The Book of Ecclesiastes
James J. Barker
BE NOT HASTY WITH THY MOUTH
- The opening
verses of Ecclesiastes 5 remind us of some of King Solomon’s proverbs: “In the
multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is
wise” (Proverbs 10:19).
- “Seest thou
a man that is hasty in his words? there is more hope of a fool than of him”
- We are also
reminded of the book of James.
my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to
speak, slow to wrath…If any man among you seem to be religious, and
bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is
vain” (James 1:19, 26).
- In fact, the
entire third chapter of James’ epistle deals with this subject. James 3:8 says, “But the tongue can no
man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”
LISTENING IN GOD’S
- “Keep thy
foot,” (5:1) means to “watch your step.”
Some people need to behave themselves in church. They need to listen
more carefully to the Word of God, (and to obey it).
what Samuel told King Saul, “To obey is better than sacrifice” (I Samuel
15:8 says, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD:
but the prayer of the upright is his delight.”
21:27 says, “The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination: how much more,
when he bringeth it with a wicked mind?”
insincere worshippers are called “fools” because they think they can deceive God
with their phony worship (Eccl. 5:1, 3, 4).
- “For God is
in heaven, and thou upon earth” (Eccl. 5:2). The idea here is that God must be
approached with reverence. Over and
over again, King Solomon says, “but fear thou God” (Eccl. 5:7; cf. 3:14;
let thy words be few” (Eccl. 5:2b).
- DL Moody was
conducting a tent meeting in London, and man was on the platform praying for a
long time. The man went on and on
and on, until Moody said, “Let us sing a song while our brother finishes his
- A young
unsaved doctor almost walked out of that tent during that long prayer. But he was so impressed with the way
Moody handled things he decided to stay and hear him preach. That doctor got
saved that night. He was Sir Wilfred Grenfell, who went on to become a medical
missionary to Newfoundland and Labrador.
- “Therefore let thy words be few” (5:2b). I had a HS teacher who made us
write on the blackboard, “It is better to be quiet and thought a fool, than to
open your mouth and remove all doubt.”
This quote is usually attributed to Abraham Lincoln.
- Verses 4—6 refer to empty worship and hasty vows and broken vows. Jephthah’s vow in Judges 11:30, 31 would
be a good example of a hasty vow.
- Regarding broken vows, some churches are reluctant to receive “pledges”
from church members because they have learned that some do not pay them (Eccl.
- The “angel” in Ecclesiastes 5:6 could refer to a human messenger. Many Bible teachers take it to
mean a priest.
THE PROBLEMS WITH WEALTH (5:8; cf.
- King Solomon
was very wealthy, and he knew a lot about money. Growing up in the king’s palace, and
being a king himself, he also knew a lot about corruption.
corruption in politics, government, our courts, etc. should not surprise us
because it has always been this way. King Solomon said, “marvel not at the matter” (5:8).
Don’t be surprised; it has always been
this way “under the sun.”
- But God is
above all (5:8). He is above the
sun and sees everything.
Chronicles 16:9 says, “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout
the whole earth.” God sees all of this oppression and thievery.
- “He that
loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance
with increase: this is also vanity” (Eccl. 5:10).
- Here we are
reminded again of the vanity of materialism and covetousness. The apostle Paul said basically the same
thing in I Timothy 6:9, 10, “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and
a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction
and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred
from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
- In I Timothy
6:8, Paul wrote, “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” This is similar to what King Solomon
wrote in Ecclesiastes 4:6.
- Our Lord
said in Luke 12:15, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life
consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”
- After saying
this, our Lord told the parable of the foolish rich man (Luke
- Someone once asked a millionaire (Rockefeller?), “You are worth millions
of dollars. When will you be
satisfied?” He said, “When I get just another million more.”
- Another problem with great wealth, is it attracts many greedy friends,
relatives, moochers and parasites (Eccl. 5:11). Many lottery winners have had the
unpleasant experience of being hounded by deadbeat relatives looking for a
- But people continue to gamble and lust after money because they think it
will bring them happiness.
- Meanwhile billionaires have trouble going to sleep at night (5:12). They drink and they take pills, but they
toss and turn all night (cf. 5:13).
- The Bible warns us of the uncertainty of riches. They “perish” (5:14); i.e., are lost
through bad investments (“evil travail”). Then the rich man has nothing to leave behind for his son
- Job said, “Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return
thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the
LORD” (Job 1:21).
- The apostle Paul said, “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is
certain we can carry nothing out” (I Tim. 6:7).
- The Psalmist said, “Be not thou afraid when one is made rich, when the
glory of his house is increased; For when he dieth he shall carry
nothing away: his glory shall not descend after him” (Psalm 49:16,
- And King Solomon said the same thing in Ecclesiastes 5:15, 16. “What profit hath he that hath laboured
for the wind?” (5:16).
- This is the theme of the book of Ecclesiastes – laboring for wealth and
forgetting about God is vanity. It
is “laboring for the wind.” It is
all vanity and vexation of spirit.
- In Ecclesiastes 5:17, King Solomon
gives us an accurate picture of materialism: spiritual “darkness…much sorrow and
wrath with his sickness.”
JOY AND HAPPINESS (5:18-20).
- The final verses of
Ecclesiastes 5 are similar to what Solomon has already said in 2:24, 3:13, and
4:6. In other words, God has
“given us richly all things to enjoy” (I Tim.
- Riches and wealth, food and
the ability to enjoy food are “the gift of God” (Eccl.
- As long as we put God first,
and are not caught up in greed, materialism, and consumerism, God will bless
A worldly man once said to the preacher George Muller, “I seek to enjoy
life; I live up to my income.” Mr.
Muller replied, “Live up to your income?
True enjoyment of life does not consist in seeking how much we can spend
on ourselves, but how much we can minister to the comfort and
happiness of others, both temporally and spiritually.”