Reading the Word
Ecclesiastes 5:13–17 (ESV)
13 There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt,
14 and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand.
15 As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand.
16 This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go, and what gain is there to him who toils for the wind?
17 Moreover, all his days he eats in darkness in much vexation and sickness and anger.
Understanding and Applying the Word
These verses describe one who was able to work and accumulate wealth, but it was all lost in a bad venture. Not only did he lose his wealth, but the man is a father to a son whom he must provide for and there will be no inheritance. The man will leave the world just as he came into it: with nothing. Solomon asks the question, “What gain is there to him who toils for the wind?”
We are not told the specifics about how this man lost his wealth. We must be careful not to assume the man squandered it or is somehow guilty of wasting it. The text does not tell us that. We are only told that it was a “bad venture”. The man invested his money in something that did not work out. We can imagine many ways in our world today where this could happen. We could lose our wealth if our stocks crash or if our business venture fails or many other ways. The point is that we may spend great time and effort to accumulate only to have it all disappear very quickly. We must be careful not to build our meaning and purpose around wealth that is fleeting. Doing so is chasing after the wind.
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