A lot of people go through life constantly wanting more. And they get more. And after they’ve reached that desired level … they want more: more things, more space, more quality, more luxury, and more money. Solomon tried that. He had more wealth than you could dream about. And if wealth and possessions are the driving motivation in your life, Solomon has news for you: “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (Eccl 1:2). If, in search of the good life, you are pursuing the almighty dollar instead of Almighty God, Ecclesiastes is warning you, you are making a big mistake.
I wonder if the Apostle Paul had been reading in Ecclesiastes when he wrote 1 Timothy 6; the parallels are striking. In Solomon’s words, “Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind” (Eccl 4:6 ESV), but people aren’t content with a handful. They want both hands full and when their second hand is full, they look for a third hand to also fill. They’re striving after wind. “No,” you say, “I’m different. I don’t need to be rich like Solomon. I just want a little more. Then I’ll be happy.” Really? “He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity” (Eccl 5:10).
This Book of Wisdom also reminds us that material prosperity can disintegrate quickly, and that even while we have it, it often brings more trouble than blessing: “When goods increase, they are increased that eat them,” (Eccl 5:11). More than that, the longest it may last are the few days of our life under the sun – we can’t take it with us. “As he came forth of his mother’s womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labor, which he may carry away in his hand” (Eccl 5:15). A baby is born with his hands grasping, yet nothing in them. A man dies, and his hands are folded across his chest … and there is still nothing in them. The good life, a meaningful life, is not realized through consumeristic greed and acquisitions. The good life often begins when you stop wanting more.
Solomon is not advocating laziness or saying that the good life is found in poverty. “Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil – this is the gift of God” (Eccl 5:18-19 ESV). In your calling, you should do your best: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might” (Eccl 9:10). But check your heart! Do a good job at your studies and employment because it is healthy, to provide for you and your family, to share with others, and to honor God. Live under the sun with a perspective that is above the sun, for “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1Tim 6:6).