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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
New American Standard Version
Bible Study Resources
Nave's Topical Bible - Rich, the; Riches; Thompson Chain Reference - Liberality-Parsimony; Parsimony; Torrey's Topical Textbook - Riches;
Verse 13. Riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt. — This may be the case through various causes:
1. He may make an improper use of them, and lose his health by them.
2. He may join in an unfortunate partnership and lose all.
3. His riches may excite the desire of the robber; and he may spoil him of his goods, and even take away his life.
4. Or, he may leave them to his son, who turns profligate, spends the whole, and ruins both his body and soul. I have seen this again and again.
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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 5:13". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/ecclesiastes-5.html. 1832.
Advice about money (5:8-6:12)
Greed for money is a common social evil and the cause of much suffering. Because of such greed, government officials exploit poor farmers. Each official makes sure he takes as much money as he can, so that after he has passed some of it on to those above him who protect him, he has enough left for himself. As for the farmers, besides losing their profits to corrupt officials, they must also give some of their harvest as a tax to the king (8-9).
Prosperity does not satisfy, because the more people have, the more they want. The rich may lie awake at night worrying about their money, while labourers sleep soundly (10-12). Another frustration for the rich is that they may lose all their money in an unsuccessful business deal. In the end they have nothing to pass on to their children in spite of a lifetime of hard work (13-17). Life is short, and people should use the possessions and the work God has given them to bring themselves enjoyment, not trouble. This is God’s will (18-20).
Two further examples illustrate the deceitfulness of riches. People may have wealth but not be able to enjoy it. Then, when they die, the benefits of their wealth are enjoyed by others, who may not even be relatives (6:1-3). Others may have everything that enables them to enjoy their wealth but they refuse to. They might live to a great age, but die in misery and are forgotten. A baby born dead, never having seen the world’s light, is better off than such people (4-6).
No matter how much people have, they are never satisfied. Why, then, do they waste time and effort trying to improve themselves? They would do better to find enjoyment in what they have than always to want something else (7-9). After all, they cannot change what God has determined. Neither can they argue with God. They do not know what is best for them in this short life, nor do they know what will happen after they die (10-12).
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 5:13". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/ecclesiastes-5.html. 2005.
THE VANITY OF WEALTH ITSELF
"There is a grievous evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept by the owner thereof to his hurt: and those riches perish by evil adventure; and if he hath begotten a son, there is nothing in his hand. As he came forth from his mother's womb, naked shall he go again as he came, and shall take nothing for his labor, which he may carry away in his hand. And this also is a grievous evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that he laboreth for the wind? All his days also he eateth in darkness, and is sore vexed, and hath sickness and wrath."
"There is a grievous evil which I have seen under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 5:13). Poor old Solomon. Here he is grieving his heart out that he can't take any of it with him! The sad fact of there never having been any kind of a U-Haul attachment for funeral coaches was viewed by the great wise man as "a grievous evil." The apostle Paul may have remembered this passage when he wrote, "We brought nothing into the world, for neither can we carry anything out; but having food and covering we shall be therewith content. But they that are minded to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and hurtful lusts, such as drown men in destruction and perdition" (1 Timothy 6:7-9). We may also read in Paul's words an application that he did not state, namely, that "This is exactly what happened to Solomon."
Several of the great tragedies connected with wealth are mentioned here.
(1) "They perish by evil adventure" (Ecclesiastes 5:14). This might occur in a hundred different ways, a false partner, an unwise investment, a natural calamity of some kind, a revolution, a bankruptcy, or something else
(2) "If he hath begotten a son, there is nothing in his hand" (Ecclesiastes 5:14). The inability of the sons of rich men to carry on the successes of their fathers is effectively demonstrated continually in the daily newspapers.
