Summary: 11th in a series from Ecclesiastes. Real contentment comes from enjoying what God has already given to us.
Over the past six months or so as the economy has retreated into recession, we have seen one economic stimulus package after another. And although we all hope that the economy will recover, regardless of how we feel about the methods being used, the fact is that no one really knows for sure if any of this massive spending will really do anything to address our economic woes.
But there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that all these problems could have been avoided in the first place if we as a nation would have just heeded the words of Qoheleth in the passage from Ecclesiastes that we are going to look at this morning. In this passage, we’ll find some measures which could have been taken in order to prevent this mess in the first place as well as the only fool-proof solution to our economic woes. Let’s read our passage.
8 If you see the oppression of the poor, and the violent perversion of justice and righteousness in a province, do not marvel at the matter; for high official watches over high official, and higher officials are over them. 9 Moreover the profit of the land is for all; even the king is served from the field. 10 He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; Nor he who loves abundance, with increase. This also is vanity. 11 When goods increase, They increase who eat them; So what profit have the owners Except to see them with their eyes? 12 The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, Whether he eats little or much; But the abundance of the rich will not permit him to sleep. 13 There is a severe evil which I have seen under the sun: Riches kept for their owner to his hurt. 14 But those riches perish through misfortune; When he begets a son, there is nothing in his hand. 15 As he came from his mother’s womb, naked shall he return, To go as he came; And he shall take nothing from his labor Which he may carry away in his hand. 16 And this also is a severe evil - Just exactly as he came, so shall he go. And what profit has he who has labored for the wind? 17 All his days he also eats in darkness, And he has much sorrow and sickness and anger. 18 Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage. 19 As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor - this is the gift of God. 20 For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart.
Ecclesiastes 5:8-20 (NKJV)
Although the word doesn’t appear even once in this passage, the underlying theme in this passage certainly has to be that of contentment. Not surprisingly, there is pretty much universal agreement that our economic woes in this country have their roots in a lack of contentment. Far too many people were encouraged to go out and buy things, primarily houses, that they couldn’t afford, because they weren’t content with what they had. And now all of us, even those of us who have been responsible with our finances are suffering the consequences of that lack of contentment.
No matter how well all these economic stimulus packages help to restore our economy, these are only going to be short-term fixes until we as a country address the underlying causes, which are really matters of the heart, and not matters of our checkbooks.
As you look at this passage before us, it becomes very apparent that the passage contains two very distinct sections. In verses 8-17, Qoheleth looks at the world around him and he sees people who have bought into a number of myths about contentment. And in verse 17, he describes the result of buying into those myths:
17 All his days he also eats in darkness, And he has much sorrow and sickness and anger.
I can’t think of a more accurate description of life here in the United States right now. People are living in darkness and they can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. They are becoming more and more angry at what they see around them, They are worn out and sick and tired. But the solution to their problems does not lie in any economic stimulus package that our government can produce. It won’t be solved by either more spending or by cutting taxes, by either Democrats or Republicans.