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Ecclesiastes 02

Ecc 2:1-2 . . I said to myself: Come, I will treat you to merriment. Taste mirth! That too, I found, was futile. Of revelry I said: It's mad! Of merriment: What good is that?

The only problem with a natural high is that it's so transitory. Joy and excitement are emotions, and emotions can't be sustained for very long before they need rest. Sometimes after a very pleasurable experience like a big night on the town, a great victory, an exciting movie, a day at Disneyland, or a wedding; we feel run down because the merriment wore us out. It's not uncommon for people to actually feel very depressed and let down after a round of excitement. They don't have a mental problem; no, their emotions are just fatigued.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with entertainment and excitement. Solomon's focus isn't upon the morality of fun— his focus is upon the value of it. Unfortunately, fun has no lasting value. It's value is temporal. Fun is only good for now, not for later. And things that are fun for the moment, often become boring after a while. I mean, picnics are fun, but who wants to do them every single day? And movies? I love movies like Matrix, Lost in Translation, Love Actually, Moonstruck, Inception, Avatar, Margin Call, and School Of Rock. I've watched them at least six times each. But you know what? I can't watch just those same eight movies all the time. I need variety because fun things lose their fun value when you do them too often.

From a practical point of view, entertainment is only profitable for an entertainment vendor. The patron derives no profits from fun. Take a chess game. Chess for some people is very entertaining, and quite relaxing. But there is no profit in a friendly game of chess; only a temporal pleasure. That's Solomon's point. Fun is good if you keep it in perspective. Have fun for fun's sake; but don't expect it to gain you anything of long lasting value— and for pete's sake, don't let yourself feel guilty about having fun because amusement has a legitimate place in the human existence. Though fun has no eternal value, there's really nothing of eternal value to gain by asceticism either.

Ecc 2:3a . . I ventured to tempt my flesh with wine, and to grasp folly, while letting my mind direct with wisdom,

The word for "folly" is from cikluwth (sik-looth') and/or sikluwth (sik-looth'); which mean: silliness. Late night comedy like Saturday Night Live, Stephen Colbert, and Jimmy Fallon, would fit into that definition.

Late night comedy isn't for everyone. Solomon, for example, was just far too sophisticated to enjoy something crass like that. He did give it an honest try though and thoroughly analyzed comedy's potential just in case there might be something he was missing. But comedy bounced right off Solomon. He could recognize humor, but couldn't enjoy it. He was one of those guys who can sit through episodes of Jerry Seinfeld, the Simpsons, and/or watch a romantic comedy like Made Of Honor and wonder what people see in them.

What Solomon was searching for was something to cheer himself up. He was an incredibly brilliant man, but his intellect only made him melancholy. So, along with comedy, he tried alcohol. But alcohol presents its own problems because your body gets used to it. Pretty soon, you have to imbibe larger and larger doses to get a buzz. And then when it wears off, you might have a headache and a hang-over. Same with narcotics. Users need larger and more frequent doses, and when they come down they often become blue and irritable; and sometimes so ill that they die.

Ecc 2:3b . . to the end that I might learn which of the two was better for men to practice in their few days of life under heaven.

Well, which is the better of the two— alcohol or comedy —is a matter of opinion. Some people would prefer not to make a choice between them but to keep both. You could watch Leno with a night-cap or a glass of wine just as easily as not. And actually, those two are a pretty good way to end your day. Leno makes you laugh at the world, and the booze is relaxing so you can sleep better. The key to enjoyment in life is to do all things in moderation. A little wine is okay, but a lot is bad. A little silliness here and there is okay too; but a whole day of it every day all day long would not be a good idea.

Ecc 2:4a . . I multiplied my possessions.

Even the poor have this opportunity— to multiply their possessions —and some are pretty good at it in their own way. It's not unusual to see a homeless person with a shopping cart or a bicycle piled high to the sky with things they've accumulated. And many low-income folk here in America have at least two television sets and one car; and sometimes a gun too.