"Nothing ... which he may carry away in his hand" (Ecclesiastes 5:15). Oh yes we take something with us when we die; but it is invisible, `nothing in our cold dead hand.' "We take with us our character and our conscience." We take with us those treasures which we have laid up "in heaven" (Matthew 6:20-21). We shall also take with us (in the sense that we shall not lose them) those "friends" whom we have made by the proper use of our wealth, wicked as it is, and who, according to our Lord's promise, "Shall receive us into the eternal habitations." (Luke 16:9, Revised Standard Version).
One of the deacons in Sherman, Texas, a brother Travis, many years ago wrote a poem that had this line: "All you can hold in your cold dead hand is what you have given away." The wisest man who ever lived did not know this; and it emphasizes the truth that Christians are exceedingly privileged and blessed. Wiser that Solomon? Certainly; because just as Jesus explained that `the least in God's kingdom' is greater that the greatest man who ever lived, namely, John the Baptist (Matthew 11:11-12); in that same way, `the least in the kingdom of God,' is wiser than the wisest man who ever lived, namely, Solomon.
"What profit hath he that laboreth for the wind" (Ecclesiastes 5:16)? See comment on Ecclesiastes 5:15, above, which tells how the rich man indeed may profit magnificently, if he will do it Jesus' way.
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 5:13". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/ecclesiastes-5.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
Keep your foot when you go to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they do not consider the evil that they do ( Ecclesiastes 5:1 ).
When you go into the house of God, listen. Be more ready to hear.
Don't be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and you are upon the earth: therefore let your words be few ( Ecclesiastes 5:2 ).
And now he's talking about going in the house of God and making all kinds of promises and vows to God. "Oh, God, I'm going to serve You. Oh, God, I'm going to put you first in my life. Oh, God," and making all these promises. He said, "Keep your mouth shut. Don't do a lot of talking. Listen. For God is there. He's in heaven. He hears what you're saying. So don't be hasty to utter anything."
For a dream comes through the multitude of business; and a fool's voice is known by the multitude of his words. Now when you vow a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he has no pleasure in fools: pay what you have vowed. It is better that you should not vow, than that you should vow and not pay. Don't allow your mouth to cause your flesh to sin ( Ecclesiastes 5:3-6 );
All of the broken promises that we have made to God because we didn't have enough sense to just listen and keep our mouth shut when we came into the house of God. And so we make these rash promises. These vows before the Lord. And then we break them. Better not to vow. You see, the vow always makes me feel better. Because I get sort of satisfied, I promised God I'm going to give Him everything, you know. All I have belongs to God. God, you can have it all. And I feel relieved of my guilt of amassing things, because after all, it all belongs to God. I gave it to Him. Now He never has a chance to use it. But when I die, who is it going to go to? "Suffer not your mouth to cause your flesh to sin."
neither say you before the angel, that it was an error ( Ecclesiastes 5:6 ):
Oh, I didn't really mean that.
wherefore why should God become angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of your hands? For in the multitude of dreams and in many words there is also divers vanities: but reverence God ( Ecclesiastes 5:6-7 ).
For if you see the oppression of the poor, and the violent perverting of judgment and the justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regards; and there be higher than they ( Ecclesiastes 5:8 ).
God is higher than man. If you see these things, just know that there is one who is higher.
Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: and the king himself is served by the field. Now he that loves silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loves abundance with increase: this also is vanity ( Ecclesiastes 5:9-10 ).
Jesus said a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things that he possesses. If you love silver, you'll never be satisfied. If you love abundance, you'll never be satisfied by the abundance.
When goods increase, they are increased that eat them ( Ecclesiastes 5:11 ):
So Solomon had more goods, but he had more people eating them.
and what good is it to the owners thereof, except that you get to watch them eat? ( Ecclesiastes 5:11 )
I mean, I've got all of these goods, but it takes so many servants to keep all of these cattle. Takes so many shepherds to watch over all these. I got to feed them all. So I've got all these, but what good is it? You get to watch everybody eat it up, you know. All my wives and all my kids sitting there eating, and all the servants, all eating, so. So you have a lot, so what? You know. What good is it to you? You can only eat so much. You can only sleep in one bed. I mean, you know, you can only take care of your own needs, and after that, whatever you have, you just watch others eat it up.
