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Ecclesiastes 5:8-20 | Enjoy Your Portion (Part 1)

Wednesday, June 03, 2020 • John Cole • Contentment
Whether rich or poor, God gives us the same portion to enjoy—our labor in life in relationship with Him. The good enjoyment of our labor, not just the profit, is our portion from God. This is something all of us can equally enjoy, if received in faith as a portion from our all-wise, good and holy God.

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

  We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.
  A. Lincoln, Proclamation of a Day of National Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer, 1863

 

 

  John W. Gardner, founding chairman of Common Cause, said it's a rare and high privilege to help people understand the difference they can make—not only in their own lives, but also in the lives of others, simply by giving of themselves.
  Gardner tells of a cheerful old man who asked the same question of just about every new acquaintance he fell into conversation with: "What have you done that you believe in and you are proud of?"
  He never asked conventional questions such as "What do you do for a living?" It was always, "What have you done that you believe in and are proud of?"
  It was an unsettling question for people who had built their self-esteem on their wealth or their family name or their exalted job title.
  Not that the old man was a fierce interrogator. He was delighted by a woman who answered, "I'm doing a good job raising three children;" and by a cabinetmaker who said, "I believe in good workmanship and practice it;" and by a woman who said, "I started a bookstore and it's the best bookstore for miles around."
   "I don't really care how they answer," said the old man. "I just want to put the thought into their minds.
   "They should live their lives in such a way that they can have a good answer. Not a good answer for me, but for themselves. That's what' s important."

  Dr. Dale E. Turner, MSC Health Action News, July, 1993, p. 7

 

Maybe the amount of our wealth and our social status is not really what life is all about.

 

CONTEXT

 

These verses give ongoing teaching that coordinates with some of the teachings in chapters three and four. It builds off the teaching to fear God because He is holy, as found in the first seven verses. It is fitting for our times, as Scripture so faithfully is.

 

It addresses oppression, greed, economics, loss, rejoicing, and labor. The beginning verses give practical wisdom and warnings that all come to a conclusion in the final three verses. Ultimately, it teaches us how to enjoy our God-given portion in life with God and eternity in mind.

 

ECCLESIASTES 5:8-20

 

Ecclesiastes 5:8–20

8 If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they.

9 Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field.

10 He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.

11 When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?

12 The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.

13 There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt.

14 But those riches perish by evil travail: and he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand.

15 As he came forth of his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand.

16 And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind?

17 All his days also he eateth in darkness, and he hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness.

18 Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion.

19 Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God.

20 For he shall not much remember the days of his life; because God answereth him in the joy of his heart.

 

As we try to understand the complexities of life around us that seem to change at a rapid pace, God's Word helps us cut through the clutter to transcendent truths which should guide the one who fears God.

 

If you fear God, you want to know God's portion for you.

 

This text helps us with this, but first, it begins with our predicaments.

 

OUR PREDICAMENTS UNDER THE SUN

 

Ecclesiastes 5:8

8 If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they.

 

Fear God and trust He sovereignly reigns.

 

Do not be amazed or frightened over injustice and oppression, but know it always exists in any community and government where there are people deceived in sin.

 

God's people should not be amazed when sinners sin.

 

Ecclesiastes 5:9

9 Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field.

 

God put self-governing laws in place, like supply and demand, agriculture, and nutrition that brings us all to the same basic needs.

 

Without God, His provisions, and workers, even the richest king will not eat.

 

Ecclesiastes 5:10

10 He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.

 

The love of money itself is not satisfying, yet it is uncannily luring.

 

We also know the love of money is the root if all evil as it becomes a horrible master.

 

1 Timothy 6:6–10

6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.

7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.

8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

9 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.

10 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.

 

Ecclesiastes 5:11

11 When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?

 

With increased revenues comes increased cost. The revenues can be seen, but they cannot be used personally.

 

This reality is often overlooked by both the worker and the person striving to become rich through business ownership.

 

Ecclesiastes 5:12

12 The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.

 

Labor and contentment tends toward rest, but abundance and greed tends toward anxiety.

 

Ecclesiastes 5:13

13 There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt.

 

It is self-defeating to seek joy in the guarding and building of riches.

