In our study of Ecclesiastes chapter five, we look at Solomon's conclusion about living a life without love.
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.
Solomon continues his search for the meaning of life by pouring himself into religion. This verse speaks of going to God and doing all the talking instead of listening to Him in order to see what He wants from us. This speaks of a lack of love in that, in any good relationship, a conversation is a two way street. Going to God in prayer and not loving Him enough to let Him speak to you is a waste of time and effort.
Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words.
Making idle vows (promises) to God should be avoided and this passage speaks of those who continue to make vows that they do not keep. If we love Him, we will not babble on with promises that we do not intend to keep and long prayers that do not come from the heart.
When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, 'My vow was a mistake.' Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God.
An unfulfilled vow is a lie and God does not like liars. If you love someone, you don't lie to them or make excuses for not doing what you promise. Solomon's conclusion about religion is that rituals without love are meaningless. They cannot substitute for love and respect.
If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still. The increase from the land is taken by all; the king himself profits from the fields.
Solomon not only sees the corruption of religion but also the government. We see, here, that the poor man does the work and the leaders and rich folks get all the increase. The religious system does not help the poor and the business and political systems use them as pawns and slaves. We have to remember that Solomon was a king and yet he still saw how wrong this is. When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus said that we are to love God and love our neighbors. How can we love God and not have compassion on the poor and the oppressed?
Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them?
Solomon was probably the richest man the world has ever seen and yet this is what he found out about the pursuit of wealth. After you have what you need to survive, the rest is usually just put on display as he says here. In the end, those things are not going with you (whether you go to heaven or hell).
The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep.
Since the fall of man (Genesis 3), Adam and his descendants (all of us) have had to work for our food. Solomon found that the man that works for what he has sleeps better than the rich man. It seems that the rich man becomes a hostage to his wealth and constantly worries about someone stealing from him or how he can get more.
I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner, or wealth lost through some misfortune, so that when he has a son there is nothing left for him. Naked a man comes from his mother's womb, and as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labor that he can carry in his hand.
Wealth is fleeting and Solomon came to realize that we do not create anything and are not taking anything with us when we die. How sad it is to see someone who seemingly has everything that this world has to offer but they do not have what is important and eternal. When they stand before the Judge, they will not have anything in their hands and, without the love of God in their hearts, they will be doomed.
This too is a grievous evil: As a man comes, so he departs, and what does he gain, since he toils for the wind? All his days he eats in darkness, with great frustration, affliction and anger.
Solomon describes the fact that we all want to have a purpose in life. Those that chase after the things of this world do not understand (are in darkness) that they cannot take them with them when they die. Others get frustrated and hopeless when they cannot see the fact that God loves us so much that He wants us to accept Him and to follow His plan for our lives.
Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him - for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work - this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.
We see from this passage that our wealth or our job is not the important thing. Solomon found that what is important is realizing that whatever we have is a gift from God. If we stay focused on the fact that every day and everything is a gift from God, we will love Him and be glad.