The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eats little or much: but the abundance of the rich won't allow him to sleep ( Ecclesiastes 5:12 ).
The guy is out there laboring hard, he really sleeps sound. But yet this guy has so many riches he's lying there in the pillow, "Now tomorrow I better take the stock out of that one, looks like it's going down. Better invest in this, oh, I wonder, would that be wise?" And all night long he's mulling over what he's going to be doing tomorrow to get more riches. And the abundance of his possessions won't allow him to sleep. He lies there pounding the pillow all night. Figuring out. So how sweet is the sleep of the laboring man.
There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt. But those riches perish by evil travail: and he begetteth a son, there is nothing in his hand. And as he came forth out of his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, he shall take nothing of his labor, which he may carry away in his hand ( Ecclesiastes 5:13-15 ).
Man, when you die, you're not going to take anything with you. You're going to leave it all.
And this also is a sore evil, in all the points as he came, so he's going to go: so what profit has he of all that which he labored for to the wind? For all of the days he eats in darkness, and he has much sorrow and wrath in his sickness. Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all of his labor that he has taken under the sun all of the days of his life, which God gives him: for it is his portion ( Ecclesiastes 5:16-18 ).
In other words, enjoy it now, because, man, that's your portion. That's it. Now, how different this is than what Jesus said concerning our riches. He said, "Lay not up for yourself treasures on earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt and decay, thieves break through and steal. Lay up for yourself treasures in heaven" ( Matthew 6:19-20 ). There is a way by which you can transfer your treasures into eternal treasures. And Jesus encourages us towards that. You can exchange your currency for that which is current in heaven.
Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God. For he shall not much remember the days of his life; because God answers him in the joy of his heart ( Ecclesiastes 5:19-20 ). "
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 5:13". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/ecclesiastes-5.html. 2014.
The effect of misfortune 5:13-17
The Hebrew expression translated "bad investment" (Ecclesiastes 5:14) refers to any misfortune that results in the loss of wealth. Striving to hoard the fruits of labor is futile, because any misfortune can overtake one and reduce him or her to poverty-if God allows it. Death itself is such a misfortune that overtakes everyone eventually and robs him of his wealth. No one can take the fruits of his labor with him when he dies. Therefore Solomon concluded that we really gain nothing of truly long-term value from our labor. Ecclesiastes 5:17 pictures the miserly workaholic. One example is Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
The way to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor 5:18-6:9
Again Solomon urged the enjoyment of life (Ecclesiastes 5:18; cf. Ecclesiastes 2:24-26; Ecclesiastes 3:12-13; Ecclesiastes 3:22), but he warned of some obstacles to that enjoyment. Solomon was not advocating hedonism but the simple enjoyment of life day by day (Ecclesiastes 5:18). In other words, he recommended that we take some time to enjoy the beautiful experiences of life as we travel down its path. Seize the day (Lat. carpe diem)! Smell the roses!
However, not everyone can enjoy life for one reason or another, even though one may be wealthy (Ecclesiastes 6:1-2). This problem "weighs heavily on men" (NIV, Ecclesiastes 5:1; better than NASB "is prevalent among men"). Only in heaven will we find the solution to why this has been the earthly portion of various individuals. A miscarried baby (Ecclesiastes 5:3) is better off, in that it has not experienced as much sorrow as the rich man who could not enjoy his wealth. The "one place" (Ecclesiastes 5:6) is the grave.
"Better to miscarry at birth than to miscarry throughout life." [Note: Eaton, p. 106.]
