What Money Can Do For You
Solomon can talk from experience about what money can do for you… dude had a bunch of it. He was the king, so he had all the wealth you could imagine. He built himself houses, threw nightly parties for all his friends with the best food and drinks. Solomon was one of those guys who didn’t have to look at the prices on the menus. Right? Have you ever been able to go on vacation and decide that you’re not gonna look at prices, but j just order whatever you want? That was Solomon’s life! So when he talks to us about wealth, we should listen. Because he’s experienced it to the fullest.
Look at what he says in Ecclesiastes 5:8: “If you see oppression of the poor and perversion of justice and righteousness in the province, don’t be astonished at the situation, because one official protects another official, and higher officials protect them.” Solomon saw the same thing in his day that we see when we’re driving around, people who are stuck in poverty and houselessness. There are real injustices in this world and some people that we pass by every day have been the recipients of those injustices. And Solomon says: don’t be astonished by this. We shouldn’t be shocked at all that this is the condition of our world. All of humanity has rebelled against God and His ways, and now this world is really, really ugly with sin. One official protects another, and higher official protect them. People in power are just about keeping their power and making more money, they’re not concerned at all about people and how the decisions affect others. Solomon wants us to see and feel the poverty and injustice in this world, not sweep it under the rug and act like this world is ok. This world is very broken and needs healing.
But he also wants us to see that it’s not money’s fault that it’s this way. Look at verse 9: “The profit from the land is taken by all; the king is served by the field.” Money can be a blessing for the land. Here we see that money is good. If the land makes a profit, everyone in the place benefits. Money can be great for a society, it’s not the problem. But it can also totally corrupt a society, which is what Solomon’s honing in on.
That’s why he says this in verse 10: “The one who loves silver is never satisfied with silver, and whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with income. This too is futile. When good things increase, the ones who consume them multiply; what, then, is the profit to the owner, except to gaze at them with his eyes?” Solomon says that whatever we love in this world will never satisfy us completely. If you love money, even if you get it, you’ll just want more. I love ChicFilA, and I got a chickfila sandwich hand-delivered to me this week. And I ate it, it it was great. But after I got done, I was bummed that I didn’t have the waffle fries, and the chicken minis, and another sandwich…it made me want more and bummed that I couldn’t get more! And that wasn’t ChicFilA’s fault. I don’t blame the chicken for my discontent. That’s a me problem. And you probably have a you problem. No matter what we love; food, money, power, sex, all good things, we’re tempted to love and value those things more than we should, because we have a heart problem in how we love those things.
But look at what he says in verse 12: “The sleep of the worker is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of the rich permits him no sleep.” The wealthy are up all night worrying about their money because they’ve got a lot to lose, right? And so their life is so full of the stress of keeping their possessions, that they can’t even rest. They worry about their investments tanking or the stock market crashing or another recession or housing market collapse, because they’d lose so much. But look at who’s sleeping well: the worker. The one who isn’t so wealthy that he can take days off, but the guy who hits the pavement everyday to survive, that guy sleeps well. Probably because he’s tired from working. But how ironic is it that the guy who should be worrying because he doesn’t have a lot is at rest.
I think Solomon sums all of what he’s saying in the last few verses up well in chapter 6 verse 7: “All of a person’s labor is for his stomach, yet the appetite is never satisfied. What advantage then does the wise person have over the fool? What advantage is there for the poor person who knows how to conduct himself before others? Better what the eyes see than wandering desire. This too is futile and a pursuit of the wind.” He says that we work to eat, but after we eat it’s what, maybe 3-4 hours until we’re hungry again. That’s what our appetite for wealth is like, it’ll just never be totally satisfied no matter how much we get. People pursuing wealth are just never satisfied.
That’s Solomon’s first conclusion about wealth: WEALTH DOESN’T BRING SATISFACTION. In all that he’s said so far, he’s learned and he’s showing us that he’s never met a person or seen a situation where wealth brought lasting satisfaction in this world. And that’s including his own life.
Here’s what Solomon says about it in Proverbs 23: “Don’t wear yourself out to get rich; because you know better, stop! As soon as your eyes fly to it, it disappears, for it makes wings for itself and flies like an eagle to the sky.” If you’re counting on money to satisfy you in this life, you’re gonna be disappointed. It’ll never satisfy you.
Maybe that’s what you’ know you’re banking on in life. You know that you’ve bet it all on your ROTH IRA or 401(k) investments producing at 9% annual yield. You’ve bet it all on your house appreciating in value so that you can sell it and live on the capital. You’ve decided that you won’t be satisfied until you have enough money for a boat or to retire early or to be able to travel whenever you want to, and you know that you’d be destroyed, that your life would crumble if you lost your wealth. Maybe God lovingly wants to show you today that you’ve made wealth an idol. You’ve given is way more power in your life that God ever intended it to have.
Solomon wants to show us more. Look at verse 13: “There is a sickening tragedy I have seen under the sun: wealth kept by its owner to his harm. That wealth was lost in a bad venture, so when he fathered a son, he was empty-handed. As he came from his mother’s womb, so he will go again, naked as he came; he will take nothing for his efforts that he can carry in his hands. This too is a sickening tragedy: exactly as he comes, so he will go. What does the one gain who struggles for the wind? What is more, he eats in darkness all his days, with much frustration, sickness, and anger.” This would’ve been an intense thing to people to hear. Eating meals was such an important social event in this culture. You could measure how much joy was in your life by how crowded your dinner table was each night with family and friends. But in this story, Solomon saw a man who got really wealthy, lost it all, and so now his family experiences the fallout, and they’ve all abandoned him. He’s eating alone, in darkness. He’s lost his community, because he pursued wealth instead. His unchecked pursuit of wealth sucked all of the joy out of his life.
