Ecclesiastes 5:10-16

The lover of money will not be satisfied with money; nor the lover of wealth, with gain. This also is vanity. When goods increase, those who eat them increase; and what gain has their owner but to see them with his eyes?

Sweet is the sleep of laborers, whether they eat little or much; but the excesses of the rich will not let them sleep.

There is a grievous ill that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owners to their hurt, and those riches were lost in a bad venture; though they are parents of children, they have nothing in their hands.

As they came from their mother’s womb, so they shall go again, naked as they came; they shall take nothing for their toil, which they may carry away with their hands. This also is a grievous ill: just as they came, so shall they go; and what gain do they have from toiling for the wind? Ecclesiastes 5:10-16

Money and wealth are just like drugs. The danger is hidden within the pleasure. The very drug that can be immensely useful – like a post-surgical morphine drip – can take on a life of its own when the drug begs the user for more.

Like that old line from AA: First the man takes a drink. Then the drink takes a drink. Then the drink takes a man.

Ecclesiastes is the dark Jerry Seinfeld of the Bible. It is written as a form of “observational humor.” It is not very cheerful nor hopeful. The poet behind Ecclesiastes calls it as he sees it. “The lover of money will not be satisfied with money; nor the lover of wealth, with gain.”

Why won’t money satisfy the lover of money? The same reason that more drugs won’t satisfy an addict. Because neither drugs nor money are ends in themselves. They are means to an end that is often an unconscious driver.

The drug addict might not be able to identify their insatiable need to squelch their feelings, their inability to be honest in relationships, or the deep losses they have suffered which have made real human connections possible. They only know that they hurt and they don’t want to feel anymore.

A person who is too invested in their own investments, who is never satisfied with what they have, enters a life clouded with worry and uncertainty. How do they trust that others value them for who they are rather than just a piece of what they have? How can they experience a sense of satisfaction when there is always another higher peak just out of reach of the peak they’ve reached?

I admire entrepreneurs. I admire people who are willing to take risks to try something, to create value for clients and customers, to provide jobs for themselves and others. A friend once told me, “People don’t understand the way that entrepreneurs think. It isn’t about the money. It is about the challenge to do something new.” The world needs such entrepreneurs. Especially ethical ones.

I also admire those folks that the poet calls “laborers.” These are the hard-working people who have jobs, who show up for work, who give it their best, and who sleep “sweetly” after a long day of a job well done. Entrepreneurs might create jobs but laborers create profits. The world needs both.

And the great corrective – for both rich and poor – is the balance that comes from putting God first and living a spiritually centered life. To see God at work in creating value, God at work in people using their gifts and capabilities to do their part for the good of their neighbor, protects us both from the money chase and the quiet desperation of meaningless work.

To see God at the center opens our eyes to everything and everyone else that makes life beautiful. That’s why the journey from addiction to recovery is a spiritual experience.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, when you sent out your friends to do what they saw you do you sent them out with nothing. No tools, no equipment, no purse, no stuff. We find that terrifying. Impossible. We can’t imagine life without stuff and thus we are always hungry for more. Stop us short today. Stop us short, and in our hearts and imaginations, make yourself known to us. In that, may we find peace, meaning, and purpose. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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One Response to “Ecclesiastes 5:10-16”

  1. kirk Says:

    A Men

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