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.
Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless.
As goods increase,
so do those who consume them.
And what benefit are they to the owners
except to feast their eyes on them?
The sleep of a labourer is sweet,
whether they eat little or much,
but as for the rich, their abundance
permits them no sleep.
I have seen a grievous evil under the sun:
wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners,
or wealth lost through some misfortune,
so that when they have children
there is nothing left for them to inherit.
Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb,
and as everyone comes, so they depart.
They take nothing from their toil
that they can carry in their hands.
This too is a grievous evil:
as everyone comes, so they depart,
and what do they gain,
since they toil for the wind?
All their days they eat in darkness,
with great frustration, affliction and anger.
This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labour under the sun during the few days of life God has given them – for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil – this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.(Eccl. 5:8-20 NIV)
Wealth increases your appetite but not your satisfaction. Whoever has money never has enough. All that the possession of wealth does is to create an insatiable desire for more. Wealth increases our dependants but not our income – the Preacher claims that if you are wealthy you are liable to collect around you a group of hangers-on who contribute absolutely nothing to you, but cost a lot.
Wealth increases your insomnia but not your contentment.
We perhaps find ourselves nodding in agreement with the Preacher. Wealthy people do not have a good press in the UK at the present time. But do we escape the same desires? Whatever level of possessions we have, do we not find ourselves looking for more?
The Preacher leaves the confines of the Temple and moves to consider the subject of money and wealth. His focus is not directly on money itself but the system that supports the use and abuse of money. The system includes government officials who use their position and authority to reward themselves. We have this in the News at the moment with the alleged abuses of the Unite Union and the Labour controlled Liverpool Council. It is not that this type of behaviour is an exclusive product of the socialist left, it is also alleged that government ministers handed lucrative contracts to their friends and acquaintances during the pandemic.
The remarkable thing is that the Preacher tells us not to be surprised by this. The Preacher does not excuse this behaviour, but he knew about the human heart and did not expect anything different from a complicated government bureaucracy.
The Preacher presents the farmer as the worker who produces the product but each tier of the middle men seeks to profit before the product gets to the customer. Such a system has attempted to be bypassed by the ‘Fairtrade’ industry that attempts to give a fair price to the producer in various parts of the world.
The Preacher recognises the need for government even if it is corrupt, because even bad government is better than anarchy. A few dishonest people may profit from corrupt practices, but everybody benefits from organised authority.
Money cannot satisfy the human heart because the human heart was made to be satisfied by God. It is good to have the things that money can buy, provided you don’t lose the things that money can’t buy.
The Preacher gives two examples of riches gone wrong. One person hoards the wealth and ruined themselves by becoming a miser. The other person made some unsound investments and lost his wealth. They spent the rest of their days in the darkness of discouragement and defeat and did not enjoy life.
The Preacher encourages us to accept our station in life, and accept it all as the gracious gift of God. To enjoy your work and to accept your lot in life – that is indeed a gift from God. The ability to enjoy life’s blessings is also a gift from God. If we focus more on the gifts than the Giver, we are guilty of idolatry. If we accept His gifts, but complain about them, we are guilty of ingratitude. If we hoard His gifts and will not share them with others, we are guilty of indulgence. But if we yield to His will and use what He gives us for His glory, then we can enjoy life and be satisfied.
Gracious God we thank You for the gifts that You have given us. Help us not to value the gifts as greater than You the Giver. Help us be content with what You have given us in life and be satisfied with the position that You have placed us in, because we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.