21: Giving and giving thanks (Ecclesiastes 2:18-25)

Scripture ReadingEcclesiastes 2:18-25

What about the accumulation of wealth as the higher purpose behind work? In Ecclesiastes, this turns out to be worse than spending wealth to gain pleasure. Wealth brings the problem of inheritance. When you die, the wealth you accumulated will pass to someone else who may be completely undeserving. This is so galling that the Teacher, narrator of Ecclesiastes, says, “I turned and gave my heart up to despair” (Eccl. 2:20).

Like the Teacher, many people today who accumulate great wealth find it extremely unsatisfying. While we are making our fortunes, no matter how much we have, it doesn’t seem to be enough. When our fortunes are made and we begin to appreciate our mortality, giving away our wealth wisely seems to become a nearly intolerable burden.

The Teacher does not find satisfaction in giving wealth any more than in gaining it (Eccl. 2:18-21). The satisfaction God in heaven finds in giving somehow escapes the Teacher. He does not seem to consider the possibility of investing wealth or giving it away for a higher purpose.

But God is a giver, and his gifts include food, drink and joy (Eccl. 5:188:15), wealth and possessions (Eccl. 5:196:20), honor (Eccl. 6:2), integrity (Eccl. 7:29), the world we inhabit (Eccl. 11:5) and life itself (Eccl. 12:7). How can we be thankful for these gifts? How can we find joy in giving?

Prayer: “No gifts have we to offer for all your love imparts, but that which you desire now: our humble, thankful hearts!” Amen. (lyrics by Matthias Claudius, translated by Jane Campbell)

For Further Exploration: Read Work is a Chasing After the Wind (Ecclesiastes 1:12-6:9) from the Theology of Work Bible Commentary.

Author: Theology of Work Project

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