In this sermon, Pastor Dave Capoccia finishes looking at Solomon’s teaching on wealth in Ecclesiastes 5:8-20. Specifically, Pastor Dave explores in verses 13-20 Solomon’s second main reason to beware vainly seeking after wealth and instead rejoice gratefully in your portion from God: wealth ultimately won’t protect you.
Like last time I preached to you, you may notice I look a little different today. This time is not a haircut, I’m wearing glasses. I noticed my vision seemed to be changing at the end of the last year. Faraway objects and text where blurrier than I remember them being, only slightly. I waited to see if the issue persisted and it did. So I went to an optometrist last month and it turns out that I’m slightly nearsighted now and have astigmatisms. Now these vision problems for me are very very mild. I can still see pretty well without glasses, but I was still amazed that when first at the optometrist office and then now with these glasses, I’m amazed at how well I can see. Even things that are so far away and I just assumed in the past that nobody can see those, I can see them clearly so crisp in my vision. It feels like I have a superpower now, or I’ve engaged some cheat code for life. I can see everything. But the most stunning part is I didn’t even know how much I couldn’t see before until I got the new glasses.
Of course, there’s a a good spiritual analogy in that, isn’t there? This is just like it is with the word of God and the gospel. Without this divine revelation that we’ve been graciously given by God, we have to make sense of life the best we can. And we think we’ve got a good handle on it. We think we can see things more or less as they are. Sometimes things look a little fuzzy. Some things are dark in our vision. We can’t fully understand everything, but we figure – hey nobody else probably can see it either, and we just carry on.
But then we read the Bible, hear the Bible explained, and God opens our eyes to its truth. Suddenly, we see things as they are. We see God for who He is. We see ourselves for who we are. And we see other people rightly. We see life for what it is. It is indeed a vapor, passing so quickly. We see how marvelous is the world to come – the coming kingdom of Christ for His people.
The Bible gives us a proper vision, and not just generally about life but also specifically when it comes to the topic of wealth and possessions. When it comes to the perspective of those topics, people the world tend to fall into one category or the other. Either they believe that wealth is the great good, the key to the good life. Wealth, money – they can obtain for you true comfort, true pleasure, true security. So many people, most people in the world are chasing after more and more wealth. They pursue wealth as the means to gain. It dominates their lives.
But then there’s the opposite view which also exist in our world, which is an utter spurning of wealth. These people go – look at the people all caught in the rat race. Or they just look at that nature of wealth – how it’s so fleeting and enslaving sometimes and empty, and they say I want nothing to do with that. The real key to the good life is to free yourself from all material concerns. Get rid of your money, eat meager food, wear shabby clothes, become a monk. Set your minds on things that are not material. Set your mind on spiritual things and leave the grimy material concerns to the unenlightened in the world.
There are many religions and philosophies that take the latter view, almost as a reaction to the love of wealth which is so prevalent. What does God say? What is God’s perspective, as indicated in His perfect Word about wealth and possessions? The answer might be a little bit surprising to you, for God says and this is just a summary – on the one hand, you do need to beware the pursuit of wealth as vain and ruinous. But on the other hand, you are to receive, use, and enjoy whatever wealth God does give you to His glory. We hear more about this divine view of wealth in the book of Ecclesiastes. We’re starting our investigation of that teaching. Let’s continue it. Please take your Bibles and open to Ecclesiastes chapter 5. The title the message today is “the vanity of wealth, part 2.”
If you’re just joining us, we’ve been studying to the book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament. This is written by King Solomon of Israel, a man unparalleled in wisdom and knowledge, and directed and moved by God’s Holy Spirit to write this perfect instruction. He wrote this book to instruct the next generation in Israel, but it applies to us today, about how to live life well in a vaporous world. Solomon tells us this is indeed a vaporous world, right at the beginning of his book. Ecclesiastes 1:2, he says all of life is a vanity of vanities, or more literally a vapor of vapors. It’s the most vaporous vapor of all. Why is this? Well, we’ve talked about it – because of man’s fall into sin, because of God’s curse on man’s world, and because of death most of all, everything in this world has become like vapor, like breath, like smoke. You can’t get your hands around it. You can’t hold on to it. It’s fundamentally insubstantial, impermanent, and ultimately incomprehensible.