Here in Oregon we have a colloquialism that goes something like this: When the weather gets bad, it's time to go shopping. (chuckle) Who doesn't enjoy buying something new? A new possession can cheer you up; even little doo-dads and trinkets that cost only 49 cents. Whenever we go to the mall, I stop by the LEGO store and check out the key rings; and sometimes I buy a small kit to assemble. No doubt Solomon would just shrug and wonder why I was buying that stupid stuff.

I'm always thoroughly amazed at how lifted my wife's spirits become whenever she buys herself a trendy new lipstick or nail polish at Sephora's. Multiplying possessions is good for the mood; like Godiva chocolate. True, it's only a temporary high, but it's a good high and I always enjoy buying things, even if it's only second-hand at Good Will or Salvation Army.

Ecc 2:4b . . I built myself houses

The filthy rich never seem to be satisfied with just one home. No; they have a house in Bel-Air, and another out on The Hamptons. They have Summer cottages, and they have Winter cabins. They build custom homes costing in the millions of dollars and when they tire of those, they sell, move out, and build another custom home.

Ecc 2:4c-6 . . and I planted vineyards. I laid out gardens and groves, in which I planted every kind of fruit tree. I constructed lakes of water, enough to irrigate a forest sprouting with trees.

It isn't unusual for governments to build parks and initiate beautification programs in their cities. What the heck, why not when you can use someone else's money and don't have to pay for it yourself? Solomon received tribute from all his neighboring kingdoms: from the borders of Egypt clear on over to the Euphrates river. It was actually a time of great peace and prosperity in Israel according to 1Kgs 4:20 and 1Kgs 5:5.

Of course Solomon himself didn't do a lick of the work. He purchased slaves and conscripted his own citizens to accomplish his expensive ambitions. David his father conscripted foreigners, but Solomon went him one better with a national draft board that inducted his fellow Jewish men into government service. There was no danger of war at the time. He just needed manpower in the labor camps.

30,000 were conscripted to work with Hiram's axe men up in Lebanon logging for the new Temple, and he had another 70,000 general laborers, plus 80,000 men working in stone quarries— and not to forget 12,000 horsemen. All his construction projects were very labor intensive because of the lack of machinery and power tools in those days.

Ecc 2:7a . . I bought male and female slaves, and I acquired stewards

The Hebrew word for "stewards" is ben, which means sons; viz: children born of slaves he already owned. So the bens cost him nothing all the while that his purchased slaves multiplied among themselves since in that day, the children of slaves were born into slavery.

People like Solomon, born with silver spoons in their mouths, typically don't take into consideration the feelings of others less privileged than themselves. They are often totally self absorbed. Those below them exist only as cannon fodder; lackeys to serve their every wish as if that were somehow the natural order of things.

Well, Solomon was finding out that sometimes the natural order of things works against those who are very intelligent, and against those who are very rich, and against those who are very powerful. Contentment and fulfillment eluded his grasp. No matter how he exercised his advantages in life, Solomon couldn't find peace of mind. He found that for men like himself, life is pointless. The more he sought fulfillment, the more he felt like he was wasting his time trying.

NOTE: An episode in 1Kgs 12:1-14 reveals that Solomon's people sorely resented the labor camps. He delighted himself in the public works that they accomplished with their own backs and the sweat of their own brows while he laid back in his palace and thought up more things for them to do.

Ecc 2:7b . . I also acquired more cattle, both herds and flocks, than all who were before me in Jerusalem.

It's interesting Solomon should mention he was a bigger cattle baron than all who were before him. What was he doing? Competing? Can you imagine? He wasn't content with enough. No; he had to have more than enough— larger herds than all before him so that he became the champion rancher; literally the King Ranch of Israel.

For some people, it isn't enough to win; no, all others must lose. Does being number-one really bring contentment? Well, it might for some, but it didn't for Solomon. And you know: it's only a matter of time before competitors like Solomon run out of people to best; and then what?