Solomon’s final word of counsel was to be content with what you have (Ecclesiastes 5:8-9; cf. Hebrews 13:5). This is the last of nine times the phrase "striving after wind" occurs (cf. Ecclesiastes 1:14; Ecclesiastes 1:17; Ecclesiastes 2:11; Ecclesiastes 2:17; Ecclesiastes 2:26; Ecclesiastes 4:4; Ecclesiastes 4:6; Ecclesiastes 4:16). It opened and now closes the section of the book dealing with the ultimate futility of human achievement (Ecclesiastes 1:12 to Ecclesiastes 6:9).
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 5:13". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/ecclesiastes-5.html. 2012.
There is a sore evil [which] I have seen under the sun,.... Or "an evil sickness" m. A sinful disease in the person with whom it is found, and very disagreeable to others to behold; it is enough to make one sick to see it; and what he is about to relate he himself was an eyewitness of:
[namely], riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt; laid up in barns and granaries, as the fruits of the earth; or in chests and coffers, as gold and silver, for the use and service of the owners of them; and which yet have been to their real injury; being either used by them in a luxurious and intemperate way, so have brought diseases on their bodies, and damnation to their souls; or not used at all for their own good, or the good of others, which brings the curse of God upon them, to their ruin and destruction, both here and hereafter: and oftentimes so it is, and which no doubt had fallen under the observation of Solomon, that some who have been great misers, and have hoarded up their substance, without using them themselves, or sharing them with others, have not only been plundered of them, but, for the sake of them, their lives have been taken away in a most barbarous manner, by cutthroats and villains; sometimes by their own servants, nay, even by their own children. Riches ill gotten and ill used are very prejudicial to the owners; and if they are well got, but ill used, or not used at all, greatly hurt the spiritual and eternal state of men; it is a difficult thing for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven, and a covetous man cannot; if a professor, the word he hears is choked and made unprofitable; he errs from the faith, and pierces himself through with many sorrows now, and is liable to eternal damnation hereafter. The Targum interprets it of a man that gathers riches, and does no good with them; but keeps them to himself, to do himself evil in the world to come.
m רעה חולה "morbus malus", Tigurine version, Vatablus.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 5:13". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/ecclesiastes-5.html. 1999.
|The Vanity of Riches.|| |
9 Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field. 10 He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity. 11 When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes? 12 The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep. 13 There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt. 14 But those riches perish by evil travail: and he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand. 15 As he came forth of his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand. 16 And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind? 17 All his days also he eateth in darkness, and he hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness.
Solomon had shown the vanity of pleasure, gaiety, and fine works, of honour, power, and royal dignity; and there is many a covetous worldling that will agree with him, and speak as slightly as he does of these things; but money, he thinks, is a substantial thing, and if he can but have enough of that he is happy. This is the mistake which Solomon attacks, and attempts to rectify, in these verses; he shows that there is as much vanity in great riches, and the lust of the eye about them, as there is in the lusts of the flesh and the pride of life, and a man can make himself no more happy by hoarding an estate than by spending it.
I. He grants that the products of the earth, for the support and comfort of human life, are valuable things (Ecclesiastes 5:9; Ecclesiastes 5:9): The profit of the earth is for all. Man's body, being made of the earth, thence has its maintenance (Job 28:5); and that it has so, and that a barren land is not made his dwelling (as he has deserved for being rebellious, Psalms 68:6), is an instance of God's great bounty to him. There is profit to be got out of the earth, and it is for all; all need it; it is appointed for all; there is enough for all. It is not only for all men, but for all the inferior creatures; the same ground brings grass for the cattle that brings herbs for the service of men. Israel had bread from heaven, angels' food, but (which is a humbling consideration) the earth is our storehouse and the beasts are fellow-commoners with us. The king himself is served of the field, and would be ill served, would be quite starved, without its products. This puts a great honour upon the husbandman's calling, that it is the most necessary of all to the support of man's life. The many have the benefit of it; the mighty cannot live without it; it is for all; it is for the king himself. Those that have an abundance of the fruits of the earth must remember they are for all, and therefore must look upon themselves but as stewards of their abundance, out of which they must give to those that need. Dainty meats and soft clothing are only for some, but the fruit of the earth is for all. And even those that suck the abundance of the seas (Deuteronomy 33:19) cannot be without the fruit of the earth, while those that have a competency of the fruit of the earth may despise the abundance of the seas.