This reality applies to all people, both Christian and non-Christian, those who fear God and those who don’t fear God. We all live under the sun. We must all navigate the real world that is fundamentally hazy and broken. But while we cannot fix this world, the Lord Christ will do that when He comes and when He returns and establishes His kingdom. We praise the Lord that – we look forward to that. But still until then, we can learn to walk wisely, righteously, and happily in this present world, even during our brief sojourn. Solomon is showing us the way to do that in his book.
The last time he began talking to us about the proper way to walk when it comes to wealth in this vaporous world. Wealth is main topic of Ecclesiastes 5:8-20. That’s the whole section. Let’s re-read that and then we’ll cover what we’ve looked at so far. Ecclesiastes 5 verse 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 when official watches over another official, and there are higher officials over them. After all, the king who cultivates the field is an advantage to the land.
He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity. When good things increase, those who consume them increase. So what is the advantage to their owners except to look on? 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.
There is a grievous evil, which I have seen under the sun; riches being hoarded by their owner to his hurt. When those riches were lost through a bad investment and he had fathered a son, then there was nothing to support him. As he had come naked from his mother’s womb, so he will return as he came. He will take nothing from the fruit of his labor that he can carry in his hand. 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? Throughout his life he also eats in darkness with great vexation, sickness and anger.
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. 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. For he will not often consider the years of his life, because God keeps him occupied with the gladness of his heart.
To remind you of the thesis for this section, I’ve cleaned up the grammar of it a little bit. In Ecclesiastes 5:8-20, Solomon gives two main reasons for you to beware vainly seeking after wealth and instead rejoice gratefully in your portion from God. Two main reasons for you to beware vainly seeking after wealth and instead rejoice greatly in your portion from God. This is review. After some introductory council about not being surprised by oppressive and greedy authorities – that’s verses 8 and 9, Solomon gives the first main reason to beware seeking after wealth in verses 10 through 12. We covered this. Number one – wealth ultimately won’t satisfy you. It won’t satisfy you because money and possessions are like food – verse 10. You do need a certain amount to live, but if you think getting some copious amount is going to finally satisfy you, you’re going to be disappointed. Part of the reason that wealth, like food, never fully satisfies is that the more wealth you have, the more expenses you have. And so to keep up with those expenses, you’re going to have to keep on making more wealth, giving you no time to really enjoy your wealth and giving you no rest. And rather than delivering a life with fewer cares and concerns, which wealth seems to promise. Verse 12 – those who pursue wealth end up more anxious than ever before because the more you have, the more you have to lose. If you think wealth is so important, you will be kept up at night. This is what we’ve seen previously. The first reason to beware vainly seeking after wealth, instead rejoice in God’s portion to you.
And now let’s look at the second reason. Why else should we take this counsel from Solomon? we’re going to work through verses 13 to 17, where we see the second main reason. Number two – wealth ultimately won’t protect you. Wealth ultimately won’t satisfy you and wealth ultimately won’t protect you. Look at verse 13 again:
There is a grievous evil which I have seen under the sun: riches being hoarded by their owner to his hurt.
In this verse, Solomon introduces to us a surprising, even disturbing situation that can occur in life. Notice the phrase “grievous evil”. Literally, the Hebrew is sickening evil. It makes you ill, something so bad and so tragic you feel weak and woozy just hearing about it. This is not a theoretical evil. Solomon says I have seen it under the sun. This occurs in life, even regularly. What is this situation that’s so bad? He says riches is being hoarded by their owner to his hurt. The translation of “hoarded” might give us the wrong idea. You think about hoarding, you may think of hoarders, even those captured in that disturbing television show called “Hoarders” – people who can’t give away anything in their life, even if it’s trash they won’t throw it away. And their homes become accumulated with all sorts of debris, ruining their own lives, ruining their relationship, and definitely hurting them. It’s pretty obvious that wealth supported in that way is hurting a person, but that’s probably not with Solomon’s talking about. The word “hoarded” here could also be translated kept, guarded, or preserved, much more positive-sounding terms. ESV and King James both actually translate the term “hoarded” here as kept, and I think that’s the better way to take it.