There’s another guy in chapter 6 verse 1: “Here is a tragedy I have observed under the sun, and it weighs heavily on humanity: God gives a person riches, wealth, and honor so that he lacks nothing of all he desires for himself, but God does not allow him to enjoy them. Instead, a stranger will enjoy them. This is futile and a sickening tragedy.” Solomon observes a guy that God has given riches, wealth, and honor in this life so that he lacks nothing that he could want, but he’s not enjoying any of it! How strange is that? Solomon says it’s because God doesn’t allow him to enjoy those things. Guys, we can’t find joy in the stuff of this world! Wealth doesn’t contain joy inside of it. Man that’s so intense. We believe that if we can just get the stuff we want, we’ll have more joy but guys God has to enable us to enjoy his gifts. You can get all this world has to offer, but if God doesn’t allow you to enjoy it, then you’ll still feel totally empty.
Wealth doesn’t enable joy; God does. The secret to your happiness isn’t out there in something you can get, it’s with God and what He’s done for you.
Solomon shares that in an intense way in verse 3: “A man may father a hundred children and live many years. No matter how long he lives, if he is not satisfied by good things and does not even have a proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. For he comes in futility and he goes in darkness, and his name is shrouded in darkness. Though a stillborn child does not see the sun and is not conscious, it has more rest than he. And if a person lives a thousand years twice, but does not experience happiness, do not both go to the same place?” A man having many children would be seen as such a successful, joyous, good thing during this time, but Solomon says that if he lives his whole life without joy in these good gifts, then the blessings and gifts don’t matter. And he says it in SUCH a shocking way. If you’ve ever experienced a stillbirth or miscarriage, this can seem harsh and insensitive. But listen to what Solomon’s saying: a wealthy life is seen as good and joyful, and a stillborn baby is seen as a tragedy because they never experienced any of the blessings and gifts in life. But Solomon says that the baby is at rest, and the wealthy man isn’t. He’s experiencing discontentment, stress, anxiety, loneliness, fear. The baby is at rest with God, experiencing joy, contentment, and peace right now.
Solomon’s intense conclusion is this: WEALTH DOESN’T BRING JOY. It just can’t produce it. Maybe you realize that you’re joy is pegged to money. You check your bank account, joy depends on what’s in there, and what experiences you can have based on what’s in there. Maybe you find yourself ruled by jealousy over what others have and you can’t afford, and it limits your ability to love them or celebrate with them. Maybe God’s lovingly showing you that you’ve linked your joy to your wealth, and He wants you to see that it’s gonna lead to emptiness.
So how should we view wealth? Look at Ecclesiastes 5:18: “Here is what I have seen to be good: It is appropriate to eat, drink, and experience good in all the labor one does under the sun during the few days of his life God has given him, because that is his reward. Furthermore, everyone to whom God has given riches and wealth, he has also allowed him to enjoy them, take his reward, and rejoice in his labor. This is a gift of God, for he does not often consider the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with the joy of his heart.” Here’s what I love about this, Solomon makes it plain that money and wealth aren’t evil. They’re gifts from God! It’s appropriate to eat, drink, and experience the good that money can bring in this life. Take your reward of your work! You don’t need to feel guilty because you have money; it’s a gift from God! So rejoice when it comes! Use it well and enjoy it in ways that actually bring you a taste of joy in this life under the sun.
But, let it be just that: a taste of joy. God’s gifts are never gonna be more than just a taste of the joy and satisfaction in this life. They’re a great taste; but they’re just a taste. They’re not ultimate.
Because here’s Solomon’s final conclusion: JOY AND SATISFACTION ONLY COME FROM GOD.
Your wealth, and your ability to enjoy it, they both come from God. He’s the source of joy and satisfaction. And what I think Solomon wants us to do is press into that. If we can only find joy and satisfaction in what God gives us, then we should look to him for ultimate joy and satisfaction in this life.
What has God given us that can actually bring us lasting joy and satisfaction in life? Paul gave us a glimpse of this when he wrote to the Philippians, he was in prison, ankles shackled to the ground, and look what he wrote: “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself. I know both how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content — whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me.” Paul had learned to be content in every situation, having no wealth, being stuck in prison. How much more impressive is that than being content with a fortune? Paul is content with no worldly possessions. He’s completely free in this life. And he says he’s able to be this way through HIM who strengthens me.
See, Paul knew Jesus. He knew that God took care of his spiritual poverty of being a sinful rebel through incarnating in this world, Jesus, the God-man who lived, died, and defeated death for Paul and all of us. And now that Paul’s life was rescued by Jesus, he’s not dependent on earthly wealth for his joy and satisfaction. He’s freed from the shackles of earthly wealth, and now he’s able to be content no matter what.
That’s the lasting joy and satisfaction that God wants to give you. To know that you’re loved, accepted, forgiven, and that you’ll be with God forever. You can really experience that in this life, and in the life to come.