“Read More” to pursue answers from Ecclesiastes.
Draw me into your holy Presence, that I might know you as my Father
And manifest the image of Christ in this world, and the world to come. Amen.
Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.
Interesting admonition. It seems clear that the author’s concept of God and religion have more to do with wisdom and understanding than with mere rote observance — or superficial utterances:
Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter [any] thing before God: for God [is] in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few. For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool’s voice [is known] by multitude of words. When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for [he hath] no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better [is it] that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it [was] an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands? For in the multitude of dreams and many words [there are] also [divers] vanities: but fear thou God.
Or, as the saying goes, “Keep your words soft and sweet — you may have to eat them!” Especially when talking to God! This seems to be where the idea of “fearing God” makes its first appearance in this book, and (as someone who talks a lot!) I find it sobering that it comes in the context of being overly voluble.
The key concept appears to be that we will need to “account for every careless word.” Though, ironically, he warns us not to be surprised that others are (apparently) not held to account:
If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for [he that is] higher than the highest regardeth; and [there be] higher than they.
Though it seems the earth acts justly even when men do not:
Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king [himself] is served by the field.
Perhaps the problem is that our desires (unlike the earth’s resources) are unending:
He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this [is] also vanity. When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good [is there] to the owners thereof, saving the beholding [of them] with their eyes?
He seems to be arguing that work itself is a better reward than the things we accumulate:
The sleep of a labouring man [is] sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.
Though he doesn’t seem very happy with this state of affairs:
There is a sore evil [which] I have seen under the sun, [namely], riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt. But those riches perish by evil travail: and he begetteth a son, and [there is] nothing in his hand. As he came forth of his mother’s womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand. And this also [is] a sore evil, [that] in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind? All his days also he eateth in darkness, and [he hath] much sorrow and wrath with his sickness.
It is an interesting contrast, almost a paradox. On the one hand, the author complains about the evil “facts of life”, how accumulated wealth dissipates so quickly. On the other, he call us fools for attempting to accumulate wealth. So where is the evil: in the world, or in ourselves?
Behold [that] which I have seen: [it is] good and comely [for one] to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it [is] his portion. Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this [is] the gift of God. For he shall not much remember the days of his life; because God answereth [him] in the joy of his heart.
Perhaps the bottom line is simply that “godliness with contentment is great gain.” To work hard and enjoy whatever God life gives you, but neither lust after more nor strive to hold on to it — that (he claims) is the best we can expect out of life.
Sounds good to me.
God, I am continually reminded of how I fritter away my time and attention on useless things — even if they are things that the world celebrates. Lord, you know my heart and my future. You alone know what will truly bring my heart peace, and make me a blessing to many. Father, help me to do only that which I see you doing, that I may live a fruitful and joyous life, and not chase after the wind. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.