If we understand that this person is preserving or keeping certain wealth, we see that he’s actually acting with a certain degree of wisdom. For does God say in the Bible, does the Bible command working to make money to prepare for the future – does the Bible commend that? It certainly does. Proverbs 6:6-11 says memorably:
Go to the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways and be wise, which, having no chief, officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer and gathers her provision in the harvest. How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest – your poverty will come in like a vagabond and your need like an armed man.
Solomon also wrote this part of Proverbs. He’s saying there – what are you doing, you lazy fellows, not working to prepare for the future? Even the ants know to gather food for the time that they won’t be able to gather food. They know to store up. So you, get up and work or else you’ll suffer poverty when your times of difficulty come. This is basic wisdom. We actually see the same sort of commendation about the wisdom and usefulness of gaining money in the book of Ecclesiastes itself. Turn briefly to Ecclesiastes 7:12. Look what Solomon says there:
For wisdom is protection just as money is protection, but the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the lives of its possessors.
The main point of the section is that wisdom is better than money, but he’s also acknowledging money does have a certain benefit. It can give you a certain degree of protection. Wisdom is better, but money can do a little bit for you. Or even more provocatively, Ecclesiastes 10:19. Solomon says:
Men prepare a meal for enjoyment, and wine makes life merry, and money is the answer to everything.
What? Solomon, what are you saying? Certainly that verse needs to be understood in the whole context of Ecclesiastes, or else you’ll think Solomon sounds like he’s saying money is the most important thing. No he’s not saying that, but it is truly amazing how having money can help you deal with many problems in life.
So there is wisdom in storing up for the future. Going back to Ecclesiastes 5:13, here’s a man who did that, who did what was temporally wise by keeping and preserving some wealth. Yet Solomon clarifies that this sort of wealth actually ended up hurting the owner. It was to his hurt. The word translated hurt there could also be translated evil, misfortune, calamity. It was bad for him in the end that he got all this wealth. It didn’t protect him. It was the cause of great trauma to him. How could that be? Isn’t this the wise thing? Now look at verse 14. Solomon elaborate on what happened.
When those riches were lost through a bad investment and he had fathered a son, then there was nothing to support him.
You see the sickening tragedy. All those carefully laid up riches, probably accrued over years of hard work and wise planning, are all lost in an instant, vanished. The phrase bad investment is actually a very general description in Hebrew. The word investment could also be translated business or affair or situation. Don’t get the idea that Solomon’s talking about somebody who just put too many eggs in one basket. You should have diversified your portfolio a little bit. That’s why this happened to you. No, that’s not necessarily the situation. Solomon’s description is much more general. It applies to any sort of unforeseen and sudden financial reversal. This is a vaporous world. Wealth too is vaporous. It disappears when you least expect it and even in what you think is the most secure way to handle your money.
Because consider with me, is there any way that you can use or store your money in a way that will make it absolutely totally secure? The answer is no. Banks fail. Governments fall. Stock market crash. Property gets burnt to the ground. And even if you just try and dig a hole and bury your money there, guess what you might forget where you buried it, or you’ll lose the map, or somebody else could stumble upon it and take it for themselves.
We don’t know what happened to this particular man, what was the choice he made that led to his financial downfall. But it doesn’t really matter because the same thing could happen to anyone of us. Whatever this man did, he tried to act wisely to obtain and protect his wealth, but in the end it was complete vanity. He lost it all. How do you think that felt? How would it feel for you, working all your life to acquire certain wealth and possessions, feel like you finally arrived, and then you lose it all? You’re not just back to where you started but even worse than when you started.
And then for this man, he had an additional grief because this happened soon after, we’re told, he had fathered a son. Just when they were looking forward to passing on the inheritance to their boy, someone to carry on the family name, someone to care for the estate, somebody who was going to have such a great start in life, and now they have nothing for him, not even a home for him. That would have been a particular shame in that society, to raise up a son and then have to tell him – I have nothing to give you.
As far as we know, this disaster was not the father’s fault. How could he have known? He’s not omniscient, none of us are omniscient. How can any of us know the decision that’s going to lead to our financial disaster? But if this did happen to any of us, I think we would understand what Solomon means. It is a sickening evil. It is a traumatizing trouble.
