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Sabbath School Lessons on Ecclesiastes
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About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 40 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 6: Rich Man, Poor Man *
Introduction: How do you like your job? How much would you like to
get rich? Would you like to know just the right thing to say at all
times? How much time do you spend thinking about the past and how you
could have done things better? How do you retain your wealth? Let's
work ourselves into our lesson this week because Solomon discusses
these things and more!
- Hasty Words
- Read Ecclesiastes 5:1. What is the relationship between
listening and the sacrifice of fools? (They seem to be the
- When Solomon advises us to listen, is he talking
about hearing? (In part, I think he is talking about
the difference between listening and speaking. But,
the main point is obeying. The idea is that if you
listen to what is said in God's house you will obey.)
- Read Ecclesiastes 5:2-3. The opposite of listening is
talking. What does Solomon tell us about talking in
church? (He suggests that we should be concerned about
talking too much.)
- Just before the main prayer in our worship service,
we have a time when people can share their praises
and their prayer requests. Last week I taught this
Bible class, told the children's story and preached
the sermon. I get to talk (a lot) in church. That
makes me a little hesitant to criticize others who
speak during church - but the praise and prayer
request time often gives me heartburn. Instead of
giving a simple praise or prayer request, some people
stand up so they can be seen (the first sign of
trouble) and then proceed to deliver a mini-sermon on
some topic or a travelogue about their life last
week. I think the message is "look at me!" Do you
agree? Do you think Ecclesiastes 5:2-3 speaks to
- When Solomon says in verse 3 that dreams come as a
result of your worries, what is he saying comes with
a lot of words? (Foolishness. If you hear a person
who has a lot to say, chances are that person is a
- When Solomon calls someone a "fool," what is he
saying? Does he use the term "fool" to mean "stupid?"
(I don't think so. Generally, he is saying these are
people who do not take God seriously. It does not
have to do so much with intelligence as it does with
wisdom - especially God's wisdom.)
- After discussing all of the above, what do you think
is ( Ecclesiastes 5:1) the "sacrifice of fools?" (Read
Matthew 6:5. Insincere, shallow, "look at me,"
worship is the sacrifice of fools.)
- Read Ecclesiastes 5:4-7. Some pastors issue "calls" for
people to promise to do certain things: contribute money
to the church, attend meetings, read the Bible, or pray
for something specific. How seriously should we take these
invitations to promise God to do something specific?
- Will God let you renegotiate your vow?
- Wealth and Justice
- Read Ecclesiastes 5:8-9. What problem is the focus of
these verses? (Injustice.)
- What is the cause of the injustice? What does the
Bible mean when it speaks of "one official is eyed by
a higher one?" (The official's decision is not based
on the facts of the case before him, but rather on
the interest of other officials and his personal
- Could this kind of thing happen in the United States?
(Direct bribery of judges seems very rare. But, in
some states judges are elected. Some labor unions
promote the election of judges by direct campaign
contributions and the promotion of their judicial
candidacy in union literature. Assume I bring a case
before such a judge in which I am representing an
employee who objects to his compulsory union "dues"
being used for politics against his will. A ruling in
favor of my client will reduce the fund of money from
which the judge could obtain future campaign support.
Will this judge consider only the facts before him?
- Notice that verse 9 says "the increase of the land is
taken by all." Is this appropriate, or is this a
conflict of interest? (Solomon may be speaking about
taxes - in which case he says that taxes fund all
levels of government - which is not a conflict of
- Read Ecclesiastes 5:10-11. Do rich people have more money
to spare than poor people?
- The answer would seem to be obvious:"yes." But, how
do you understand Ecclesiastes 5:11 "As goods
increase, so do those who consume them?" Is Solomon
saying that rich people are fat? (He is saying that
rich people have more "needs." The old saying, "the
more you earn the more you spend" is generally true.
People who live in big, new homes and drive expensive
cars are probably tied down with huge monthly house
and car payments. They have no more "disposable"
income then when they were a lot poorer.)
- What is the "real" benefit of having money?
(According to Solomon, you are still working hard for
more wealth, you have little disposable money because
you spent it on more stuff, so your only benefit is
to gaze with satisfaction on what you own.)
- Read Ecclesiastes 5:12. How does money affect your sleep?
- Read Proverbs 10:15. Wouldn't you sleep better in a
fortified city? (The commentary, "Be Satisfied"
quotes boxing legend, Joe Louis, as saying, "I don't
like money actually, but it quiets my nerves." There
are three lines of thought here. First, the laborer
sleeps well because he worked hard during the day.
Second, the rich man sleeps poorly because he is not
engaged in physical labor, instead he is awake
worrying about keeping (or likely increasing) his
money. Third, trusting in money is not as reassuring
as trusting in God. Even the poor man can trust in
- Read Ecclesiastes 5:13-14. Solomon sees a "grievous evil"
in these two sets of facts. What do you see?
- What assumptions do you need to see evil in this?
(Solomon's point is that money should benefit its
owner. Unfortunately, money can end up harming its
owner - and that is a great evil. Or, it can be lost
by its owner, and that, too is difficult.)
- Read Ecclesiastes 5:15-17. What causes this fellow to be
so frustrated that he eats in the dark and feels angry and
frustrated? (That he cannot take his money into the next
- If you were the financial advisor to this frustrated
guy, what would you advise? (Read Luke 12:33.)
- Conclusions on Life
- Read Ecclesiastes 5:18. Have you ever heard the expression
"These were the cards that life dealt me?"
- Would Solomon agree with the idea behind that
expression? (When Solomon says that he has concluded
that we should eat, drink and find satisfaction with
our work, he bases this on the fact that "this is
[the person's God-given] lot." Solomon says God has
assigned us this role, and we should accept it.)
- Read Ecclesiastes 5:19. Can everyone accept their lot in
life? (No. To be able to accept your life and be happy in
your work is a God-given gift.)
- Read Ecclesiastes 5:20. Last week we mentioned that
Socrates proclaimed: "The unexamined life is not worth
living." We agreed that it was good to examine our life.
Is Solomon saying that it is not good to examine our life
or reflect on our past? (If we enjoy our life today, we
will not have to dwell in the past for our happiness. If
our past was unhappy, we will not think about it too much
if we enjoy joy and peace today.)
- Friend, would you like to be happy and satisfied? Solomon
says this is a gift from God. Why not turn your heart to
God today and seek that gift from Him?
- Next week: "Striving After the Wind."
* Copr. 2007, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.