II. He maintains that the riches that are more than these, that are for hoarding, not for use, are vain things, and will not make a man easy or happy. That which our Saviour has said (Luke 12:15), that a man's life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses, is what Solomon here undertakes to prove by various arguments.
1. The more men have the more they would have, Ecclesiastes 5:10; Ecclesiastes 5:10. A man may have but a little silver and be satisfied with it, may know when he has enough and covet no more. Godliness, with contentment, is great gain. I have enough, says Jacob; I have all, and abound, says St. Paul: but, (1.) He that loves silver, and sets his heart upon it, will never think he has enough, but enlarges his desire as hell (Habakkuk 2:5), lays house to house and field to field (Isaiah 5:8), and, like the daughters of the horse-leech, still cries, Give, give. Natural desires are at rest when that which is desired is obtained, but corrupt desires are insatiable. Nature is content with little, grace with less, but lust with nothing. (2.) He that has silver in abundance, and has it increasing ever so fast upon him, yet does not find that it yields any solid satisfaction to his soul. There are bodily desires which silver itself will not satisfy; if a man be hungry, ingots of silver will do no more to satisfy his hunger than clods of clay. Much less will worldly abundance satisfy spiritual desires; he that has ever so much silver covets more, not only of that, but of something else, something of another nature. Those that make themselves drudges to the world are spending their labour for that which satisfies not (Isaiah 55:2), which fills the belly, but will never fill the soul, Ezekiel 7:19.
2. The more men have the more occasion they have for it, and the more they have to do with it, so that it is as broad as it is long: When goods increase, they are increased that eat them,Ecclesiastes 5:11; Ecclesiastes 5:11. The more meat the more mouths. Does the estate thrive? And does not the family at the same time grow more numerous and the children grow up to need more? The more men have the better house they must keep, the more servants they must employ, the more guests they must entertain, the more they must give to the poor, and the more they will have hanging on them, for where the carcase is the eagles will be. What we have more than food and raiment we have for others; and then what good is there to the owners themselves, but the pleasure of beholding it with their eyes? And a poor pleasure it is. An empty speculation is all the difference between the owners and the sharers; the owner sees that as his own which those about him enjoy as much of the real benefit of as he; only he has the satisfaction of doing good to others, which indeed is a satisfaction to one who believes what Christ said, that it is more blessed to give than to receive; but to a covetous man, who thinks all lost that goes beside himself, it is a constant vexation to see others eat of his increase.
3. The more men have the more care they have about it, which perplexes them and disturbs their repose, Ecclesiastes 5:12; Ecclesiastes 5:12. Refreshing sleep is as much the support and comfort of this life as food is. Now, (1.) Those commonly sleep best that work hard and have but what they work for: The sleep of the labouring man is sweet, not only because he has tired himself with his labour, which makes his sleep the more welcome to him and makes him sleep soundly, but because he has little to fill his head with care about and so break his sleep. His sleep is sweet, though he eat but little and have but little to eat, for his weariness rocks him asleep; and, though he eat much, yet he can sleep well, for his labour gets him a good digestion. The sleep of the diligent Christian, and his long sleep, is sweet; for, having spent himself and his time in the service of God, he can cheerfully return to God and repose in him as his rest. (2.) Those that have every thing else often fail to secure a good night's sleep. Either their eyes are held waking or their sleeps are unquiet and do not refresh them; and it is their abundance that breaks their sleep and disturbs it, both the abundance of their care (as the rich man's who, when his ground brought forth plentifully, thought within himself, What shall I do?Luke 12:17) and the abundance of what they eat and drink which overcharges the heart, makes them sick, and so hinders their repose. Ahasuerus, after a banquet of wine, could not sleep; and perhaps consciousness of guilt, both in getting and using what they have, breaks their sleep as much as any thing. But God gives his beloved sleep.