So, what’s the lesson from this? The lesson is – as helpful as money is, as wise as it is stored well for the future, you must remember wealth ultimately can’t protect you. It has limited protective capability, but it cannot protect you ultimately. So if you’re caught up in the pursuit of money and wealth because you think that these can give you through security, then you’ve got another thing coming. You need to learn the lesson from this X rich man. It’s just as Proverbs 23:4-5 say:
Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it. When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings like an eagle that flies toward the heavens.
It’s not just that wealth can’t ultimately protect you from life’s calamities. Wealth has even greater importance when it comes to the great calamity of death. Look at verses 15 and 16 now.
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. 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?
These words may sound familiar to you if you’re a little bit familiar with the Old Testament because it sounds like what Job says. Job chapter 1 verses 20 to 21. If you remember that situation – talk about somebody who seemed financially secure and didn’t do anything to lose his wealth. He did lose it all and most of his family, but he said in reaction:
Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Just an amazing statement. This comes from a man of faith who not only understood that wealth can disappear at any time, but he also understood wealth ultimately cannot go with you in death. Just as you come into this world naked, so shall you leave it. You coming with nothing. You leave with nothing. And even if like ancient kings, you’re buried with all sorts of wealth around you, somebody sticks a car in your grave, or I don’t know. None of it is going to reach you in the next world. You can’t take it with you.
Whereas we are reminded of job’s words which were filled with worshipful resignation, Solomon’s words are different. You’ll notice Solomon’s here, they’re filled with anguish. You see that phrase again at the beginning of verse 16. He says: this is a grievous or sickening evil. It ought to make one sick when you think about it, what man has been reduced to by death. This is the problem that Solomon keeps on bringing up because it is the great problem of life – death ruins everything. How is it fair that you should work so hard and learn so much and act with such skill and wisdom in your life to accomplish various feats and in the end have nothing to show for it.
Solomon brought up this issue in chapter one. Why should the wise men and the fool die the same? He brought up this issue in chapter 3. Why should death put man on the same level as brute beasts? He brings it up again. We’ve got to deal with this problem. You’ve got to deal with it.Think about the treasures and accomplishments of your own life. I don’t know what they are. Maybe you started a successful business, or maybe you finally built and remodeled the perfect dream house, or maybe you restored and rebuilt a classic car with your own two hands. It’s just beautiful. Guess what? You will lose those and every other earthly treasure and accomplishment when you die. You have to leave them behind.
You can’t even comfort yourself that your works will live on. Yes, I may pass away, but the things I did will continue. Well Solomon already told us in chapters 1 and 2 that actually people are going to forget you and your works pretty soon. They won’t even remember that you existed. Well my inheritance will be passed on to my children and they will do even more with it. They’ll take care of it. No guarantees. They might ruin it. You don’t know what’s going to happen. It would actually hurt your heart to see what your descendants do with what you work so hard to obtain.
Why should man be so powerless? Why should we be reduced to such state? We were given dominion over creation, under-rulers of God. What an exalted place we were given at the beginning, according to Genesis 1. And yet to be reduced of this. That is the reality of our world. That is the penalty of our sin. The world is cursed and death ruins everything.
Solomon’s question then is very apt at the end of verse 16. He says:
So what is the advantage to him who toils for the wind?
In light of this reality, in light of how death wipes out every gain you had, what is the advantage of all the toil you used to obtain it? You know what the answer is – there’s no advantage, no profit, no gain, no lasting benefit from this. So, why do it? Why toil and strive all your life to obtain wealth if it ultimately can’t secure you and is just going to be wiped out in the end? It truly is toiling for the wind, which is a great image of vain action.
This may sound a little silly to you, but it’s like going up to a wind vender and saying I’d like to buy the wind please. I’m willing to pay whatever it costs. The vendor says all right here’s your wind, and he kind of brushes it towards you. You try and handle it. When you look at your hands, there is nothing there. And even if there were, you couldn’t hang on to it. That’s what it’s like to pursue wealth, to strive after riches. It’s toiling for the wind. You get nothing for it. What is it costing you? Look at verse 17:
Throughout his life he also eats in darkness with great vexation, sickness and anger.
