Ecclesiastes 5&6: Religion & Wealth

Ecclesiastes 5&6 makes us reevaluate the way we look at religion and wealth. Without meaning to, we often take up secular attitudes and opinions toward these two topics, which can cause us to drift away from God. It's important to put everything in perspective. Remember, Solomon's main theme in Ecclesiastes, is if I died tomorrow, what then?

Introduction

In Ecclesiastes 5 and 6, we get more information about our relationship with God as opposed to religion and the vanity of wealth. It's important to remember that Solomon was questioning the meaning of life. In doing so, he points out the futility of certain actions people take thinking it will improve their chance of getting to Heaven. It's interesting to contemplate the fact that God has infinite time, with infinite knowledge while we have a very short time and limited knowledge. It makes sense that we fall into the devil's traps of wasting our time on trivial matters.
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Vain Sacrifices

Solomon addresses those who give sacrifices without considering the evil things they've done (or are doing). For most of us, religion is actually something we do out of habit more than love or spiritual connection. This allows us to detach from our actions, essentially making them void. In Solomon's day, the issue at hand was sacrifices. Some people brought sacrifices to God because thats what they thought they were supposed to do; however, they continued to do evil and sin. They weren't necessarily sorry for their actions nor did they link the death of the animal as their own punishment for sin being transferred to the animal.

Today, we experience the same problems. Some people go to church every week without ever developing a spiritual relationship with God; they just go because that's what they've been taught to do. We don't sacrifice anymore, but we pray for forgiveness from Jesus who acted as the ultimate sacrifice. Many are not taught that we are free because of Jesus' sacrifice, but the significance of Jesus as a sacrifice is lost in translation. Therefore, we repeat the same mistake Solomon is calling foolish: we expect forgiveness from Jesus while simultaneously continuing to do evil.

We must remember to build a relationship with God first and not do things out of habit but because we are moved to do so by God.

Watch What You Say

I used to be really bad about saying the first thing that came to my mind. Over time, I've learned that somethings are better left unsaid, and others need to be said a certain way. Though we are told in many places to mind our tongue, Solomon warns us about our speech again in Ecclesiastes 5.

One of the things that stood out to me was the disapproval of lengthiness. Solomon says fools have a multitude of words and that we should watch how much we say. It's hard to know how much is too much, but I think the best way to gauge is sincerity, which requires introspection and honesty with ourselves. For example, growing up, everyone said these long elaborate prayers when blessing the food; so, when we individually blessed our food, I would think long pauses in between my words, because I thought I was missing word. The truth is, the only words required are those in our hearts. We don't need to repeat ourselves or use 10 synonyms in a row to make the prayer/speech sound better.

In addition to speaking out of vanity, just to hear ourselves speak, there's also the issue of missing other people's points of view. Sometimes we should stop to listen.

Later, in Ecclesiastes 6, Solomon tells us a mouth can cause flesh to sin. When I first read that, it seemed odd. In my mind, I was thinking of Jesus' statement that if you are angry at your brother without cause you are guilty of murder, and assuming that if you speak the words, the sin of the thought came first. However, as I pondered it more, and thought of today's world, I realized what Solomon was saying. Sometimes we seduce people into doing things they shouldn't with our words. Solomon wasn't necessarily saying my words would cause my flesh to sin; he was saying my words could cause someone else's flesh to sin. The last thing I want is to be standing before God and Him tell me it was my fault so-and-so committed this and that sin! Watch what you say—I know I will.

Vows

Vows are defined in Numbers 30 (I also have a post on that chapter). In Ecclesiastes 5, Solomon tells us it's better not to make vow unto God than to make one then not pay it. The payment he speaks of is in reference to the offerings and monetary givings that are associated with the vow. I think in most things, it is better to just not, than to say you will and fail. When you bail out on things you've committed to, you seem flaky and people loose faith in you. Imagine if God didn't follow through with His promises... How awful would that be!?

The Poor

It seems pretty clear to me, simply by the fact that almost ever book in the Bible contains passages about the treatment of the poor that God really wanted us to pay attention to those with less than us. Solomon tells us not to marvel at the fact that people commit atrocities against the poor because God is on the side of the poor and God is highest authority.

