I. Introduction

A. The Preacher has been explaining why he reached his conclusion that life “under the sun” is vanity. It was based upon his personal experience (1:1–2:26) and upon his personal observations (3:1–6:12).

B. In chapters 3 and 4, we saw where he discussed: the inexplicable purpose of God, the injustice and oppression of men and the vanity of skillful and selfish work.

C. Even so, he offered wisdom for living “under the sun.” It is best to rejoice, do good, and enjoy the good of one’s labor, realizing that such is a gift of God to those who please Him (3:12, 13).

In chapters 5 and 6, he continues to share his wisdom for living “under the sun.”

II. Counsel regarding worship

A. Why proper worship is important:

1. Remember, the ability to enjoy the good of one’s labor is a gift from God (2:24-26; 3:12- 14; 6:19).
2. It is imperative that we please Him in our worship. We need to understand that there is “vain worship” (cf. Matt. 15:7-9). Therefore not all worship is acceptable to God.

B. How to worship God:

1. Walk prudently (5:1a). When people worship, they should think about what they will do, and they should be careful about what they do.

2. Draw near to hear (5:1b). We should be learning what God has revealed. Our attitude should be like that of young Samuel: “Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears” (1 Sam. 3:9, 10) and also the Bereans: “They received the word with all readiness” (Acts 17:11).

3. Do not offer the sacrifice of fools (5:1c). Again, not all worship is acceptable. There is that kind of worship that is an abomination to God (Prov. 28:9). Worship that the Lord will not accept (Luke 6:46)

4. Don’t be rash with your promises (5:2, 3). Be careful what you say. Remember Jephthah’s foolish vow (Judges 11:30-35) and Herod’s foolish promise (Mark 6:23-26). Give thought to what you say in prayer and song. Do you consider the vows of commitment that are often made? Do you intend to keep them?

5. Keep the vows you make (5:4-7). God has no pleasure in fools such as those who make vows and do not fulfill them. Therefore it is better not to vow than to vow and not pay.

The key thought in proper worship is to “fear God,” that is, to approach Him with the deepest respect and reverence. Worship Him as He directs, not as you might wish. “Swift to hear, slow to speak” (James 1:19).

III. Comfort regarding oppression

A. Oppression does occur. 1. Observed in 3:16 and again in 4:1.

B. Yet the Preacher says, “Do not marvel.”

1. Even when there is oppression of the poor and perversion of justice (5:8a).
2. For even high officials answer to someone else (5:8b; Rom. 13:1). Often in this life, they are brought to justice. But even if not, there is the Day of Judgment!
3. The profit taken in oppression usually comes back to all (5:9). Of course, oppression of the poor and perversion of justice is often motivated by the desire to be rich.

IV. Caution regarding riches

A. Riches are vanity.

1. They are unable to truly satisfy (5:10-12). Lovers of silver and abundance will never be satisfied. As one’s gains increase, so the desire for more will increase.
2. Those obsessed with riches are hurt by them (5:13-17). Riches can hurt those who possess them. While a laboring man enjoys sweet sleep, the abundance of the rich provides too much turmoil for restful sleep! Through misfortune or eventually through death, one loses his riches. What value then are riches, if in the acquisition of them one must endure much sorrow, sickness, and anger (Prov. 15:16-17; 17:1)?

B. The Preacher’s observations on riches:

1. It is good to enjoy the good of one’s labor (5:18).
2. It is God who gives one the power to truly enjoy them (5:19, 20)
3. A sad situation is one in which God allows a person to acquire riches but not enjoy them (6:1, 2).
4. It matters little if one lives long and has 100 children. Unless one is able to be satisfied (a gift which God gives), he is worse off than a stillborn child (6:3-5), even if he lives to be 2,000 years old (6:6).
5. Riches in and of themselves cannot satisfy the soul (6:7-9). The body might be filled, but the soul can remain empty. It is better to be content with what you see than to wander after what you desire.
6. Riches really can’t change things (6:10, 11). He is still “man” and cannot contend with God. They are not the things that truly make man better; they only increase vanity.
7. The answers to life’s questions can’t be found in striving for riches (6:12).

V. Conclusion

A. The Preacher asks questions such as: “For who knows what is good for man in life, all the days of his vain life which he passes like a shadow?” (6:12a), and “Who can tell a man what will happen after him under the sun?” (6:12b).

1. The Preacher illustrates the vanity of looking to riches for answers.

B. Indeed, the answers are to be found by turning to God, not riches; which is why one needs to be careful when worshiping God! We should draw near to hear what God has revealed through His Word!

It is particularly through “The Word” (Jesus, John 1:1) that we learn the ultimate answers to the questions that challenged the Preacher. For Jesus has “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10).

Ecclesiastes tells us that the answers to life are not found in the things of this life. Are we willing therefore to heed to Him who is the Creator of life and is the light of men (John 1:2-4)? 

General Conference Ministerial Association