You know what the price is of pursuing wealth’s false protection and its inability to do anything against death? The price is misery, misery all your life. That’s exactly what Solomon is picturing here. Here’s a man who’s pursuing wealth, and in order to do that, he skimps on all the good things in life. He’s looking for ultimate gain, so he’s not willing to enjoy what he has now. To save time and money, he eats in darkness. this is a picture of isolation and joylessness. He’s also greatly vexed, continually discontent, absolutely sure he doesn’t have enough, very unhappy. He is often sick, his body tangibly bearing the fruit of his spiritual agitation. And he’s extremely angry, frustrated at God, at life, at other people, because he feels I deserve this and all you people are getting in my way. I need the gain of this world. I need more wealth. He’s always angry, anxious, unhappy.
Do those things describe you? I hope not. Because when we see it describing this other person here, this man pursuing wealth, we ought to be coming to the conclusion that that is so foolish. What an utterly insane way to live. What a senseless exchange. I’m going to give up all my joy in the present time to obtain the false protection of wealth that will do me no good in the end. That’s insanity. It’s not that it just won’t protect you, but as we’ve already seen, it won’t satisfy you. So why would you give up your present happiness for that?
By now, we see both of Solomon’s main reasons as to why we should not vainly pursue wealth. Number one – wealth ultimately won’t satisfy you. Number two – wealth ultimately won’t protect you. If this is the way life is, and Solomon’s being real with us, then surely hopefully there must be a better way to live. And there is. That’s what Solomon has been driving at.
We come to the conclusion of this section about wealth in verses 18 to 20. To make it explicit for you, I included it as a point in the slide. What’s the conclusion? Rejoice in your portion. Rejoice in your portion. Look at verse 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.
If you’ve been with us in our study of Ecclesiastes, what Solomon says here is very similar to what he said before. If you go back to Ecclesiastes 2:24, Ecclesiastes 3:12, Ecclesiastes 3:22, Solomon is saying – you should enjoy life.
But notice the difference. Before he said there is nothing better, kind of cautious resigned way of exhorting us. There’s nothing better than eating, drinking, and working. We don’t have that here. He says actually pretty assertively it is good. It is fitting for you to live this way. Notice the term fitting. That’s the same term we saw in Ecclesiastes 3:11, that kind of famous line where God has made everything fitting or appropriate or beautiful in its time. That same idea of beautiful appropriateness is here in verse 18. What is good and even beautifully appropriate for man to do, it is to eat drink and enjoy both one’s toil and the fruit of one’s toil during one’s life. Solomon admits yes, we can’t change reality. Life is a vapor. It’s full of painful toil. It’s over quickly. God has ordained only a few days for you. But that’s all God has ordained. God has also ordained simple good gracious gifts for you to enjoy during your brief days. This is the love of God. This is the kindness of God. Solomon is counseling his original audience and us – friends, life is hard but make sure that you take time to enjoy life. Take time to enjoy life.
And why? Look at the end of verse 18 again. He says for this is his, that is man’s reward. The word for reward, it’s one we’ve seen before – the first one’s assigned portion or one’s share of plunder. So if you think of life as like a battle, what is the reward for all our fighting? What’s our assigned portion of booty or plunder that we get to take back home? He says it’s this – enjoying your food, your drink, your work, and what your work produces for you. This is God’s reward, His assigned portion for you. And if God has given you that, then wouldn’t you be foolish not to take it, not to receive it, not the thankfully enjoy it? But those who are so obsessed with pursuing gain in this world, that is exactly what they do. They say – no I need more power. No I need more comfort. I need more pleasure. I need more this. I need more that, and never actually enjoy what God has given them. God has meant for you to enjoy these simple gifts, the simple gifts of life, as a way of helping you bear the burden of living in this difficult world, this sin-cursed world.
And you know what’s part of that ordained portion for you? Look what Solomon says in verse 19. He says:
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.
Solomon says, you know what else is God’s design for man? It is that man should actually enjoy his wealth. I don’t think we expect this. We say, yes if God has given me wealth, you are to give it all away. Or God has given you wealth, well make sure you don’t enjoy any of it because that would be base and material of you. That’s not what he says. He says eat from your wealth. Enjoy your assigned portion. Indeed, enjoy your possessions as well as the labor you put in to obtain them.
Notice the phrase he has empowered. He has empowered him to eat from them. That’s an interesting phrase. We could say or we could translate he has empowered also as he has given him power to do something, or he has given him the opportunity to do something, or even I think this is best – he has authorized him to do something. What has God authorized? That every person who has wealth use and enjoy it. Why? Verse 19 the very end – it is the gift of God. This is the gift of God. God has graciously given money, wealth, and possessions as gifts to be received and thankfully enjoy during this brief life.
