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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!

  1. Hasty Words

    1. Read Ecclesiastes 5:1. What is the relationship between listening and the sacrifice of fools? (They seem to be the opposite.)

      1. 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.)

    2. 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.)

      1. 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 this?

      2. 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 fool.)

      3. 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.)

      4. 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.)

    3. 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?

      1. Will God let you renegotiate your vow?

  2. Wealth and Justice

    1. Read Ecclesiastes 5:8-9. What problem is the focus of these verses? (Injustice.)

      1. 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 self-interest.)

      2. 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?

      3. 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 interest.)

    2. Read Ecclesiastes 5:10-11. Do rich people have more money to spare than poor people?

      1. 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.)

      2. 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.)

    3. Read Ecclesiastes 5:12. How does money affect your sleep? (Adversely.)

      1. 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 God.)

    4. Read Ecclesiastes 5:13-14. Solomon sees a "grievous evil" in these two sets of facts. What do you see?

      1. 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.)

    5. 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 world.)

      1. If you were the financial advisor to this frustrated guy, what would you advise? (Read Luke 12:33.)

  3. Conclusions on Life

    1. Read Ecclesiastes 5:18. Have you ever heard the expression "These were the cards that life dealt me?"

      1. 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.)

    2. 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.)

    3. 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.)

    4. 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?

  4. 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.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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