Saving a Sickening Legacy | Ecclesiastes 5:8-6:12
Topic: Old Testament Passage: Ecclesiastes 5:8–6:12
Introduction | Circling the Runway
Good morning! This week we are continuing our series of Ecclesiastes called The Pursuit: Chasing Meaning Under the Sun. Where do we go to find wisdom, meaning, and purpose? What is the point of all our accomplishments? Where is our hope when we life is met with failure or even simple toil and boredom? Is this all there is to life? In life under the sun all seems to be vanity as we struggle to find our purpose and meaning apart from God. The message of this sermon of Ecclesiastes isn’t “all of life is meaningless and nothing matters”; it’s because of God as the source of all meaning, and goodness, as we live the life we are given EVERYTHING matters! Last week, we saw how we approach God matters because He is worthy of our reverence and worship. This week we see what life looks like when we put our hope in wealth. The end of Chapter 5 and all of Chapter 6 are not written for an audience like ours. We like things to flow linearly, beginning, middle, end. Ancient Eastern cultures liked beginning, middle/end, beginning again. So if you read straight through this lengthy passage you build up to a pinnacle, only to quickly fall back down again. We’re going to fly over the topic of wealth and satisfaction at 20,000’ then we’re going to drop down and circle the city getting more detailed accounts, before finally landing at a place of joy.
Part I | 5:8-12 and 6:7-9 | No Money, Mo Money, Mo Problems
We have a basic understanding of the world that says more wealth is better and the answer for most of our challenges is simple. If we are poor or things are tight what is our solution? More money to pay off bills, purchase what is needed to sustain life, if we’re stable or wealth and dissatisfied what’s the answer? The solution must be we need more. It’s true, mo money, mo problems, but no money is also a problem. The preacher is going to look at all the ways we hope wealth will be able to solve our dissatisfaction.
Ecclesiastes 5:8-6:12 | 8 If you see in a province the oppression of the poor and the violation of justice and righteousness, do not be amazed at the matter, for the high official is watched by a higher, and there are yet higher ones over them. 9 But this is gain for a land in every way: a king committed to cultivated fields.
When we are not succeeding or we believe we should have more we are quick to look outside ourselves to the relative justice (or lack of) in the “system” we find ourselves in. Because all governments are executed by sinful people each are marked by various amounts of corruption which favors some over others. Don’t be surprised when the economic and governmental structures of the world don’t lend themselves to justice for the poor. We are greedy. When greed is married to power the child is economic injustice. The preacher is literally calling out the inherent injustice of the bureaucratic system. There are layers and layers of high ranking officials all looking out for themselves and their colleagues. This is why the poor cannot get justice. But there is a caveat here as well; do not think extreme libertarianism or anarchy is the answer either. The loss that comes from imperfect/corrupt governmental and economic systems is outweighed by the gain that comes from clear leadership from one who understands the call to cultivate what we have. This is not to expect defeat or disengage but to be realistic about the challenges that face the pursuit of wealth. If wealth is your driver and you are poor; those with power and wealth will stand in the way.
Ecclesiastes 5:10-12 | 10 He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. 11 When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? 12 Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.
You’re down and hoping to move up, or you are actually “doing pretty well,” either way you are still not satisfied with the wealth you have. But the remedy for a desire for wealth is not more wealth. You are loving something that cannot love you back. Verse 10 (and 6:7) show when you love something like money you’re going to be constantly dissatisfied. Wall Street Movie “What’s your number?.. More.” Think of the enormously wealthy, at a certain point you can only enjoy so much of something at one time. You’ve got athletes with rooms full of sneakers (how many pairs of shoes can you wear?!) Eventually you acquire so much you need to hire others just to maintain your stuff. Solomon in 1 Kings 4, had tons of people working for him, so there can be a trickle down effect. But there is also a growing entourage and hangers-on from friends you never knew you had. You get wealthy and all you can do is see others consuming it.