Now, enjoyed by whom? Enjoyed by whom specifically? We say the man who has riches and wealth, but who is that? Is that Elon Musk, Bill Gates? Well yes, to a certain extent. But are they the only ones? Who’s Solomon really talking about as the one God authorizes to enjoy their wealth? It’s all of us, every one of us, because God has given each of us, even each of us here, money wealth and possessions. Not in the same measure, to be sure, but exactly as God wisely ordained and this is very key – all in undeserved favor. You have any possessions, you have any good things – you didn’t deserve any of it. It is God’s kindness to you that you have anything, much less what is perfectly designed for you specifically.
So God is actually exhorting each of you today. Whatever wealth God has given you, use it and enjoy it thankfully, reverently as His kind gift. God has authorized you to do this. It is your portion from Him. If you’re tempted to complain that you have so little compared to someone else – how can I enjoy my portion, he has so much more? Consider how much you have as an American compared to most other people in the world, people who are happier than we are usually. And consider how much more you have than almost all people who lived in the ancient world, to whom this instruction was originally given. Some of those people, they didn’t have more than a tunic and a pair of sandals, and some even less than that. You don’t even know how much God has blessed you and your wealth and possessions because you’re so worried about comparing it to other people.
Don’t pursue wealth as ultimate gain, but also don’t live as an ascetic. Don’t eat mushy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day because you’re so committed to saving money. I’ve got to lay it more for the future. You never know what’s coming. Or because you think it’s unholy to enjoy material things. No, friend. God wants you to enjoy these gifts and they’re good gifts. There’s nothing evil about things that are material all by themselves. God wants you to enjoy them in grateful worship. We talked about doing everything to the glory of God. This is one of those things. So have a good meal. Drink some delicious tea. Get together with some friends for a fun evening. Go watch the sunset on the beach. It doesn’t have to be super expensive. If you can enjoy it, God means for you to enjoy it. It’s from Him.
And enjoy your work as well. I know this is totally antithetical to today’s society. Work is the evil that we all have to endure. No, work is a gift. It’s difficult because of toil and because of the fallenness of this world, but work is a gift. So what does God want you to do? He wants you to enjoy it. Do it as unto His glory, but enjoy it. If you’re a software developer, I don’t know everything there is to know about that job, but enjoy that. Enjoy using your mind with coding and seeing a problem through to create a solution. That’s God’s amazing grace reflecting His intelligence in your mind that you get to apply to that problem. Or maybe you work as a janitor. Enjoy that work as well. Enjoy using the skill God has given you to make a clean and orderly space. You know it won’t last, but enjoy the process and enjoy even just the moment of look at that, nice and clean.
Or maybe you’re a mother. I know there’s a lot of difficulty and trial and toil that goes into parenting, but what does God want you to do? He wants you to enjoy it. Enjoy every curious question your child asks you that you actually know the answer to. Enjoy every moment that you see your child grow in self-sufficiency. Oh he can do that on his own now. Enjoy every expression of affection from your child. That is a gift. Just a little gift. Not ultimate – you can’t find your soul’s satisfaction in that, but it is a gift from God to you.
To remind you and to clarify just a little bit and understand what I’m talking about here, what Solomon is saying in verses 18 and 19 is not a call to hedonism or reckless living or living only for pleasure. No, he’s already spoken about that Ecclesiastes 1 to 2. That’s how he lived for a time. And if you live that way, if you start grasping for things of the world and you say, yeah God says I’m supposed to enjoy this life so I’m just going to get all this wealth, I’m going to look for all these possessions and experiences because that’s where I’m going to find my gain. Guess what – you’re not. You’re going to end up the same way Solomon did – frustrated and empty. Don’t do that. Stop reaching for the more out there and instead embrace what is already here with you – the portion you have from God. Enjoy that in reverence and thankfulness.