 

Money itself has no value unless it can be converted. Money is meant to move. When it doesn't it helps neither the rich nor the poor.

 

Proverbs 11:26

26 He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him: But blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it.

 

Ecclesiastes 11:1-7 addresses this in detail.

 

Without conversion, money is only unused potential. This is why people invest their savings. The conversion creates jobs in the market and increases future conversion potential for the investor. (That is unless there is loss). Which brings us to the next verse.

 

Ecclesiastes 5:14

14 But those riches perish by evil travail: and he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand.

 

Riches are very unsure. One bad business venture, investment, or catastrophe can change everything.

 

That's why our joy cannot be found in riches themselves. Not only that, but also we need to have more to offer our children than money and material things.

 

In our home, Martha excites the kids about the simplest of things, and I try to instruct them on the most serious of things.

 

As parents, we can think we need to provide the latest and greatest for our children, but we must use discernment in this. May we keep in context that our children enjoy comforts and pleasures today that kings never even thought of in much of our history.

 

May we steward finances without it becoming our life.

 

Ecclesiastes 5:15

15 As he came forth of his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand.

 

Money doesn't go with us to eternity, but what we do with it can.

 

1 Timothy 6:17–19

17 Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;

18 That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;

19 Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

 

Followers of Christ can "lay hold on," or invest in eternal life with what they do with their riches and abilities.

 

There is not profit in seeking joy and satisfaction in the accumulation of things under the sun.

 

Under-the-sun thinking and accumulation is vain. It is an attempt to catch the wind. It is a sore evil

 

Ecclesiastes 5:17

17 All his days also he eateth in darkness, and he hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness.

 

Such striving to catch the impossible only stirs within us dark depression, sorrow, and anger. It is a sickness.

 

OUR PORTION UNDER THE SUN

 

Ecclesiastes 5:18–20

18 Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion.

19 Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God.

20 For he shall not much remember the days of his life; because God answereth him in the joy of his heart.

 

Whether rich or poor, God gives us the same portion to enjoy—our labor in life.

 

The good enjoyment of our labor, not the profit, is our portion from God.

 

This is a mysterious wisdom overshadowed by the love of money.

 

We are to joyfully and creatively work with the portion, or lot, God has given us.

 

We do this in fear before Him and not surprised when those who do not fear God get caught up in greedily and unjustly laboring for the wind of accumulation and comparison.

 

All this goes back to the first seven verses which teach us to fear God because of His holiness—and by implication, goodness.

 

Ecclesiastes 5:1

1 Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.

 

Ecclesiastes 5:7

7 For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.

 

We will only rejoice in our portion from God if we believe God is holy and good.

 

Can you think of people both in history and Bible who have done this? David, Daniel, and Paul to name a few.

 

IMPLICATIONS

 

Ecclesiastes 5:8

8 If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they.

 

Let's consider first the implications this has on oppression and injustice.

° Fear and trust in God will help those under oppression find joy in the portion they have, looking forward to eternity beyond the sun.

° Fear and trust in God will lead those in power to find joy in the good portion of labor they have to steward their treatment of others with eternity in view.

 

Now, let's consider the implications this has on us all.

 

Our temporal portion from God under the sun is to enjoy the labor and toil God gives us.

 

Too many of us are caught up striving to find joy in our profits of labor—the results.

° Business owners and politicians focused more on how they gain from their enterprises than the cause and the collective benefit of everyone involved.

° Workers focused on demanding larger gains and discontent until they have what the owners have, but they don't know what the owners have.

° Profits do not create joy in themselves; they only enable the potential of finding more joy in the labor and stewardship one loves.

 

As God-fearers and followers of Christ, we need to find joy in our portion of labor.

° If we do not learn to enjoy the labor of life, we live in dark discontentment and anger.

° This degree of contentment and joy will only be consistently lived out by those who trust their portion is from God, Who is holy and good.

° Without fear of and trust in holy God, sinful men and woman will live discontented lives, grasping at that which cannot be obtained.

° God came to us through Christ to make this transformed way of living possible.

 

Christ makes it possible for us to enjoy our portion.

 

Matthew 11:28–30

28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

 

 

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