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Ecclesiastes 5:1-20

We have seen in chapters 3-4 that in spite of the fact that God has a providential plan for all things, so much of what we see and experience in life seems to say otherwise. Solomon is still addressing this problem as we come to chapter 5. He addresses our approach to worship in 5:1-7 and our perspective on wealth in 5:8-17. But how do these two issues relate to the preceding argument? Here is a suggestion:

Granted, there are obstacles to believing in the goodness and greatness of God's sovereign plan; there are problems which we cannot reconcile with the perfections of God or with his purposes. But this is no excuse for neglecting one's relation to God and perverting worship. Our inability to understand God's design in the universe should not lead us into practical atheism, i.e., living as if God were not in control. Do not let the problems and perplexities of life adversely affect your spiritual zeal or your relationship with God. Thus, vv. 1-7 constitute a warning lest we allow the bewildering side of human existence create bitterness. Don't use the trials and tragedies and puzzles of life as an excuse for getting sloppy in your spirituality!

But what about 5:8-17? Evidently Solomon takes up this subject because of the innate human tendency to think that wealth will cure anything. Solomon will try to rid us of this delusion.

A.            Our Approach to Worship - 5:1-7

He gives us three warnings.

1.             Don't give praise to God insincerely - v. 1

Evidently, Solomon's warning was prompted by the tendency of the people to treat "sacrifice (worship) like magic. They though blood and smoke (incense) were what God wanted. They forgot that spirit and heart were essential ingredients of true sacrifice" (Hubbard, 68). See Ps. 51:16-17. They had trivialized worship; they had made praise a petty and trite ritual. This, then, is a stern warning against half-hearted flippancy in our approach to God. See Matthew 15:8-9.

2.             Don't utter prayers to God impulsively - vv. 2-3

Prayers are prone to become magical when we lose sight of God's majesty. His advice is two-fold: be neither hasty nor verbose. The point of v. 3 seems to be that "by its very quantity, an excess of talk is bound to throw up folly, just as an excess of business ends in troubled dreams" (Kidner, 53).

3.             Don't make promises to God impetuously - vv. 4-7

Be careful with vows: God takes your promises seriously. When you make a commitment, keep it. When you make a promise, fulfill it.

B.            Our Perspective on Wealth - 5:8-17

He makes seven observations.

1.             The pursuit of wealth can often lead to the oppression of the poor - vv. 8-9

2.             The love of wealth yields no lasting satisfaction - v. 10

3.             The increase of wealth breeds parasites - v. 11 (cf. Prov. 19:6-7)

4.             The uncertainties of wealth can be emotionally disconcerting - v. 12

"Insomnia is much more likely to occur in the fancy houses on the hilltops than in the small cottages in the valley" (Hubbard, 78).

5.             The hoarding of wealth can do harm - v. 13

6.             The loss of wealth can cause grief and sorrow - vv. 14-16

7.             The long term effects of wealth can be personally destructive - v. 17

C.            Concluding Counsel - 5:18-20

1               Enjoy yourself! - v. 18

The inadequacies of wealth should not deprive us of the joys that it often can bring.

2.             Give thanks to God! - vv. 19-20