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This section in Ecclesiastes begins by shocking his audience. Actually Solomon tells them not to be shocked (Ecc 5:8)! There are many ways people gain wealth. Some are rather shocking. People are willing to go to all measures to get ahead in the wealth game.
Our main purpose here is not to list the greatest scheme on how someone gypped another or to get caught up on the evil in the world. It is so easy to get lost in the evil surrounding us, especially if one stays current on the news. We want to get a better handle on why people, including ourselves, put so much value on material wealth.
Wealth and contentment are directly related to each other. After all, if we use our energies to get ahead, then we are not content. More than this, we are not grateful to God for what He has given to us.
8 If you see oppression of the poor and denial of justice and righteousness in the province, do not be shocked at the sight, for one official watches over another official, and there are higher officials over them. 9 After all, a king who cultivates the field is an advantage to the land (Ecclesiastes 5:8-9).
People become shocked as they become aware of various things going on around them. One happens when a person gets married and finds that wonderful spouse not quite as picturesque as one dreamed. Here is another.
5:9 is best understood to mean that there is no turning back in life. Even though we might dislike the evil in a bureaucratic society, it is still better than returning to the nomadic days of the past. Taxes are inevitable. Corruption to some degree will occur because of the desires to have more.
10 He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity. 11 When good things increase, those who consume them increase. So what is the advantage to their owners except to look on? 12 The sleep of the working man is pleasant, whether he eats little or much. But the full stomach of the rich man does not allow him to sleep. 13 There is a grievous evil which I have seen under the sun: riches being hoarded by their owner to his hurt. 14 When those riches were lost through a bad investment and he had fathered a son, then there was nothing to support him. 15 As he had come naked from his mother's womb, so will he return as he came. He will take nothing from the fruit of his labor that he can carry in his hand. 16 And this also is a grievous evil--exactly as a man is born, thus will he die. So, what is the advantage to him who toils for the wind? 17 Throughout his life he also eats in darkness with great vexation, sickness and anger (Ecclesiastes 5:10-17).
Solomon has observed a lot about the effects of money or wealth on a person. This is one area he no doubted made many firsthand observations. After all, he was one of the richest men in the world.
18 Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one's labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward. 19 Furthermore, as for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God. 20 For he will not often consider the years of his life, because God keeps him occupied with the gladness of his heart (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20).
Solomon starts with a shock treatment to get us evaluating the world we live in from a different perspective. He then hurls before us some penetrating questions which help us understand the values that we hold to and the decisions we make in life.
Solomon wants to guide us in the conclusion that we should make. He has given us a view from under the sun as promised, but every once in a while interjects God's point of view as he does here. Perhaps the secular viewpoint is too devastating. He can't help but declare the difference God can make in a person's life. This section stands as a summary for this section.
Ecclesiastes 5:10 reveals a powerful truth: the clearest sign for discontentment is ungratefulness. As long as we desire more, we will not be satisfied with what we have. When we are satisfied with what we have, then we can rightly seek God and His will.