June 23 – Ecclesiastes 5:10-17


Heads up:
Downtown has an alternative schedule for the next two weeks. The week of June 23 Downtown will be using the Ecclesiastes 3:16-4:3 guide.

Main Focus: As we saw with work, money is both a good gift and a terrible God, but our worship of God can loosen our hold on money (and its hold on us).

Wrapped up in the Teacher’s critique of toil, which he started all the way back in 1:3, is a critique of what we so often toil for: money. Yet again the Teacher will use the great leveler of death to show the emptiness of much of our mortal efforts; we leave this world just as naked as we came (Ecc 5:15). In discussion we’ll turn to the Sermon on the Mount to hear Jesus point out the worship dimension in our relationship to wealth, helping us see through the deception of riches and lay hold of eternal treasure.

In 5:10-17, the Teacher says a few things about money, chief among them the vanity and absurdness of our never-ending hunger for more money. According to legend, a reporter once asked John D. Rockefeller, the richest man in US history, how much money was enough. His reply? “Just a little bit more.” The Teacher then compares the fulfilling tiredness of an honest laborer with the unfulfilled rest of the wealthy, and tells a story in verses 13-17 of a man who lost all his wealth in a bad business venture, leaving his family destitute all because of his desire for more. All this is presented as evidence that helps us see through the false promises of money.

I mentioned earlier in our study that the Teacher revisits certain themes throughout the book, and wealth is one of his primary ones. It’s worth scanning through the book to see his more fleshed-out teaching on finances and how this integrates into his comments on wisdom, pleasure, and toil. For example, he’ll revisit our inability to slake our thirst for wealth (6:7; cf. 1:8), while also pointing out that financial resources are a gift from God (5:19; 7:14), wisdom is better than riches (4:13; 9:13-16), endless toil for wealth is a fool’s errand (4:4-8), and wealth can be put to either good or ill use (10:16-19).

This helps us see that he’s saying something more than just “wealth is evil.” He’s looking through the mirage to observe the true nature of wealth in our fallen and futile world, that wealth is both powerful and deceptive, a gift with the ability to curse if we devote our lives to it. Perhaps we would prefer a simpler answer; while the Bible presents an alternative to our striving after the wind, that alternative is one of mixed emotions.

To better dig into our relationship with wealth, we’ll turn to Matthew 6:19-26 to hear from Jesus on the subject (note: this passage has some overlap with our discussion from Luke 12 a couple weeks ago). There he’ll point out that our mixed emotions towards money can’t be some mixture of worship; we can only serve one master. Instead, he’ll show us how to relate to money through our relationship with God, through worshiping him as the sovereign Lord of the universe and knowing he has the full capacity to provide for our needs through and apart from money.

Our delight in God then allows us to hold onto money more loosely and let go of it more generously. Wealth is a big broad topic so we’ll entrust our discussion to the movement of the Spirit, asking folks with our last two questions how the passage is 1. drawing them to a point of conviction and 2. highlighting an area of growth in their life. For some this might be letting go of needless anxiety around finances, as Jesus specifically mentions. For others this might be growth in generosity towards others or supporting kingdom work in and outside Vintage. Still more might have simplicity brought to mind, the intentional pursuit of less possessions and experiences for the sake of undivided devotion to God. In these examples and more we can find ways to grow both in our worship of God and in our experience of freedom from the futility of chasing after money.

Compassion International

Interested in sponsoring a child through Compassion in our target areas of Brazil and The Dominican Republic? This month you can text VINTAGE to 83393 to receive more information.

Discussion questions

– Could someone read Ecclesiastes 5:10-17 for us?

– What is the Teacher saying about money here?

– Why do you think money can have such a hold on us?

– What are some ways you struggle to relate to money rightly?

– Could someone read Matthew 6:19-26?

– What, if anything, is convicting about this passage to you?

– When you think about how you relate to money, what do you think is your next step of growth?


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