The Rich

Photocredit: Unsplash.com/Didier Weemaels
We all know the saying that money can't buy happiness, so it's not surprising that Solomon would tell us riches were all for naught. Solomon tells us that working men sleep soundly but the wealthy can't sleep at night. While this could be a subtle hint that the wealthy didn't accrue their wealth honestly, I think Solomon is actually talking about something else entirely. When you have a lot of money, everyone wants to be around you, whether they have your best interest in mind or not. People try to steal your money or swindle you out of it. You have more complicated taxes and likely more stress maintaining your finances.

Even if you could sleep soundly with your wealth (and I'm sure some of the wealthy do sleep soundly at least some nights), Solomon reminds us that you can't take it with you when you go. We can earn as much or as little as we want, but in the end, when we die, riches do us no good. Whether we consider wealth money and jewels, or livestock and land, once we die these things become obsolete. The best you can hope for is passing that wealth on you your family, which means you might as well share the wealth from the beginning.

It sounds pretty bleak when you think about it; especially since we live in a society that glamorizes wealth. However, we should remember that God has something even better for us in the end. God's gift to us after judgment is served and evil is eradicated is so wonderful, we won't even remember this life! Now that's something to look forward to.

Appreciate What You Have

We often dwell on the things we don't have. We complain about things that may seem trivial if we step back and look at our world. God blesses us everyday, and we often ignore that. From good health to a roof over our head, God makes sure we have everything we need, even if we don't have some of the things we want!

Solomon tells us that even if a man has everything one could consider important—family, wealth, longevity, etc.—but he doesn't not enjoy his happiness, he's worse off than a still born)! That's a strong statement, but I understand where Solomon is coming from. If you go through life blessed and are blind to your blessings, you've also closed your eyes to most of what's happening in the world. I wake up knowing I have a home, parents who love me, and my health, meanwhile an 8 year old child just died trying to protect his 7 year old sister from being raped![1] People on the Islands have lost everything, both family members and their possessions, in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.[2] People in Venezuela are starving and without medical care.[3] People in Myanmar are being gunned down for no reason whatsoever...[4] So what kind of shallow existence would I have if I was unable to recognize my blessings from God?

Fate of the Dead

Solomon says something interesting when he talks about the fate of people when we die. He says that we all go to one place. If you read that verse without thinking about it, it sounds like Solomon is saying it doesn't matter whether we do good or evil because we end up in the same place. (A lot of people lean toward believing that too, because most people assume everyone who dies is in Heaven—but that's a post for another day.) That's not what Solomon is saying, though.

One of the biggest misconceptions about the Bible is that people go straight to Heaven or Hell after they die. Revelation makes it clear that when Christ comes back there will be two separate resurrections: 1 for those who are saved (1 Thessalonians 4:16 and Revelation 20:4-5) and 1 for those who did not believe in Christ (Revelation 20:6). Solomon is probably referring to the time between a person's death and the second coming of Christ. Everyone goes to the pit, also known as Sheol. This is not to be confused with purgatory; Sheol is simply a resting place for the souls of the dead.[5]

Solomon's point was that whether you are good or bad, you must die at some point. Death does not prey on the evil nor spare the righteous. We have to live each day with purpose because just like those who follow Satan, we could die at any moment. We all have the same short term fate. The people of Solomon's time didn't know God's full plan (hence the name Revelation for the final book of the Bible), but even if they had known, once we die our fate is set. Thus, it makes sense that Solomon would reference the consequences of the first death without expounding on the ultimate fate of believers and non believers.

Logic Over Desire

It's interesting that we always say "follow your heart" but Solomon warns us not to follow our desires. Note, there is a subtle difference between the heart and desires: desires usually spring from the heart. The problem is, our desires change and may not be good for us. We don't always know what's best for us, but God does. We must give our hearts to God and allow Him to purge our desires and replace them with His own. As we align our heart with God, then we can follow it knowing we are following Him.

References

  1. Minyvonne Burke. "California boy killed trying to protect younger sister from mother's abusive ex-boyfriend". NY Daily News. September 25, 2017
  2. Joe Sterling and Cassandra Santiago. "For first time in 300 years, no one is living on Barbuda". CNN. September 15, 2017
  3. "Venezuela crisis: What is behind the turmoil?". BBC. May 4, 2017
  4. Max Bearak. "One month on, a bleak new reality emerges for 436,000 Rohingya refugees ". The Washington Post. September 25, 2017
  5. Emil G. Hirsch. "Sheol". Jewish Encyclopedia. 1906

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About

Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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