Ecc 2:8a . . I further amassed silver and gold and treasures of kings and provinces;

Solomon's wealth was what's known as tangible assets as opposed to assets on paper. The wealth off many of today's rich men is tied up in investments like derivatives, stocks, bonds, and funds: but much of Solomon's wealth was in precious metals— actual metals that you could hold in your hand rather represented by an on-paper, Wall Street trading account. Though many of today's rich men can show you on-record that they own a certain number of ounces of gold, silver, palladium, and/or platinum et al; where is it? Not in their own hands that's for sure; no, it's in somebody else's hands. Not so Solomon.

"The Queen of Sheba presented the king with one hundred and twenty talents of gold, and a large quantity of spices, and precious stones." (1Kgs 10:10)

"Moreover, Hiram's fleet, which carried gold from Ophir, brought in from Ophir a huge quantity of almug wood and precious stones." (1Kgs 10:11)

"The weight of the gold which Solomon received every year was 666 talents of gold, besides what came from tradesmen, from the traffic of the merchants, and from all the kings of Arabia and the governors of the regions.

. . . King Solomon made 200 shields of beaten gold— 600 shekels of gold to each shield —and 300 bucklers of beaten gold —three minas of gold to each buckler. The king placed them in the Lebanon Forest House.

. . .The king also made a large throne of ivory, and he overlaid it with refined gold. Six steps led up to the throne, and the throne had a back with a rounded top, and arms on either side of the seat. Two lions stood beside the arms, and twelve lions stood on the six steps, six on either side. No such throne was ever made for any other kingdom.

. . . All King Solomon's drinking cups were of gold, and all the utensils of the Lebanon Forest House were of pure gold: silver did not count for anything in Solomon’s days. For the king had a Tarshish fleet on the sea, along with Hiram's fleet. Once every three years, the Tarshish fleet came in, bearing gold and silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks. King Solomon excelled all the kings on earth in wealth and in wisdom." (1Kgs 10:14-23)

Solomon's personal fortune, in adjusted dollars, and counting his property, his metals, and his livestock, must have easily exceeded Bill Gates' in that day. But wealth and luxury just didn't satisfy Solomon. I think many of us commoners would be happy not to work another day for the rest of our lives. Or would we? You just never know. Riches don't seem to protect the rich from despondence, boredom, depression, and feelings of failure and futility.

In 1997, Michael Hutchence, the lead singer of a really cool rock group called INXS, had a pleasant dinner with his dad and then went back to his hotel room and hanged himself with a leather belt. He was 37 years old. What the heck was that all about? Hutchence was young, healthy, wealthy, successful, popular, and doing well on the music charts. At dinner with his dad, he had expressed concern about the band's popularity and its future.

What is that saying? Hutchence's happiness was all bound up in music? So his concern over the band's possible decline in popularity made him despondent enough to end his life? It just doesn't make sense.

So what does it really take to make some people happy? Well, for Solomon, it wasn't wealth and success; and, apparently for Hutchence, wealth and success didn't do it for him either: nor did youth, fame, nor popularity because real peace is psychological, and nowhere else. When you've got stuff in your head like bad memories, regrets, inner conflicts, a poor self image, or low self esteem and feelings of failure, inferiority, inadequacy, and futility; nothing on earth can remedy that: not therapy, not pills, not dope, not anything— nothing short of starting life all over again can get that stuff out of your head.

Ecc 2:8b . . and I got myself male and female singers,

Makes you wonder what kind of music a brilliant, sophisticated guy like Solomon preferred. Rock? Jazz? Pop? Chorale? Rap? Country? Classical? Folk? Blue Grass? Opera? Broadway? Ballads? Spiritual? Barber Shop? New Age? Techno? Lady Gaga? Since electricity had not yet been harnessed in his day, the music available was somewhat primitive, and it was all live and all natural: nothing recorded, nothing electronic, and nothing amplified.

Ecc 2:8c . . as well as the luxuries of commoners— coffers and coffers of them.

"coffers and coffers of them" is apparently a colloquialism similar to "oodles and oodles" or "a ton of 'em" or "a boat load of them" Actually the phrase "as well as the luxuries of commoners" is literally "luxuries of the sons of men." Which could easily be paraphrased "every luxury known to man."

