Messages from Pastor Raddatz

October 17, 2021, Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Houston TX, Other texts for the day: Hebrews 4:1-13 & Mark 10:23-31


Ecclesiastes 5:18-20, “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.  19 Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions ad power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. 20 For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.


Solomon was an extremely wealthy man.  According to Jewish and Christian tradition,  Solomon wrote his song early in his life, Proverbs in the middle of his reign, and Ecclesiastes during the later part of his life.  Solomon was led away from the Lord and into idolatry by his many idolatrous wives and concubines (see 1 Kings 11).   In Ecclesiastes, Solomon crassly writes about his pursuit of power and pleasure, which only lead to emptiness. THIS BOOK CAN BE DEPRESSING because he writes that all  is vanity that will fade like smoke.  However he pulls his readers towards hope near the end of this book by telling them that God will still care for you.  He reminds us that wisdom is true wealth, (see 1 Kings 3:9-14  Lutheran Study Bible, p. 1048).

Wealth is a relative term.  It must be defined on a personal level.  For example, years ago, according to the world standard: you are considered wealthy if you have one car because only one-third of all the households in the world own a car.  One man who was in church that day owned four antique cars.  He was a born and bred Lutheran and when I said that he raised his hands, in the posture of an “Alleluia”.  He told me later that he typically does not lock those cars when he parks them somewhere because if someone wants to break a window to get in, it costs a lot of money to find buy that window for that antique car.  He would leave the car door open but go under the hood and unhook the battery or take the battery with him into church.  He would say to me, “You have to be smarter than the criminal”.  Of course, he would say like Solomon, that he is going to leave his wealth to his children who will probably make a mess of it.  Sounds like Solomon, doesn’t it?

But Eric Pierre, CEO, owner and principal of Pierre Accounting in Texas, says when it comes to money, this saying holds true: Comparison is the thief of joy.

"Different people make money in different ways, they have different skills and wealth can go up and down for different reasons," he says. "You should set a net worth of what you want it to be, whether it's billions or thousands. Set a goal that will make you happy. Stop worrying about what your neighbor's doing." (U. S. News and World Report, Dec. 14, 2020)


What Solomon is emphasizing to us is “to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil (WORK) … the few days of his life that God has given him. For this is his lot”, v. 18. 

            Accepting the work or toil we have is huge.  Could Solomon simply hoped to make the best of a bad situation?

Let’s take a deeper look into what he is saying:

  1. As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth... this is the gift of God: Though the Preacher knew that riches did not bring true meaning to life, he was no fool. He understood that it was better to have wealth than to not have it, and under the sun, one should enjoy both wealth and the capacity to enjoy it as the gift of God.
  2. “Indeed, the very care of wealth becomes a reason for restlessness. In view of all these things there is but one attitude, which the preacher advises: Do not hoard anything, but enjoy it.” (Morgan)

There are some people who have worked and who have great wealth, but who are angry people.  You can be angry about anything: things did not turn out the way I wanted, my kids did not turn out the way I hoped or now that I am old and aching and my body hurts, I cannot enjoy the money I earned because I feel too old.  

The joy spoken of here is found only in God.  In God our life has meaning and true pleasure.  Without him, nothing satisfies.  True pleasure comes only when we acknowledge and revere God (12:13). Lutheran Study Bible p. 1056


            Life is a gift of God.  Joy is a result of accepting the lot God gave us.  God is calling us to accept the vanities of life that fade and pass, but to enjoy God’s gifts as God intended us to enjoy them.

            The writer of ecclesiastes uses the word vanity a lot.  It does not mean what our English word means.  It does not mean meaningless, hopeless, and/or pointless despite the many expositors, and some translations. The word in Hebrew for vanity is hevel. And the word can portray a variety of nuances depending on the context. Some of those are:

  • Frustrating (Ecc. 2:17)
  • Fleeting/Transitory (Ecc. 6:12)
  • Mysterious/Enigma (Ecc. 8:14)

One problem of why so many think Solomon is just writing pessimistically is that we get hung up on our English understanding of the word “vanity.” And that linguistic baggage is what we often bring into the text, rather than looking through Solomon’s definitional lenses, as well as understanding wisdom literature. The other problem is that we miss the poetical function of how hevel is used to bring down the literary “black curtain” so that the stage is set for the luminescent masterpiece of his main message. And despite all the deep and emotional angst Solomon expresses about his frustrations with life (as we all do – sinner and saint), he has a literary goal in mind for this sermon. And that purpose is not only the key to contentment, but the reviving remedy for our times of crisis and tragedy we often experience in our lives.

And in Ecclesiastes, Solomon gives us something to always keep in mind as we are reading his memoir. In Chapter 12, the very last two verses say:

“This end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecc. 12:13-14, ESV)


This is a key interpretive text, but not the interpretative text. Nevertheless, while Solomon points out all the ways that life can frustrate us, leave us wondering “why?” when tragedies occur, and often leave a nasty taste of despair when we see the fleeting nature of it, this conclusion is meant to center and ground us, knowing that God will right all wrongs. And that despite all that is enigmatic and temporary in our lives, we are to still fear God and keep His commandments (Ecc. 8:12). And that it is good and best for us to live a life of wisdom (Ecc. 2:13; 7:12-13), even though this doesn’t guarantee a stress free, tragedy free, or predictable life. Because all things will be brought to light in eternity, whether good or evil.

So enjoy life! See the good things in God’s daily provisions despite the obvious evil in the world. And immediately put into practice these provisional conclusions so that we not only enjoy the depth of abundant life that God gives us eternally in Christ, but also in this present world. Don’t be overcome by hevel, but overcome hevel by enjoying the good. (George Alvarado)

            Through God’s mercy and grace, may we find joy in work and wealth for they are gifts from his hands– Until we go home. Amen

Pastor John Raddatz

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