Ecclesiastes 5:13 There is a grievous ill that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owners to their hurt, 14 and those riches were lost in a bad venture; though they are parents of children, they have nothing in their hands. 15 As they came from their mother’s womb, so they shall go again, naked as they came; they shall take nothing for their toil, which they may carry away with their hands. 16 This also is a grievous ill: just as they came, so shall they go; and what gain do they have from toiling for the wind? 17 Besides, all their days they eat in darkness, in much vexation and sickness and resentment. 18 This is what I have seen to be good: it is fitting to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of the life God gives us; for this is our lot. 19 Likewise all to whom God gives wealth and possessions and whom he enables to enjoy them, and to accept their lot and find enjoyment in their toil—this is the gift of God. 20 For they will scarcely brood over the days of their lives, because God keeps them occupied with the joy of their hearts.
This passage presents an interesting contrast that is very much a part of our world today as it was then. V.13-17 describe someone whose focus is the pursuit of riches. There’s a sense they are not satisfied with what they already have so they’re constantly after “more”. V.16 asks, “what gain do they have from toiling for the wind”? In other words, the enjoyment, fulfillment, happiness they seek from the acquisition of material things is like “toiling for the wind”. It cannot be grasped. It slips through the fingers and they end up with nothing since none of us takes it with us at the time of our death.
But God gifts others with enjoyment from their labors, no matter how much or little they might have. Makes no difference. This sense of contentment isn’t something one works for, but is a gift of God. This idea echoes in Paul’s words in Philippians 4:11-12:
11 Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need.
I’m often guilty of “toiling for the wind”. It’s hard not to in a consumer culture like ours. Contentment is a gift from our Lord I am asking for this morning. Lord let it be so. Amen.