Webster's defines luxury as: 1) a condition of abundance or great ease and comfort; 2) sumptuous environment; 3) something adding to pleasure or comfort but not absolutely necessary; 4) an indulgence in something that provides pleasure, satisfaction, or ease.

No doubt a filthy rich guy like Solomon, seeking the meaning of life, and seeking the best way to pursue life, indulged his every whim in an effort to find out what truly makes life worth living. The man was totally livin' large.

Ecc 2:9 . .Thus, I gained more wealth than anyone before me in Jerusalem. In addition, my wisdom remained with me:

That was fortunate; the part about retaining his wisdom. Some people go so far overboard in Hedonism that they mess up their minds. Curt Cobain, the driving impetus of the punk rock group "Nirvana", at the peak of his success— wealthy, married, living in a beautiful home, and everything going for him —ended his life with a shotgun at age 27 because of deep emotional problems. That's awful. If only he had kept his mind in all of his success. They say a mind is an awful thing to waste. Well, a mind is an awful thing to lose too.

Ecc 2:10-11 . . I withheld from my eyes nothing they asked for, and denied myself no enjoyment; rather, I got enjoyment out of all my wealth. And that was all I got out of my wealth. Then my thoughts turned to all the fortune my hands had built up, to the wealth I had acquired and won— and oh, it was all futile and pursuit of wind; there was no real value under the sun!

Some of us would no doubt be very pleased to obtain all the enjoyments money can buy, but Solomon felt enjoyments aren't adequate; something was missing. It would seem that wealth should obtain for its owner more than just luxury, and entertainment, and property, and homes. It should at least make us feel content with life. But for some people it doesn't. So you've got to wonder: just exactly what works? What's the secret to contentment? What really does make life worth the living? What really does make life more than just a pointless human experiment? If only Hutchence and Cobain had known some satisfactory answers to those questions, maybe they'd still be here.

Curly, the tough 'ol leathered trail boss in the movie "City Slickers", said the meaning of life is just one thing. When asked what that one thing was, he replied: That's what you've gotta find out.

You see; that one thing is not the same one thing for everyone. You have to find out what that one thing is for you because until then, your life— a life with no purpose —is quite pointless.

Ecc 2:12a . . What more can the king's successor do than what has already been done?

Many of the kings of the Davidic dynasty did pretty much the same thing Solomon did. They initiated building programs and public works, built themselves nice homes, accumulated wealth, built harems, and lived in luxury. None of them ever equaled Solomon's grandeur, but they all did pretty much the same things he did. Solomon recognized that he wasn't an unusual king; just one more doing the things that kings typically do; and when he was dead and gone, the next king would do pretty much what he did. Because of that, as a monarch, he felt predictable and unremarkable. Even though practically everything the man did was on a grand scale, he was still a foregone conclusion.

There can be entertainment and satisfaction in the doing of great projects; but what happens when the task is finished? Oftentimes there's a feeling of let-down; like when finishing a long, complicated, quest-type video game and/or when New York City's sand hogs completed Water Tunnel #3 after thirty-eight years of boring, drilling, and blasting. There's a sudden feeling of emptiness; a feeling of being adrift, and of discombobulation.

Solomon found delight "in" all his efforts, but afterwards, when they were all done, and he leaned back to appreciate his accomplishments, he was disappointed because he felt so empty. So he would begin a new project because it is in the doing of the work where a satisfactory sense of achievement is truly found. Henry Ward Beecher once said: "Success is full of promise; until men get it, and then it becomes last year's nest from which the birds have flown."

During my youth, growing up, I heard a lot about the so-called "work ethic" which Webster's defines as: a belief in work as a moral good. Well, there is nothing wrong in work per se, but what about workaholism? Is that really a moral good? Is that really beneficial to one's mental health?

I have a friend who can't relax. He has to be doing something productive all the time; even during mealtime. Oftentimes he’ll prune his roses while eating a sandwich for lunch because he feels that sitting down to eat is wasteful. He never goes to the movies; nor even watches TV unless it is on while he does the dishes or vacuums the carpet. He has never read any books other than the ones everyone had to read in school. He gets TIME magazine in the mail, but rarely bothers to glance at any of its articles.

