● Ecc 5:1 . . Be not overeager to go to the House of God: more acceptable is obedience than the offering of fools, for they know nothing [but] to do wrong.
"What is more pleasing to The Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Obedience is far better than sacrifice. Listening to Him is much better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as bad as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as bad as worshiping idols." (1Sam 15:22-23)
Old Testament Judaism was built around a fully functioning Aaronic priesthood whose duty was to collect sacrifices and offerings from the people. But the worshippers abused the system because they lived like the Devil during most of the year and tried to make up for it with liturgy. To see how God feels about that kind of religious hypocrisy, just read the first chapter of Isaiah.
In no uncertain terms, God angrily spurned his people's offerings— their prayers, their holy days, their festivals and feast days, and yes even their sacred Sabbath observances because although they were very religious, they were, at the same time, a hard-hearted, stubborn pack of scofflaws.
You can see the very same thing going on in Christianity. A number of pew-warmers live utterly worldly, carnal lives all year long and expect that church attendance on Easter Sunday will somehow make up for it. That day is the most heavily attended church day in Christendom. People who normally wouldn't step over the threshold of a church door all year long, will attend on Easter Sunday so they don't feel completely heathen. Easter service, to them, is some sort of redemption day, somehow wiping away a whole year's worth of secular impiety and is supposed to convince Jesus they truly love him after all.
NOTE: Just for the fun of it some day, position yourself where you can watch the front of a church when it's let out Sunday morning and observe the number of Christians who J-walk back to their cars. (chuckle) You might be surprised.
● Ecc 5:2-3 . . Keep your mouth from being rash, and let not your throat be quick to bring forth speech before God. For God is in heaven and you are on earth; that is why your words should be few. Just as dreams come with much brooding, so does foolish utterance come with much speech.
If you've really nothing to discuss with God in prayer, then skip it: say nothing; remembering that God is a king, and kings shouldn't be treated as if they're dumb enough to suffer fools and waste their time listening to filibusters and bombastic rhetoric.
● Ecc 5:4-6 . .When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. For He has no pleasure in fools; what you vow, fulfill. It is better not to vow at all than to vow and not fulfill. Don't let your mouth bring you into disfavor, and don't plead before the messenger that it was an error, but fear God; else God may be angered by your talk and destroy your possessions.
The "messenger" is translated from the Hebrew word mal'ak (mal-awk') which is somewhat ambiguous. It can mean an angel, or a prophet, or a priest or a teacher.
In this location, mal'ak likely refers to a church officer to whom you made a pledge, e.g. a faith promise.
A sacred vow is between you and God, not between you and your church. So don't be rash with your promises to God nor make excuses for reneging. A promise is a promise; and God will hold you to your vows even if you can't afford it. You just try to be lax in your payments with a shylock and see what happens. You risk fractured ribs by men who are very good at breaking things over people's heads. When the points are due, that's when they're due; not later. If shylocks are to be feared, then God ought to be feared even more.
"A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me? says the Lord Almighty." (Mal 1:6)
Better not to make a promise than to make one and not keep it. (cf. Matt 5:33-37)
● Ecc 5:7 . . For much dreaming leads to futility and to superfluous talk.
God's people should be known for keeping their feet on the ground, and their head out of the clouds. Religion is not supposed to be in words. It's supposed to be in shoe leather, in your everyday life. It's supposed to be in honesty and integrity— it's in few words, and it's in keeping your word. Flowery prayers, and showy vows and pledges don't please God near as much as just simply being a man of your word. You can't buy God off with churchianity nor can you fool Him with it into thinking you are somehow pious and above reproach when the truth is; you're not.
● Ecc 5:8 . . If you see in a province oppression of the poor and suppression of right and justice, don’t wonder at the fact; for one high official is protected by a higher one, and both of them by still higher ones.
Existing alongside America's elected officials, is a shadow government called the bureaucracy. Bureaucrats are non-elected officials who are actually the ones conducting much of the government's business. High profile bureaucrats would be the President's cabinet. But many others operate completely invisible to the general public until they become implicated in a news-worthy scandal.
Too many bureaucrats are looking out only for themselves; most especially their jobs. So they tend to make every effort to please their superiors; often to the detriment of the voting public's best interests. No one should be shocked at this. It's pretty normal because after all, human government is staffed by human beings.
