Ecclesiastes 5–6. Wsdom On Money and Work.
Key Notes: Sensible perspectives on work, worship and money. Advice to leaders and employers. Is pride the Scholar's main concern?
Ecclesiastes is universally acknowledged to be a difficult book. As we dig into its wisdom, it is intriguing to think about what the writer intends to accomplish. We have already surmised that he was writing to rich and secular people, in a prosperous time. He warns them against materialism. Qoheleth is thought by many commentators not to be a single person, but a composite of writers and ideas, partly because ideas are turned this way and that, suggesting contradiction, or perhaps group discussion. This lesson reads like Proverbs, with a brief review.
Life goes in many opposite directions and we have no control over what happens. 3:1–15
Life for the oppressed may be as painful as death. God shows humans that they are much like the animals, born to die. What happens after we die in not clear. 3:16- 4:1–3
On Work. Different views of work and reward are seen.
A. Work and skill are motivated by competition. 4:4
B. But the fool who does nothing consumes himself, losing everything. 4:5
C. Yet peace is better than prosperity. 4:6
D. Those who work without pleasure or without anyone to receive the reward of their work are in an unhappy business. 4:7–8
E. A partner can keep you on your feet, comfortable and strong. Don’t feel that you have to go it alone 4:9–12. Jesus sent out His disciples two by two.
F. It is not wise to stay at the top too long. You lose perspective; people reject you. A younger one, perhaps once a slave or a prisoner (like Mandela), who replaces you will also be rejected in time. Deans of colleges, preachers, and presidents usually cannot survive more than a decade in office. Movie stars are like meteorites. They burn up moving fast through the atmosphere of public life. Popularity is fickle. 4:13–16
Moving on to Worship
5:1–7 In worship, remember to be quiet. Do no make rash promises.
You are responsible to God for what you say.
We chatter in church because we od not think God is listening.
More on Work
5:8–9 In an unjust situation, there will be layers of official corruption.
We cannot have cocaine and heroin traffic in our country unless public officials are involved at several levels.
But anarchy for any settled land is even worse.
5:10 How much money is enough?
5:11 Employers learn that expanding their operation mainly expands the number of mouths that must be fed.
5:12 The laborer sleeps. The owner tosses on his pillow.
5:13–17 Sometimes a rich man hoards money only to lose it in a bad deal. Then the father has nothing to leave to his son. He dies as he was born, with nothing, having spent his life in anger, frustration and failure.
5:18–20 To have wealth, power to enjoy it, with contentment, is the gift of God. (2:24–26; 3:13). God will keep the worker’s mind busy and he will not worry much about his life.
More yet on Work.
6:1–10 God does not give the enjoyment of work to everyone. Someone may be wealthy but if there is no enjoyment, and no honorable burial, he is better off stillborn. If he lives a thousand years and enjoys no good, and no fulfillment, what is his life worth?
We work to satisfy our stomachs, but the stomach does not stay satisfied.
It is better to have insight than to grasp after vague things.
6:10–12 There is really nothing new.
Don’t argue with someone stronger than yourself.
Who knows what is good for you in the few days of you life and who will tell you what will happen in the future?
Qoheleth has been variously described as pessimistic, negative, realistic or disillusioned, gray and gloomy. But he is passionate to convey his message. How does it sound to our ears? The American mind runs in very different channels. We believe in the inevitability of progress, the ever onward, upward evolution of man and machine.
We are positive, progressive, up-beat, self-certain and sometimes cocky.
*I am significant. “I am the Greatest”. (Mohammed Ali)
*I am important. “We are more important that Jesus Christ.” (The Beatles)
*My work will endure. This presidency will be vindicated as Ronald Reagan’s was.
“The American President is the most powerful man in the world.” (R. Nixon)
*I can do anything I set my mind to.
*I am more talented…smarter…good-looking…better dressed…than most other people.
*I know what the future holds for me.
Qoheleth would respond:
“Vapor of vapors! All is absurdity.” (1:2)
“…and what gain has he who has toiled for the wind, and spent all his days in darkness and grief, in much vexation and sickness and resentment?”( 5:16–17) “This also is vacuous and a striving after wind.” (4:16)
“There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to happen among those who come after.” (1:11)
“…all toil and all skill in work comes from a man’s envy of his neighbor.” (4:4)
“…when dreams increase, empty words grow many….” ( 5:7)
“For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other.” (3:19)
“"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?” 6:12
Although “pride” is mentioned only once in Ecclesiastes (7:8) and in the Greek OT (LXX) the word for arrogance (“hubris”) does not occur, the attack on arrogance in one of Qoheleth’s major messages. He first dismisses his own massive achievements. Then he puts down the work of everyone else, and all ambition, all pretense, all pride and false motivation.
The half-life of scientic knowlege is about five years. Scientific books are out of date the day they are printed. The pace of change is breath-taking. Endoscopic surgery is making surgical tools obsolete. Who will keep a five-year old cell-phone? It doesn't even take pictures! What happened to Dr. ---'s diet?
But can’t we hope to achieve something? Can’t we try to make a name for ourselves? A perfect bowling score? The best chili? The first purchaser of the newest electronic gadget in our city? Win a car on a raffle ticket? Make a hole-in-one?
Surely yes, as long as we understand.
Our work will disappear and we will be forgotten.
We don’t know the future. Only God knows the future.
We all die, like the animals.
“Only one life. ‘T will soon be past.
Only what’s done for Christ will last. “
PS You will find more on work and money in Proverbs under those topics.