Ecclesiastes 4:7-8; 5:10-20: The Vanity of Riches


  • Blind slave
  • Afflicted service


All our pleasures are poisoned with pain and disappointment. This is one of the key lessons of the book of Ecclesiastes. We live in a fallen world, the characteristic phrase in Ecclesiastes for this is life ‘under the sun.’ If you have come here for a pick-me-up this morning you are going to be sorely disappointed. This morning’s message is a reality shot. I have been impressed in my devotional reading of Ecclesiastes of the fallen realities we experience and have a strong desire to bring the common sense of the bible’s wisdom literature to bear. The book of Ecclesiastes speaks about many different issues but I want to focus in on the vanity of riches. Wealth is the common pursuit of the Western person. Money opens doors. Each person in the West is trained to believe that money will buy happiness. We educate our children to get good jobs so that they can earn a good wage and be happy. We take out large student loans to get good qualifications so that we can get a good job and be comfortable. Some of the richest people in our society are the people who loan us money, because everyone wants money. Money is thought to give us status, freedom, happiness, power, influence, and many other things, but the world we live in is fallen, it is under a curse, we cannot place our happiness in the empty promises of wealth, luxury and money. Every now and then there is a tearing away of the façade through a financial crash and countries are destabilized, families are crushed, people are disillusioned and even kill themselves. The 1929 Wall Street Crash is a famous example when people through themselves off skyscrapers because of their huge financial losses. The trouble is we have the same idol of money and the same disillusionment in NZ.

Think of the NZ farmer as an example. Before I came to NZ I had met an NZ farmer. He had gone into joint ownership with a friend of a 60 foot catamaran yacht. He arrived in harbour on St Helena after having had it newly built in Namibia and was sailing it to America. I have heard many people speak of farmers today as those who get lots of money from the bank and buy boats, caravans and expensive overseas holidays. They are seen as those who always have the new 4×4, the largest houses, and horses for their kids to ride. But this is all perception, speak to any farmer and you will soon hear about the dark side of this life. If we had to have a farmer list his woes it would sound a lot like the book of Ecclesiastes. In the financial year 2011-2012, 27 farmers in NZ committed suicide, in 2012-13, 19; in 2014-15, 18; 2015-16, 18.

We cannot be those who put all our investments in earthly things but in heavenly things. This life is lived in a fallen world and if we put our hope in this life we will be destroyed. So come with me as we examine some wisdom that is 3000 years old as it exposes the truth about this life.