.
spiritual value of work is something which is now minimized in our teaching,
but the truth is always there. Paul put it this way:
Colossians 3:23-24 NASB
(23) Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for
the Lord rather than for men, (24) knowing
that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the
Lord Christ whom you serve.
about the rich man?
what about him? Is this really your problem? Consider that he gets his reward
from God as well. The Old Testament view often was that riches were a sign of
favor from God. Is this really something to worry about? Maybe this is the
rich man’s problem!
Solomon reveals quite a bit about himself in this passage. He is concerned, as
many are, about the length of his life. But this is not wise; better a life
well lived and short than a long and fruitless one.
what you are tasked to do by God.
the reward he offers in this life.
in all things, rejoice. Give thanks.