● Ecc 5:9 . .The increase from the land is taken by all; the king himself profits from the fields.
Government officials are sometimes said to be feeding at the federal trough. Like greedy swine, they gobble up a large percentage of the gross national product to pay their own wages, perks, and benefits; and to finance ear-marks and pork. But citizens benefit in many ways from taxes too. So the government is not the only one taking a piece of the country's wealth.
● Ecc 5:10 . . A lover of money never has his fill of money, nor a lover of wealth his fill of income. That too is futile.
Money may not be the number one thing in life; but it's way ahead of whatever is number two. When Shia LaBeouf's character asked Josh Brolin's character— in the movie: Wall Street/Money Never Sleeps —what his number is; viz: the number of dollars that would be enough for him to walk away from investment banking and retire; Brolin's character answered: More.
People obsessed with money actually love and revere it; and make any and every sacrifice to get it. They stay up late, work long ridiculous hours, disconnect from their families, and even betray their friends' trust to get it. Their minds are filled with thoughts about money, their lives are controlled by getting it and guarding it; and while they have it: they feel a great sense of pride, achievement, security, and independence.
The amount of money they possess pales in importance compared to their rabid desire to simply amass it. I've heard it said that success is the best revenge. There are too many people out there in the business world who need money simply to feel better about themselves, and to get one over on their rivals.
● Ecc 5:11a . . As his substance increases, so do those who consume it;
The wealthy often find themselves hounded by foundations, causes, charities, and freeloading relatives and friends. MC Hammer, a very popular rapper in the 80's and 90's, was quite rich at one time but spent it all on not just himself, but on his entourage as well. Making money in a big way involves the employment of a staff; and those kinds of staffs aren't cheap. They all average six figures; not to mention their bonuses which commonly run up to seven.
● Ecc 5:11b . . what, then, does the success of its owner amount to but feasting his eyes?
Past world heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis was heard to say: I don't like money actually, but it quiets my nerves. Yes, money is good for feasting the eyes, and provides a certain sense of security. However, money is no guarantee your nerves will be calm, nor that your sleep will be sound; nor that your security is assured.
● Ecc 5:12 . . A [slave's] sleep is sweet, whether he has much or little to eat; but the rich man's abundance doesn't let him sleep.
When you have nothing, you don't worry too much about losing it. But when you have a lot, then you fear going broke; and along with riches comes eating gourmet foods which sometimes cause indigestion and acid reflux.
I know a man who, as he got older, became concerned about dying before owning a really good watch. So, he took some money out of his home equity line and bought four high-end watches totaling roughly $20,000. He's very happy with the watches, but now worries all the time they might get lost, stolen, or damaged. He didn't have those kinds of worries when he owned timepieces no more expensive than a Casio G-shock.
● Ecc 5:13-14 . . Here is a grave evil I have observed under the sun: riches hoarded by their owner to his misfortune, in that those riches are lost in some unlucky venture; and if he begets a son, he has nothing in hand.
That is so sad. The ENRON scandal brought to light the dangers of investing in a retirement system that is solely dependent upon just one company's prosperity. When the stock price of ENRON plummeted, the value of its employee retirement system plummeted too; and so steep was the collapse, that many of the energy giant's rank and file were left with virtually zero dollars in their retirement accounts.
A veteran electrician with PGE (Portland General Electric) related how his account was worth something like $348,000 before ENRON's value began to fall. He couldn't do anything about it because his account was frozen while the executives at ENRON were permitted to move their money to safety. By the time the PGE electrician's account was unfrozen, its value had dropped to $1,200.
The sub-prime Wall Street disaster did the very same thing to a pretty good number of vulnerable retirement accounts. Though the Federal Reserve bailed out the big investment banks, it did nothing for the little banks nor for the innocent folks who were ruined by the collapse.
● Ecc 5:15 . . Another grave evil is this: He must depart just as he came. As he came out of his mother's womb, so must he depart at last, naked as he came. He can take nothing of his wealth to carry with him.
I once heard a story about a very famous rich man who died. At the reading of his will, newspaper reporters were required to remain outside and not allowed to interview the heirs until later. When the reading was over, a reporter approached one of the lawyers and asked how much the old gentleman left. The lawyer replied: He left it all.