We see this attitude in Job. That’s why he was able to say what he did. We also see this attitude with the apostle Paul. You know that verse – everyone likes to quote Philippians 4:13:
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
What’s that about? It’s about contentment. I can be fine in any situation. I know how to receive and enjoy abundance, but I also know how to get along with need and lack. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. How can you do that? How can you not be distraught whether God gives or takes away? It’s when you know that the essence of life is not in wealth and possessions. It’s in God, and therefore any little good thing you have – a possession, certain amount of wealth, it’s just His little gift to you, not to be made much of, not too much of. He is to be made much of, but you can receive it as a tangible expression of His affection for you, His grace to you.
Now I should also say part of enjoying your wealth to the glory of God surely includes everything the New Testament says about wealth, and what is that? Using, sharing, and giving away your wealth and service to God and others. It’s not wrong to spend money on yourself. God says I want you to enjoy, eat from the wealth that I’ve given you. But if you find that you’re only doing that and you’re not sharing it, you’re not helping others, you’re not meeting needs, you don’t have anything to give to God and others. Not only is that sin but that’s folly. If you really want enjoy your wealth, then that’s the way to do it. Remember the words of Jesus, quote by the apostle Paul in Acts 20:35:
It is more blessed to give than to receive.
And haven’t we all found that? It’s enjoyable to have a certain meal, but it’s even more enjoyable when you get to share it with someone else. Or if you’re not able to share it, you say this is so good, but you have such a need – you take it. And when you see their joy over that little gift, does that not bring you joy? That is a gift from God to you as well. That is part of what he wants you to do with your wealth.
All those things – enjoying it reverently and worshipfully, sharing it, giving it, you know what that also does? It’s storing up a few treasure in heaven. That’s like the passage we read earlier today from Luke 12. One Christian author said I think in a pretty helpful and memorable way – you can’t take your wealth with you, but you can send it on ahead. How do you do that? By using your wealth to the glory of God. Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven. That’s why we should be generous. That’s why we should be full of faith.
You go to the book of proverbs, you go to the different parts of the Bible that talk about what people should do with wealth, what is always marking the righteous rich? Generosity. It is not a sin to be rich. But those who are rich, what should they do? 1 Timothy 6 – they should be rich in good works. They should be so willing to give and meet needs and be hospitable and all those things. If God has gifted you in that way, then exercise that gift to His glory. We all have been gifted to a certain extent.
Now this whole admonition to enjoy life, it leads up to an intriguing last verse in verse 20. Let’s look at that now:
For he will not often consider the years of his life, because God keeps him occupied with the gladness of his heart.
In this verse, Solomon further explains what God’s overall design is in authorizing those with possessions to enjoy them as God’s gift. Now if you notice that he and him in verse 20. It’s important to identify who this is. These pronouns refer back to the man just mentioned in verse 19. Who is that? It is the one who enjoys his portion of wealth from God, who actually does what God has designed for him to do. He says I receive it. I’m thankful for it. I’m going to use and enjoy it. The one who does this and does this well lives with a certain attitude, and it’s an attitude that we all need to live with.
What is that attitude? It’s presented for us in verse 20. That attitude is to live in the moment. To live in the moment.I know maybe you hear that and you’re like – isn’t that like that trendy pop philosophy that I’ve heard. There’s something to that. It’s actually the wisdom of God. People of the world, they get this to a certain extent, some people but they don’t get it all the way. Listen to what God says here. In verse 20, notice Solomon says that the wise one will not often consider the years of his life. What does that mean? It means he’s not taking too much thought about the past or the future because that is what prevents us from enjoying the moment right? We’re so worried about the things that happened the past and we don’t want to happen again. We’re so worried about the things in the future. I don’t know what’s going to happen. And did I prepare for this? A wise one doesn’t get caught up in those things. He does want to learn from the past, and he does want to make wise preparations for the future, even though he knows he can’t ultimately totally protect himself. He has to rely on.
Nevertheless even as he does those things, he will not allow his perspective to be distracted from the present, from what’s happening right now, because what is happening right now? For this man – gladness. It says God keeps him occupied with the gladness of his heart. What’s going on? You see, this wise one, stunned by the kindness of God to such a one as him, he’s continually seeing examples of that with the little bits of good that God just lavishes on his life. So he chooses to focus on that, not to miss out on any of the good that he sees God doing every day for him, and the result is gladness. He’s too occupied with the good God has given to let himself be agitated about the past or future. And that’s a wise way to live. That’s what the people of the world would like to do. And by God’s common grace, some do to a certain extent. It’s really only possible for those who know God in a full way. It’s really only possible to do that in a full way if you know God. And wouldn’t you like to live that way? Wouldn’t you not want to miss any of the good, any of the joy that God has for you in every day and every moment. Wouldn’t you like that? Wouldn’t you like not to have the alternative – remember what the alternative is? It’s verse 17:
Throughout his life he also eats in darkness with great vexation, sickness and anger.
