There is nothing more frustrating than looking forward to something with great anticipation and being disappointed. Imagine a gift that you are unable to open or use, a nice meal you cannot eat or a life that you don’t appreciated. This is the ‘vanity and vexation’ that Solomon describes in Ecclesiastes 5:1-6:9. He attributes this frustration to four things:
- Our Sin (5:1-7) – The main sin addressed in these verses is that of making promises (vows) to God and not keeping them. God takes this very seriously (see Deut 23:21-23). Those who make rash vows and don’t keep them may incur God’s anger. As a result, God may chasten that individual by destroying the work of his hands. This is so true. Often, we are blessed and given so many things by God but we can’t enjoy them simply because we are foolish and have some sin in our life. Not all suffering is for Christ’s sake, some of it is very likely for our own sake (see 1 Peter 2:20; 3:17; 4:15).
- Others’ Sin (5:8-9) – Another reason our satisfaction with the things God gives us may be hindered is because of the sin of other people. We live in a corrupt world where there are many corrupt people, even in the highest levels of authority. This creates a system that constantly frustrates our enjoyment of our labours. Though there may not be a lot we can do about such corruption in this life, we can rest in the fact that God sees and knows and will sort it all out in the end. Our frustration with the corruption of others and its impact on us makes us long for a new heaven and a new earth where Christ is king!
- Covetousness (5:10-17) – The curse of covetousness is that the more we have the more we want and on and on the chase goes. Covetous is really idolatry (Col 3:5); it is worshipping and loving things. The problem is that things won’t satisfy us. As a matter of fact, the more we have, often the more problems we have and the more demands are placed upon us. Riches are for sharing and giving and using for God and for others, not for keeping. Those who keep them do so to their own hurt. If we live life for how much stuff we can get, we will be very disappointed because we can’t take any of it with us.
- Divinely-Allowed Suffering (6:1-6) – This last reason is probably the hardest to understand. It is similar to the emptiness of Job when He was going through his time of great suffering. He could not enjoy all His possessions and labour because God had allowed them to all be taken away. Ecc 6:2 talks about a greatly blessed man who has so much but ‘God giveth him not power to eat thereof’.
AccordingEcc 6:3-6 and Job 3 stillborn child in many ways could be better off than this man who has no rest. Of course, as Job will learn and so should we, life is not just about enjoying what we have but about giving glory to God. And so, when we are not able to fully enjoy what we have through suffering that God allows, let us be content with suffering for the glory of God (1 Peter 4:16).
- Enjoy and steward everything God gives you as a gift from God (Ecc 5:18-20). Whatever God gives us, whatever time, family, joy, life and possessions you have, enjoy them as God’s gifts to you to freely enjoy. The living God ‘giveth us richly all things to enjoy’ (1 Tim 6:17). Enjoyment of course meaning being a good steward, saving, investing, sharing, and giving to others.
- Be content with what God gives you and stop wanting more (Ecc 6:7-9). Whatever God chooses to give you, be content with it. Stop looking around and thinking you will be happy if you just have more. You discontentment is the very poison that keeps you from finding satisfaction in what God has given you. ‘Godliness with contentment is great gain’ (1 Tim 6:6). Don’t let your desires wander, your appetites keep craving. Be thankful and content with God’s amazing grace to you, even if it is the grace to suffer for the glory of His name (Acts 5:41; 1 Peter 1:7).