Greater wealth doesn’t lead to greater rest. What is a desire for greater wealth and possessions if not a greater sense of security? You think if you have a bigger bank account or more stuff you’ll rest easier. You were made to strive and work, so when you’ve accumulated so much wealth you no longer need to strive to survive you come to places where you are so consumed with luxury your stomach is full but it doesn’t satisfy. You have indigestion from acute affluenza. Your life is so leisurely you do not get to experience deep sleep or rest. Much of my job is sitting, drinking coffee, meetings, more meetings and it can leave me restless. I’ve got to exercise or I can’t sleep. For the rich there is the added stress of worrying about their stuff. Those who work physically hard jobs, especially with limited responsibility rest well because they’re poured in the work they’re doing even if it is a little gain or reward he is still able to get moments of rest.
Ecc 6: 7-9 | 7 All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied. 8 For what advantage has the wise man over the fool? And what does the poor man have who knows how to conduct himself before the living? 9 Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the appetite: this also is vanity and a striving after wind. We live on perpetual treadmills where we work for our own appetites but are never satisfied. It is because even what we desire endlessly changes so once we’ve acquired something we shift our gaze to something else. Wandering appetites, it’s like a life of traveling but never arriving. You go on a good trip you enjoy the ride there, but you want to get somewhere. Verse 9 talks about it like a striving after wind. You’re working for something you’ll never be able to grasp. When all you’re doing is for yourself you will never be satisfied. When we pursue or place our hope in wealth we will not be satisfied.
When you have acted with the most selfishness has it lead to greater satisfaction?
Part II | 5:13-17 and 6:1-6 | Sickening Legacy
Our pursuit of wealth has an impact beyond ourselves. It leads to sickening legacies. The next sections use evil four times. Grievous evil literally means a sickening evil. This is an aggressive cancer that eats away your body from the inside out and then spreads to impact those around you. It is a specific evil we don’t often consider, living this life without enjoyment. Wealth is not evil, but hoping in it is. It is evil to not enjoy life. As the plane lowers altitude we will see more closely two cases of how evil it is to not enjoy our lives.
Ecclesiastes 5:13-17 | 13 There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, 14 and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand. 15 As he came from his mother's womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. 16 This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go, and what gain is there to him who toils for the wind? 17 Moreover, all his days he eats in darkness in much vexation and sickness and anger.
First case is a father who had it all, and lost it all. It doesn’t say he used his wealth to cultivate a legacy or to bless others. We are blessed to be a blessing. Instead they were “kept” (Held tightly) to his hurt. The hurt came when he lost everything, leaving him with nothing. He had a son but he was so focused on increasing his riches he was willing to be exceedingly risky with them and paid dearly for it. It was a bad venture, an investment that didn’t pay out. He had riches but because he wasn’t satisfied he recklessly risked all he had and instead of his ship coming in, it sank, and with it his hope and enjoyment. He was a steward focused on cultivating what he had for the benefit of others, but was a gambler who bet it all for more. He wasn’t the only one hurt. He has nothing to give his Son. Your legacy does actually matter. We are not to work merely for ourselves; but to build into and for the next generation. How have you been blessed by previous generations of your family? How have you been held back because of poor stewardship? Because he has placed all his hopes on his riches now they are gone, there is nothing for him to pass on. It is true for all of us that we will not take anything with us when we pass, but what we leave behind matters to those who remain. This goes beyond simply financial matters. He had this entire life and one son to steward and show “Son this is what it means to be a man. This is how we deal with loss or even failure.” Job 1:21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Instead of stewarding what he was given wisely he lost it all AND spent his days in vexation (annoyed, frustrated, or worried), in sickness and darkness and anger. When your hope is in wealth when it is lost the consequences are not just economic they’re spiritual. It is easy for us to see how someone who had and lost it all could be bitter with life. But what if he didn’t lose it all?