He can't take drives in the country because he feels he could better use the time to mow the grass around his rental properties. He arrives at work a full hour early, and volunteers for all the overtime. Some years ago, he bought a computer; but it's still in the box because he was afraid he might spend too much time on it. That was prior to color monitors— the very first version of Windows wasn't even on the market yet. Now he can't buy software for his computer because it is so obsolete. My friend is a true workaholic.

Work, for work's sake, can't satisfy the human heart no matter how successful the endeavor may be. This helps to understand why so many achievers are basically unhappy people. A single achievement is not enough. Achievers cannot sit back on their laurels. They have to keep finding new things to achieve. When Alexander the Great fought his last battle, it is said that he sat down and wept because he had no more kingdoms to conquer. The poor man was despondent because he had nothing to live for. People like Alexander have a very narrowly defined reason to live. Take it away, and they're adrift.

When workaholics retire, they often feel useless, and sometimes die from lack of meaningful activity. Well; Solomon came to the conclusion that work is okay when it's kept in perspective. But work alone can't provide lasting satisfaction. Looking over his works, Solomon felt very unfulfilled; and contentment continued to evade his grasp.

Ecc 2:12b-13 . . My thoughts also turned to appraising wisdom and madness and folly. I found that wisdom is superior to folly as light is superior to darkness;

Light has always been superior to darkness. Light cannot be dispelled by introducing darkness into a lighted room because darkness is not something that can be produced. It's simply a default condition in the absence of light.

Science and engineering has given us a flashlight, but has yet to invent a flashdark. You simply cannot shine a beam of darkness like you can shine a beam of light. Light is energy. Darkness is totally inert.

Solomon found that wisdom is superior to folly, which Webster's defines as: (1) lack of good sense or normal prudence and foresight (2) criminally or tragically foolish actions or conduct i.e. evil and wickedness; especially lewd behavior.

So in the end, after careful consideration, and personally testing both styles of life, he found that it is far better to behave prudently than to act stupid, which is the default in the absence of good sense. I guess that all goes without saying, but sometimes intellectuals are prone to overstating the obvious.

Ecc 2:14a . . A wise man has his eyes in his head, whereas a fool walks in darkness.

Silly people just naturally get themselves into trouble all the time because they don't stop and think. We could create a huge list of dumb things that silly people are famous for doing. For example: If you've noticed, many of the advertisements on television target silly people. Why? Because Madison Avenue knows that most viewers of certain kinds of programming don't shop intelligently. They often buy impulsively, guided by their emotions rather than by their better judgment. Silly people are typically sensual rather than sensible; for example:

Studies show that the average voter typically selects a candidate based upon how they feel about the candidate; and then use their intellects to fabricate a defense for their choice. A case in point is America's past US President. Did people vote for Mr. Obama because of his executive ability? No, the man was no more qualified for US President than Hollywood actor Arnold Swarzenegger was qualified to be governor of Cawleefornyah.

People voted for Mr. Obama on the basis of just two elements of his persona: his charismatic speaking and the color of his skin. (Ironically, voters elected a candidate who campaigned as a Black man; but had a Caucasian mother; i.e. in reality, Mr. Obama is neither black or white; he's mulatto. Mr. Obama's skin is actually coffee rather than black; and he's no more an African American than the pop singer Mariah Carey.)

Ecc 2:14b . . But I also realized that the same fate awaits them both.

uh-oh! Now we're getting to the heart of the matter: the brevity of life. Solomon is looking ahead to the reality of death; and death is the great equalizer after all isn't it?

Ecc 2:15-16 . . So I reflected : The fate of the fool is also destined for me; to what advantage, then, have I been wise? And I came to the conclusion that too was futility, because the wise man, just like the fool, is not remembered forever— for, as the succeeding days roll by, both are forgotten. Alas, the wise man passes on just like the fool!

