By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell (Guest Blogger)
Scripture Readings: Ecclesiastes 5-6
Key Scripture Verses: Ecclesiastes 5:15 (NIV, Life Application Bible)
“Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb, and as everyone comes, so they depart. They take nothing from their toil that they can carry in their hands.”
We come into the world as vulnerable, naked babies, totally dependent on others for our care. If we don’t die in an instant but have an illness, we may also be totally dependent at the ends of our lives. I have often thought about that when working in a hospital environment—bank presidents, ambassadors, CEO’s, are reduced to the same end of life status as a person who has nothing and is reduced to homelessness at the end of life. We cannot take our wealth and possessions with us. Death is an equalizer—we all die human deaths and no power, wealth, or reputation eases or changes the situation. What meaning can we derive from our lives then?
Solomon laments that it is all “meaningless,”—our toil is meaningless, if all that motivates us is to earn more wealth or to gain power or position. We may spend our time working so hard to accomplish these things and then for what? To leave it to others who have not earned it or to those who might not appreciate all that we have done? He says, that’s “meaningless.”
He writes that he had observed “wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners or wealth lost through some misfortune.” He reports it as “meaningless,” because the rightful heirs may still not be able to inherit from their parents’ labors.
And, so, what is the meaning of it then, if we toil and work so hard only for nothing of genuine value? What do we gain from our lives here on earth? Isn’t this the question of the great philosophers and scientists who ponder the meaning of life? Solomon’s answer is: “This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink, and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God.”
Solomon’s point is that all goodness and enjoyment from our work and labor comes from God and we are to enjoy it; however, if we don’t have our priorities straight and our whole purpose is to acquire wealth and power, it is meaningless. If we love God and put his priorities first, he will give us peace and we will be satisfied.
Real satisfaction comes from a loving relationship with the living God. When the Holy Spirit dwells within us and our desires and our efforts are to glorify God, we will be satisfied, whether we are wealthy and powerful or whether we are penniless at our life’s ends. Joy—true joy is more than fleeting happiness, it comes from God and from being sanctified by him.
May we not lose our perspective in our day-to-day lives. May we remember that all that we have and all of the blessings of this life come from God. Any wealth or power we acquire is possible because of the gifts he has bestowed upon us to be able to acquire it—not because of our own strength and goodness. May we be at peace and enjoy the fruits of our labor as we glorify the one who has blessed us so much. May all the glory be His.