Yes, the rich man couldn't take a single dime of his wealth into the next life. It all stayed here and he went into eternity completely broke.
There is a story, in Luke 16:19-31, of a rich man who died and went to the fiery portion of Hades. In life he lived sumptuously, eating the best of foods and drinking the best of wines. But in Hades, the poor fellow doesn't even have so much as a glass of water.
You know, restaurants put glasses of water on our tables as a matter of courtesy. The water is free. It's on the house. You don't need to be wealthy to merit a glass of water in a restaurant. But in the fiery portion of Hades, nobody is given any courtesy whatsoever no matter how prominent they may have been in life.
● Ecc 5:16 . . So what is the good of his toiling for the wind?
It isn't intrinsically evil to save and invest. After all, Solomon wrote in Proverbs that it's wise to look ahead, and parents are wise who lay something aside for their children. But the people who hoard, and who amass wealth simply for the sake of possessing it for themselves, are laboring for the wind. They can't possibly keep it into the next life, so the best thing for them to do is share it while they are here where it will do the world some good. It's okay to keep enough for yourself for now and for the future, but when there's a ridiculous surplus, find a way to disperse it. Otherwise, your hoarding serves no useful purpose, and at death your wealth is surrendered anyway.
● Ecc 5:17 . . Besides, all his days he eats in darkness, with much vexation and grief and anger.
Wealthy people don't usually eat in the dark. Many have very nice chandeliers over the table. But in their hearts often lurk evil thoughts, bad memories, regrets, grievances, resentments, disputes, hard feelings, and a bad conscience. They're really no different than the common man in that arena. Like they say: So and so puts his pants on one leg at a time just like everyone else.
● Ecc 5:18 . . Only this, I have found, is a real good: that one should eat and drink and get pleasure with all the gains he makes under the sun, during the numbered days of life that God has given him; for that is his portion.
Solomon mentions death so often that you might think he was obsessed with it. But really, he wasn't. His philosophy of life was such that he took death into consideration so that his days weren't spent as if they were infinite and he expected to live forever. A balanced philosophy of life has to include the very real possibility of imminent death to keep things in proper perspective.
Man is but perishable fruit like peaches, pears, strawberries, cantaloupe, avocado, and oranges; no amount of refrigeration will keep him fresh. Regardless of the amount of rest, fresh air, good diet, and exercise; man begins to wither right around the age of 32 or 34.
Youngster's can't really appreciate their expiration date as three brief decades: to them, 32 or 34 years seems long and way out in the distance. As a result, the withering process often sneaks up and takes them by surprise like starting a frog off in cool water and slowly bringing it up to a boil. Of a sudden, one day it swats them in the face like a rolled up newspaper that they're "old school" and replaced by a young, hip generation wherein they've been accustomed to thinking all along was themselves.
The aging process, once it starts, is relentless. Its personality is sort of like that of the robot in Arnold Schwarzenegger's movie "The Terminator" which is a machine that can't be bargained with, it can't be reasoned with, it doesn't feel pity or remorse or fear, and it absolutely will not stop-- ever! -- until you are dead.
The aging process is a cold as steel wake-up call that your tenure on this planet is rapidly winding down to a close; and one day, it will be like you were never here.
● Ecc 5:19-20 . . Also, whenever a man is given riches and property by God, and is also permitted by Him to enjoy them and to take his portion and get pleasure for his gains— that is a gift of God. For [such a man] will not brood much over the days of his life, because God keeps him busy enjoying himself.
Within the context of the book of Ecclesiastes, a "gift of God" should never be taken literally. It's just a colloquialism, like the common term "act of God" used to label the cause of natural calamities like earthquakes, floods, storms, miscarriages, and stuff like that.
I'm in my retirement years, and one of the things I avoid is keeping too busy because I don't want the final years of my life to pass quickly. They'll pass soon enough; but when you keep busy, time really has a way of flying.
flip side is one's mental health. Keeping busy does have a way of preventing
people from doing too much introspection and reminiscence thereby developing a
chronic case of the blues. One's mind can atrophy too if they never do anything
to exercise their intelligence. So I try to strike a balance: I keep somewhat
physically busy, and I keep somewhat mentally busy too; while
avoiding excess in either area.
for Psalm 71