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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

Ecclesiastes 5:816, 1820; 6:1012comment (0)

August 1, 2013

By Douglas K. Wilson Jr.

Related Scripture: Ecclesiastes 5:816, 1820; 6:1012


Explore the Bible 
Dean, School of Christian Ministries, University of Mobile

AM I HEADED FOR FAILURE?

Ecclesiastes 5:8–16, 18–20; 6:10–12
Should I quit now, or should I wait until I ruin everyone’s day? This kind of defeatist attitude displays a lack of hope, of faith and of endurance. Wherever your focus is, there you are headed. If you concentrate on failure, you will fail. If you direct your attention to dying to self, your attention will continually be on yourself. Fix your eyes on Jesus, and you will face blessings and burdens with a desire for the Father to receive glory.

You may note, as you study, that the counsel of each passage is of great benefit to church leaders today. The warnings against gaining dishonestly, loving money and being discouraged are themes also found in the Pastoral Epistles. May the Spirit give us ears to hear how to pray for those in positions of leadership.

Headed Toward Dishonesty? (5:8–9)
Wow. Did you read these verses? Bureaucracy in civil government is nothing new. Corruption on multiple levels of government was well known even when the text was penned. One might argue that these verses are expressions of a cynic. Others might say that our author was a realist, well-informed about the way politics work. In either case, these verses remind leaders to beware of dishonest gain (see also Ex. 18:21; 1 Sam. 8:3; Jer. 22:17; 1 Tim. 3:8; Titus 1:7).

Duane Garrett, in his Ecclesiastes notes in “The Apologetics Study Bible,” writes about the difficulties with interpreting verse nine: “[it] appears to continue the thought, extending the corruption to the king himself” (970). He offers another view, however, suggesting that a different rendering of the text would suggest that the king’s strong centralized government offers a boundary against corrupt regional officials.

Headed Toward Loneliness? (5:10–16)
Jesus taught us that we cannot serve God and wealth. In a letter to Timothy, Paul warned him that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Solomon indicates that the man who idolizes income is unsatisfied in his endeavors and lacks rest when he attempts to sleep.

Verse 11 brings to mind two of Jesus’ parables, the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11–32) and the Foolish Farmer (Luke 12:15–21). As long as the younger son had his inheritance, he had freeloader friends. No money, no friends. Farmer “Bigger-Barns” enjoyed his bumper crop at harvest time. In his budgeting, he accounted for costs with the new building construction. He failed, however, to prepare for his accounting to God.

This passage in Ecclesiastes 5 seems to suggest that it is lonely at the bottom and lonely at the top. Verses 13–16 remind us of Job, a man who had everything and then lost it all. In the end, only God could satisfy Job’s needs. This was Solomon’s solution as well.

Headed Toward Joy? (5:18–20)
Here we find God as the focus of the text. Note that in verses 8–17 God is never mentioned. As we explained in an earlier lesson, “under the sun” indicates that the writer’s perspective is from a temporal, human perspective. Note that this is underscored in verse 18: “During the few days of his life God has given him.”

Our food, drink, riches and rewards are gifts from God. He offers us joy. This will only be received when believers first seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33).

Headed Toward Frustration? (6:10–12)
Biblical wisdom literature comes in various flavors. Job offers long theological soliloquies and rhetorical questions with narrative interspersed. Proverbs provides short pithy observations, fatherly (and motherly) instruction and an acrostic poem. Ecclesiastes gives us other perspectives. Predominantly temporal in focus, we read of futility, dissatisfaction and repetition in this book.

Occasionally we see glimpses of another world, an eternal perspective. Without a view of eternity in mind, life appears hopeless and frustrating. Our hope is in Jesus, the same yesterday, today and forever.

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