6 There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind: 2 a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; it is a grievous evil. 3 If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life's good things, and he also has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. 4 For it comes in vanity and goes in darkness, and in darkness its name is covered. 5 Moreover, it has not seen the sun or known anything, yet it finds rest rather than he.6 Even though he should live a thousand years twice over, yet enjoy no good—do not all go to the one place? Second man, had it all not only in wealth and possession, but in every sphere imaginably. He lived Spock’s dream, He lived long and prospered. All the money, all the stuff, and all the honor from the world to the point he Lacks nothing of all he desires. He’s got not one son, but a hundred children! His life isn’t short, he’s got centuries to experience all his hearts desires. But if his problem isn’t bitterness from loss or lacking what is it? He doesn’t have satisfaction or enjoyment in any of the numerous blessings he has. This also is sickeningly evil. Stuff, even great stuff, without enjoyment is worthless vanity. We believe wrongly that if we merely had “all our desires” we’d be joyful and content. Not unless our desire is directed properly. He has everything anyone could want under the sun that we think would satisfy us. (we would all sign up for this!!) Be warned it is possible to possess everything, but without joy you have nothing. Why? Specifically is says his “soul” is not satisfied with life’s good things. He lacks the ability and power to enjoy what he has been given, how sad!!. Additionally, he apparently is so consumed with his own desires he either isn’t willing or able to pour into and love his kids in a way they want to honor him. When he does pass, there is none who care about him enough to bury him. The preacher is deadly serious saying it is better to not live outside the womb, to not see the sun or experience even all the good life has to offer, if it is not going to be enjoyed. The point is drilled down further. Better to not have a name (“Darkness its name is covered”), to be unknown with no legacy, than to be known as the riches most honored man in the world but have a joyless legacy. Not enjoying life we have and leaving a legacy that doesn’t lead to greater joy and life for others is a poorly steward life, and meaningless evil.
Aside: I love verse 5! The preacher of Ecclesiastes says even the child who never sees the sun does what… Finds rest (that is a peace and shalom that can only be found one place.) Let’s land the plane in joy
Part III | 5:18-20 and 6:10-12 | God Gives Joy and Saving Legacy
Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 |18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. 19 Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. 20 For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart. There is so much dissatisfaction and darkness that surrounds the bright truth of these verses. Life under the sun has injustice, dissatisfaction, loss, wandering appetites, and yet there is still great good. Wealth, possessions, honor, many offspring, and desires all fulfilled are all good but on their own there is something incredibly significant missing that leads them to be joyless and meaningless. These verses have a form of joy 4 times, gift/given 4 times, and every time each of these is mentioned you find God as the source. God is a wealthy and generous giver.
God gives us all the days we have under the sun. Shorter or longer the span of our lives is all short in comparison to eternity. Each of our lives and the days in them are gifts from God.
God gives wealth and possession power and influence as he sees fit. If you have wealth, if you have good things, if you have position where you are able to lead, manage, or influence others that is from God. It means He wants you enjoy what you have and steward bless others. Even if you don’t have much…
God gives the ability to rejoice even in our toil. Yes it’s going to be hard, and difficult but I am still able to give you joy when you accept where I have you and what I’ve called you to do is for your joy.
God gives us a fullness of joy that occupies our hearts. This isn’t a small thing! Yes you’ll have some good, some bad, and some blah days. But when you’re living in the light of God beyond the sun you will be so preoccupied with what he’s given you to do you don’t have time to lament what isn’t or what was.
Ecclesiastes 6:10-12 |10 Whatever has come to be has already been named, and it is known what man is, and that he is not able to dispute with one stronger than he. 11 The more words, the more vanity, and what is the advantage to man? 12 For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun?
But I don’t know this joy, I don’t feel it or experience it. In light of God’s character when we meet dissatisfaction in our lives we would should not come to dispute with God, but to surrender to Him. He knows our joylessness comes from our disconnection from Him. He knows our sin means we live in and leave legacies of rebellion and death. In Jesus, we trade in our legacy of joyless greed that warrants our death. Jesus takes it an nails it with himself on the cross in our place, in His resurrection He gives us His saving legacy of perfect stewardship, contentment, and joy so daily we can rest and work in peace. CT Studd - Give me Father, a purpose deep, In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep; Faithful and true what e’er the strife, Pleasing Thee in my daily life; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Philippians 4:11-12 | 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Our true and lasting joy in life comes when we Trust Jesus!
More in THE PURSUIT | Ecclesiastes
January 3, 2016Season Finale | Ecclesiastes 12:1-14
December 20, 2015Bridled Joy | Ecclesiastes 11:1-10
December 13, 2015Farmers Market of Foolishness | Ecclesiastes 10:1-20