Who's ever heard of Hannes Alfvén? He won a Nobel prize in 1970 for discoveries in magneto-hydrodynamics. Wow! Yeah, okay; wow. Or how about Georges Lemaître? He proposed that the universe is expanding in all directions before Edwin Hubble figured it out. But how often do Alfvén's or Lemaître's names come up in conversation around the average dinner table? Probably never; in most homes. They might be well known among those who share their interests in astronomy and magneto-hydrodynamics; but Alfvén and Lemaître might just as well have been two nameless, homeless bums sleeping under an overpass for all the fame they have among everyone else.

Most educated people know who Mozart was. But where is the great maestro today? He's gone. He's just as dead as all the people of his day who had no more talent for music than an ostrich. What lasting good did it do him to be a genius if it couldn't give him immortality? Mozart composed something like 600 pieces of music, but the composer of it all was washed away long ago one month short of his 36th birthday.

Ecc 2:17 . . And so I loathed life. For I was distressed by all that goes on under the sun, because everything is futile and pursuit of wind.

The "loathing" Solomon felt wasn't hatred, but rather, just plain old cynicism born of disillusion. When you're young, life is exciting and promising: you're optimistic and ready to roll into the future full speed ahead. But as the years go by, life loses its luster and becomes a drag, and as we get ever older and more debilitated, life becomes something to just get through and get over with.

Just about the time you really get set in life, and have a few things figured out, and start to enjoy it, the aging process moves in to spoil your fun. One of my biggest gripes about life is that youth is wasted on the young. It's us oldsters who need youth, not the young because youngsters fritter away their youth on air-headed nonsense.

One morning on television, Kelly Rippa, of Live With Regis & Kelly, said her little boy was in a hurry to be older. He was only 5 then and wanted to skip the next two years and go straight to 7. See? That's what I'm saying. Kelly's boy was too young to appreciate how valuable youth is. He wanted to shed youth because in his immature mind, older is better.

It's not until our youth is gone that we can fully appreciate it's worth; but by then it's too late. In all of our young, self absorbed stupidity, we carelessly squander away the treasure of youth on meaningless pursuits and sometimes foolishly tempt fate in extreme sports because when we're young, it's all too easy to perceive ourselves suspended in some sort of time-stasis where we'll be forever 21. To our immature minds; older people appear to be born that way and we fail to comprehend that every time we encounter someone older, we are looking at our own futures.

Time is the fire in which we burn.
Dr. Soran
Star Trek Generations

Ecc 2:18-21 . . So, too, I loathed all the wealth that I was gaining under the sun. For I shall leave it to the man who will succeed me— and who knows whether he will be wise or foolish?— and he will control all the wealth that I gained by toil and wisdom under the sun. That too is futile. And so I came to view with despair all the gains I had made under the sun. For sometimes a person whose fortune was made with wisdom, knowledge, and skill must hand it on to be the portion of somebody who did not toil for it. That too is futile, and a grave evil.

It's bad enough that the wealthy have to leave their fortunes behind, but even worse when foolish relatives end up with it and fail to appreciate the toil and conscientious effort put into accumulating that wealth and the vigilance required to keep it. The dumb ones start living it up, not taking into consideration that money spent is money gone forever. What will be left for the next generation if the first wastes the primary inheritance and fails to invest for the future?

Some people try to write their wills and trusts in such a way that their estates can't be squandered; but don't always succeed. In spite of the instruction and good example they may give, fathers and mothers have no way of knowing what their posterity will do with the wealth and property they worked so hard to accumulate during their lives.

Ecc 2:22-23 . . For what does a man get for all the toiling and worrying he does under the sun? All his days his thoughts are grief and heartache, and even at night his mind has no respite. That too is futile!

One of the disadvantages of striving to gain wealth is the sleep that's sometimes lost over it. Solomon observed that a rich man's abundance won't permit him to sleep (Ecc 5:12) for example: Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley, the most popular youth-oriented male singers ever to record music, shared a common malady: both had trouble sleeping. In contrast, I'm an obscure retired welder whose wife complains falls asleep too easily. Well, the difference is, I have peace of mind; whereas those two guys didn't.

