Wealth, Wisdom, and Eternal Purpose.

In our American church context, we are all wealthy compared to the rest of the world. So there is much for us to learn from Solomon's wisdom for wealthy people in this section of Ecclesiastes.

It seems that wealthy people can produce more self-inflicted hardship than those who are poor. The pitfalls that Solomon addresses are consistent issues that he knew from experience.

Ecclesiastes 7:11-12

Wealth is always better when actively coupled with wisdom. Whether you are rich in things or knowledge, both are protected by wisdom. Wisdom leads to life (Proverbs 8:35). "Wealth is to be enjoyed, and that wealth coupled with wisdom leads to eternal purpose, not just for living in the here and now." When we apply wealth and wisdom to living with purpose, we find what it means to live with joy.

Good things can dominate our existence as people of means, but we cannot let it distract us from knowing and understanding wisdom. Wisdom can be defined simply as living the Bible, so we have to know it! The more we have, the more we should devote ourselves to God. And we must make sure to live what we know. Knowing has to give birth to living.

Ecclesiastes 7:13-14

God superintends both affliction and prosperity. We don't control these things. We only live with wisdom under them. Grace enables us to persevere with patience. The primary way out that God provides in affliction is always God's Word. We must search for it and pray for His wisdom before going to other people or attempting to change our circumstances.

Walter Kaiser paraphrased these verses: "Look with wonder, admire, and silently wait for the result of God's work. The contrasts of life are deliberately allowed by God so that men should ultimately develop a simple trust and dependence on Him. For prosperity and the goods from God's hand, be thankful and rejoice. But in adversity and the crookedness of life, think. Reflect on the goodness of God and the comprehensiveness of his plan for men."

God allows affliction, but He never tempts a person to sin (James 1:12-15). Warren Wiersbe's practical commentary on Ecclesiastes says, "The Lord knows how much hardship to give you to keep you humble, and he knows how many good things to give you to keep you happy."

This is a hard truth to understand, but one we must wrestle our hearts and minds to accept. Philippians 1:12-30 shows that affliction is God's grace to develop us into Christ-likeness. "We are learning to cooperate with the inevitable."

Warren Wiersbe also commented, "The call to wisdom is not a summons to slavish fatalism. It is a sensible invitation to a life yielded to the Word of God. And if God makes something crooked, He is even able to make it straight; and perhaps He will as He works in us to get His job done." Are we okay with the situations that God allows in our lives? We are called to wrestle ourselves to joy whatever our circumstances (Ecclesiastes 8:15).

If God's grace is powerful enough to save us, it's powerful enough to sanctify us. It is stronger than anything that has happened in our past. Where the effects of sin abound, grace abounds more (Romans 5:20-21). We must believe it and embrace the grace available to us! Healthy people who have embraced grace can then live with eternal purpose.

We cannot predict the future. James 4:13-17 was written to a similar audience as our passage in Ecclesiastes. Consider the Lord and His Word before making plans. Failure to do so is called the darkest term for evil in the New Testament.

Application Points

  • The more we have, the more we should devote ourselves to God. Do you have time in your day when you devote your heart to God's Word?
  • After making sure you have consistent time in God's Word, you have to actually live out what you know! How are you putting what you learn into practice?
  • God's Word is always the primary "way out" in affliction. Ask God's help as you search for it before you go to other people.
  • If God's grace is powerful enough to save you, it's powerful enough to sanctify you. It is stronger than anything that has happened in your past. Believe it and embrace grace! Don't look to others for help or make excuses. If you don't believe His help is enough for you to endure your affliction, you're simply telling Him that you won't use what He has already given you.
  • This pastor is not qualified to give medical advice. If anxiety or depression is a medical problem, it needs a medical solution. If, however, it is a spiritual problem, it needs a spiritual solution. It is wonderful to see God's grace working in a person's life to overcome even affliction that has been inflicted on them by another person. God's grace, His Word, His Spirit, and the comfort of His people are all resources available to us in affliction.
  • If you are enduring affliction, consider Christ's affliction more than you dwell on your own (Matthew 27:27-50). He innocently endured the greatest affliction on our behalf. Consider how Job was afflicted and what was his response (Job 1:13-2:10). Then look at the joyful cloud of witnesses around you in this church who are persevering well. Draw strength from all these examples.
  • Do you consider the Lord and His Word before making plans? This is essential since He is the one in control, not us.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Proverbs 9:10 – The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom
  • 1 Kings 3:6-14, James 1:25, Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:1-3, John 17:15, Colossians 3:1-5 – devoting ourselves to knowing God's Word
  • James 1:2-5, 1:12; 1 Corinthians 10:13 – God's Word is always the primary "way out" in affliction. Search for it!
  • 1 Peter 5:5-7 – Anxiety is the absence of humility, and humility is the absence of anxiety.
  • 1 Peter 4:12-19 – Grace to endure affliction.