Do you want that for you? Or do you want to be occupied with the gladness of your heart because God so designed you to be? If you prefer the latter, then you’ve got to do what Solomon has been calling you to do this entire book, which is what? Fear God. Fear God. Revere Him. Regard him the way you ought. You can’t live for yourself anymore. You can’t live as the Lord of your life anymore. He’s the Lord. You are to respect Him. You are to live for Him. You are to worship Him. Solomon is going to conclude Ecclesiastes with it pretty explicitly. The end of man’s whole design is this – fear God and keep His commandments. That’s what you got to do.
If you’re willing to do that, if you’re willing to therefore trust God with the uncertainties of life which is what this world is – very hazy and broken, then you can enjoy the good of every day. Stop being so anxious. Stop being so agitated. It does require though a change of heart, what the Bible calls repentance. You need to repent. You need to repent of thinking there’s gain out there, gaining wealth, profit in something in this world. You’ve got to let that go and recognize the only true gain is in God. Turn from false gain to true gain. Turn from lordship over yourself to letting God be the Lord since He is. Turn from your sinful, selfish, grasping way to a generous, faith-filled, and loving way.
And take the true treasure as your own, which is Jesus Christ. He is the Son of God. He is the only One who can cover your sin by His perfect life, death, and resurrection. Take Him as your Savior and Lord. Trust in His life, death, and resurrection alone to make you right with God. The Bible says, not only do we have a place in God’s eternal kingdom, not only will you gain everlasting life, not only will you gain God, but then you can actually enjoy life as you follow God, as you live in reverence before Him all the days of your vaporous life. You can enjoy them until you see Him face to face.
You know, it amazes me. I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about this, but of all people in the world, Christian ought to enjoy life most. Christians ought to enjoy life most because they know God and they know what God is doing. Christians who don’t live for the things of the world actually enjoy the things or they ought to enjoy the things of the world the best way, even wealth and possessions. Christian see these things as God’s gifts, not ultimate gain. Let me clarify – it’s not that God gives abundance prosperity to every Christian. That’s the false prosperity gospel that’s so popular. No, actually the only thing that God has promised all believers is trials, persecutions, and suffering. That would be used for our good and God’s glory. But even in the midst of all life’s problems, even midst the trial that God uses to make us more like Christ, Christian and really only Christians can enjoy life because they see God’s gifts everywhere. Do you see that in your life? Do you see all the gifts that God is giving you continually? And then do you choose to focus on those and focus on the Giver rather than the past or the future? That is the wise way to live. That is the perspective that you and I need that God is calling us to take today. Are you willing to do that? It does require you to humble yourself. It does require you to let go of idols. But it’s the way to blessing. If you haven’t done this yet, you need to. You need to take on this perspective of humility, trust, and thankfulness. Because when you do, it’s like a pair of glasses. It’s like a pair of God’s glasses, the glasses of faith that actually allow you to see life the way you ought, to see things clearly, to see the good that God is putting all around you. Put those on. Put those on. Better than any physical glasses, put on the glasses of faith.
Let’s pray. Lord God, I thank You for this word. It is so indeed clarifying. God, Your word is a lamp unto our feet and the light to our path. You show us. You show us the wise way, not just the way to life eternal which is the most important thing, but on the way to join now. God, I pray for everyone who heard this message today from Your word that that is the way that they will take, that they will believe You, that they understand that they really can entrust their souls and their bodies to You. All their needs, all their desires, they will come humbly to you in faith and repentance. You say I’ll care for you. I’ll care for you as a good Father. You won’t understand what I’m doing all the time, but I’ll care for you. Lord, You were so loving. You are so loving to Your own and so gracious even to those who don’t know You. Your testimony is all around the world. Even those who hate You or pay no attention to You, You’re doing them good. Father, if there are any here who are like that, I pray that they repent today so they can avoid your judgment and know your joy.