Lesson 5 w/AnswersEcclesiastes 6:1-12
With this lesson, Solomon concludes his discourse on the futility of man finding happiness and pleasure through his own endeavors. As I consider all that Solomon has written, I find that some of it can be perplexing; possibly you may feel the same way. Most, if not all, of us do not have the wealth Solomon had, nor the power and honor, nor the wisdom; and so I ask myself why would God intentionally put these writings of Solomon in the Bible when most of us do not have the things that Solomon had. Of course the answer is that even at our level of wealth and possessions, we struggle with many of the same questions Solomon did as well.
We will be examining Ecclesiastes Chapter Six, but first—something normally uncharacteristic of me—I wanted to share a few words from my heart about a subject Solomon briefly raises in verses 3 through 6 of Chapter Six. In those verses, he references a stillborn baby. For those who may not know, I am the oldest of eleven children, however, to people outside of my family we are regarded as a family with nine children. This is because two of my sisters were lost at birth—one just prior to being born, i.e., stillborn, and one who actually died during birth. Their names are Melissa Jean and Ruth Ann. My mom and dad, and all of us children mourned deeply for both of them; and especially for my mother, who was particularly devastated when these two pregnancies (in a row) ended in death not life. Over the years, we have all comforted ourselves with the knowledge that both of those babies were in heaven, and today, my mother is there with them. I’m sure that she is happy to finally be reunited with them.
As a result, through the years, I found myself becoming more and more aware of how many miscarriages, still births, or babies born with severe birth defects occur on a regular basis. Similarly, I have also been sensitized to the growing number of abortions that take babies before birth as well. I haven’t look at the statistics in a while, so I can’t quote an exact number; but if you were not aware, worldwide abortion takes millions upon millions of babies. Please be rest assured I am not an "activist", and this space is for Bible study not personal agendas; but the Bible is clear on the sanctity of life and the moral error abortion brings about. What overwhelms me at times is the realization that heaven is filled with these innocent babies; and while their loss on earth is incalculable, God has a special place for them, and I praise Him for it.
During my various tenures as a CFO, I have interacted with wealthy people and those hoping to become wealthy on a daily basis; and I have seen the good and bad side of what wealth and the "promise" of wealth can do to folks and how it can affect them. I once talked with a man, for instance, who worried constantly that it was taking him so long to accumulate his wealth that he would be dead before he could enjoy it. I spoke with another who wanted to live another two hundred years, just so he could see what changes new technology would bring—and the opportunities for gain that all that would hold. I have seen people so consumed by their desire to gain wealth, or by the fear that their wealth would be lost or stolen, that it affected their judgment, their health, and the loss of any real family or purpose other than the accumulation of wealth. Solomon speaks to them this week.
I have only posed three questions for our study in this lesson. As such, I am asking you to give careful consideration to each one. Specfically, I ask you to consider the way of the world around us and our own desires; and compare these with what being a follower of Christ engenders and what it offers us in terms of peace, purpose and providing a direction for our lives.
Let’s read Chapter 6 and consider the following:
- Refer back to Chapter 5, verses 18-20 and compare them with Chapter 6:1-9. List all of the differences Solomon mentions between someone who believes that everything that they have comes from God, vs. someone who believes that all that they are and all that they have as comes from their own endeavors.
- ANSWER: I have personally known many wealthy people who believed that their wealth and success all were the result of their own endeavors. In fact, many of these scoffed at the mere thought that perhaps their success and material gain had come from God. When you read all of the things Solomon lists in Chapter 6:1-9 that happen to such people, they are in complete contrast to the person in Chapter 5:18-20, who acknowledges that all he has comes from God. In Chapter 6, we observe that their success is burdensome on them, that they will work half their lives to gain wealth and success, and they will work the other half of their lives to keep it. It seems that they never have time to actually enjoy it—enough is never enough—and the drive to do more, succeed more, and gain more is a constant force in their lives. It matters not how large their family gets, how wealthy they become, or how much stature they gain in the community—they cannot rest. Because they believe that all that they have and all that they are result from their own efforts, they cannot rest or take the time to truly enjoy their accomplishments. When they do seek peace and fulfillment, they are unable to find it, because they discover that, in spite of all their efforts, life is fleeting; and when they die, none of what they have accomplished or gained will go with them—it’s all meaningless. In contrast, look at the man in Chapter 5 who knows that everything comes from God, and that God has a purpose for his life and is accomplishing things through him. This man can enjoy what God has given him. He can find rest, fulfillment, and content with what God has provided for him. He finds great delight in each new morning, and looks forward and not back. Because he is so busy enjoying each day’s challenges and blessings, he fills his days with gladness of heart, and is at rest in God’s care.
- What does Solomon mean in verses 7 through 9? Do any of us fall into this same trap? List some examples.
- ANSWER: Yes, many of us fall into this trap. The trap of seeking things, not because it is God’s will, but because we want something. We are easily fooled by how something appeals to us, whether it is food, material wealth and possessions, or success. We just "know" if we can only get that next promotion, or buy that expensive car, or win the lottery, then all would be well with us. It is a snare that is easy for all of us to fall into, and yet we find, once trapped, that it was empty and unfulfilling. We find that it did not meet our expectations. Rather, it left us hungry for more, or worse, simply led us to looking once again in all the wrong places for that inner fulfillment that only comes from being and living in God’s will.
- Read verses 10 through 12. How does what Christ teaches us in Matthew 6:19-34 compare with what Solomon writes here about a man who is striving under his own wisdom and actions?
- ANSWER: Solomon and Christ are teaching us the same principle: no one but God knows how our lives will turn out, no one. Yet, we believe that if we plan and strategize and work extra hard, we can somehow guarantee our success—success as we define it. Once achieved, however, it ends up being meaningless; it does not provide the sense of purpose, nor the fulfillment and inner peace that we were seeking, and yet we continue to strive for it on our own merits. Christ asked, "Which of us can grow even one inch by all of our worrying?" The answer is of course: none of us. Christ teaches us to not focus on building up "treasures on earth", because they can be lost, stolen, burned up. Success, worldly happiness, these are fleeting. Instead we should be focused on heavenly things—that is, living out our lives in God’s will, not our own. How foolish we are, believing we can know the future and, even more foolish, believing that we can affect it. We are on this earth for such a brief time, then we’re gone, and all that we have will be left behind. Where is the fulfillment in that? Seek God’s kingdom first, and everything else will be provided to you.
As we continue to study Solomon’s writings I pray that God is leading each of us to consider what the real priorities are to be in our lives, how God is our Sovereign provider and how trusting in Christ not only meets our physical needs but provides us with a sense of purpose and direction. Troubles come in all shapes and sizes, as do blessings, and we need to be prepared for both. Solomon shows us the futility of trusting in our own efforts, or following after others who do as well. In the final analysis, only God and His Son Jesus know the outcome and only they can provide the kind of peace and fulfillment we seek in this life.
As the time of Christ’s coming draws closer, the Bible tells us that the world around us will grow increasingly dependent on man’s wisdom and the pursuit of wealth and pleasure, but in the end that will lead to destruction. Matthew 7:13-14 should be a warning to us all not to get caught up in the ways of the world. No matter how attractive those ways may seem, they do not lead to eternal peace and fulfillment. Don&rquo;t get caught in one of Satan’s biggest lies. Just as he did with Eve, he does with us today, promising wisdom and pleasure at the expense of an eternal separation from God.
May God grant you this week His peace and wisdom and may the Holy Spirit comfort you as you seek God’s will for your life.
Thanks for studying with us,