"People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." (1Tim 6:9-10)

Managing an empire is no picnic. There's long hours, employee disputes, tax problems, investment risks, OSHA, EPA, legal hassles, Federal interference, lawsuits, deadlines, time pressure, accounting errors, loan calls, and all that sort of thing; not to mention debt. Haw! debt is the the Grim Reaper for quite a number of mega businesses like the auto industry. Debt is what ultimately toppled the energy giant ENRON; wiping out 1.2 billion dollars in retirement funds, and 2 billion dollars in pension funds.

You know what else befalls empire-builders? Broken homes. Ray Kroc, the McDonald's mogul, was on his third marriage when he passed away. Jesus once said that you can't serve God and mammon. Well; you can't serve money and family either. Wealth-seekers generally serve the money and leave their families to more or less sink or swim.

Ecc 2:24-26a . .There is nothing worthwhile for a man but to eat and drink and afford himself enjoyment with his means. And even that, I noted, comes from God. For who eats and who enjoys but myself? To the man, namely, who pleases [God] He has given the wisdom and shrewdness to enjoy himself;

A person's financial means can enhance their peace of mind and feelings of security. But to hoard wealth, to stock-pile it, being miserly and stingy, never doing something worthwhile with your means, never doing even yourself any good with it; is not wise. Some years ago, I heard about an elderly couple who died. When the house in which they had lived for many years was torn down, an amount of cash was found in the walls totaling about $40,000. The coroner's determination of cause of death? Malnutrition.

Money is a medium of exchange. Unless it's spent, it can do little or nothing for you. You can't eat money, but it will buy your food. It can't keep you warm, but it will buy your clothing and heating oil. Money is not a conveyance— it can't be ridden like a magic carpet to transport you from point A on over to point B; but it will buy you a car, a bicycle, or a bus ticket. It can't chew your food, but it will pay a dentist to fix your teeth. Its possession doesn't make you a rock star, but it will buy you a ticket to an AeroSmith concert. Money has no scenic glaciers, but it will buy you a birth onboard a Princess Line cruise ship to Alaska.

"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." (1Tim 6:17)

That verse reveals that all the opportunities this world has to offer are provided by God for Man's enjoyment. Therefore, it is absolutely not a sin to enjoy life. Some people feel guilty about success. But that is an unhealthy attitude. Others take vows of poverty in order to enhance their piety. But it isn't necessary to be poor in order to please God. Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, were all very wealthy men whose circumstances— which enabled them to live high on the hog —were made possible by God's providence. Wealth isn't intrinsically sinful. It's how people use their wealth that matters.

Ecc 2:26b . . and to him who displeases, He has given the urge to gather and amass— only for handing on to one who is pleasing to God. That too is futile and pursuit of wind.

When him who displeases donates to charities, his contributions don't earn him any points with God whatsoever because one of Solomon's proverbs says, in so many words, that a bad person's gifts are detestable. (Pro 15:8)

I seriously doubt that it is God who personally urges a bad person to donate to charity. I just think it's the bad person's own conscience working on them. Well; seeing as how God created the human conscience, then I guess you could say "He has given the urge". Maybe that's how Solomon saw it; I don't really know; but it seems logical.

NOTE: The mention of a supreme being throughout Ecclesiastes reveals that the author, though quite philosophical, wasn't an atheist. He was what might be called a theist; roughly defined as someone believing in the existence of one god viewed as the creative source of the human race and the world, who transcends yet is immanent in the world.

The author's god is never once named, instead, referred to as 'elohiym (el-o-heem') which isn't a personal moniker like Yahweh or Brahma, rather, a nondescript label that pertains to all sorts of deities; both the true and the false, and the real and the imagined, plus the gods of myth, superstition, and tradition.

The three sacred names for the Bible's God— Shadday, 'Adonay, and Jehovah —are nowhere in Ecclesiastes. The reason for that is quite simple. This book refers to the supreme being in a general sense; sort of like the common expressions: "Thank God nobody got hurt" and/or "God forbid!" and/or "An act of God". There's nothing particularly devotional in those kinds of expressions.


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