4. The more men have the more danger they are in both of doing mischief and of having mischief done them (Ecclesiastes 5:13; Ecclesiastes 5:13): There is an evil, a sore evil, which Solomon himself had seen under the sun, in this lower world, this theatre of sin and woe--riches left for the owners thereof (who have been industrious to hoard them and keep them safely) to their hurt; they would have been better without them. (1.) Their riches do them hurt, make them proud, secure, and in love with the world, draw away their hearts from God and duty, and make it very difficult for them to enter into the kingdom of heaven, nay, help to shut them out of it. (2.) They do hurt with their riches, which not only put them into a capacity of gratifying their own lusts and living luxuriously, but give them an opportunity of oppressing others and dealing hardly with them. (3.) Often they sustain hurt by their riches. They would not be envied, would not be robbed, if they were not rich. It is the fat beast that is led first to the slaughter. A very rich man (as one observes) has sometimes been excepted out of a general pardon, both as to life and estate, merely on account of his vast and overgrown estate; so riches often take away the life of the owners thereof,Proverbs 1:19.
5. The more men have the more they have to lose, and perhaps they may lose it all, Ecclesiastes 5:14; Ecclesiastes 5:14. Those riches that have been laid up with a great deal of pains, and kept with a great deal of care, perish by evil travail, by the very pains and care which they take to secure and increase them. Many a one has ruined his estate by being over-solicitous to advance it and make it more, and has lost all by catching at all. Riches are perishing things, and all our care about them cannot make them otherwise; they make themselves wings and fly away. He that thought he should have made his son a gentleman leaves him a beggar; he begets a son, and brings him up in the prospect of an estate, but, when he dies, leaves it under a charge of debt as much as it is worth, so that there is nothing in his hand. This is a common case; estates that made a great show do not prove what they seemed, but cheat the heir.
6. How much soever men have when they die, they must leave it all behind them (Ecclesiastes 5:15; Ecclesiastes 5:16): As he came forth of his mother's womb naked, so shall he return; only as his friends, when he came naked into the world, in pity to him, helped him with swaddling-clothes, so, when he goes out, they help him with grave-clothes, and that is all. See Job 1:21; Psalms 49:17. This is urged as a reason why we should be content with such things as we have, 1 Timothy 6:7. In respect of the body we must go as we came; the dust shall return to the earth as it was. But sad is our case if the soul return as it came, for we were born in sin, and if we die in sin, unsanctified, we had better never have been born; and that seems to be the case of the worldling here spoken of, for he is said to return in all points as he came, as sinful, as miserable, and much more so. This is a sore evil; he thinks it so whose heart is glued to the world, that he shall take nothing of his labour which he may carry away in his hand; his riches will not go with him into another world nor stand him in any stead there. If we labour in religion, the grace and comfort we get by that labour we may carry away in our hearts, and shall be the better for it to eternity; that is meat that endures. But if we labour only for the world, to fill our hands with that, we cannot take that away with us; we are born with our hands griping, but we die with them extended, letting go what we held fast. So that, upon the whole matter, he may well ask, What profit has he that has laboured for the wind? Note, Those that labour for the world labour for the wind, for that which has more sound than substance, which is uncertain, and always shifting its point, unsatisfying, and often hurtful, which we cannot hold fast, and which, if we take up with it as our portion, will no more feed us than the wind,Hosea 12:1. Men will see that they have laboured for the wind when at death they find the profit of their labour is all gone, gone like the wind, they know not whither.
7. Those that have much, if they set their hearts upon it, have not only uncomfortable deaths, but uncomfortable lives too, Ecclesiastes 5:17; Ecclesiastes 5:17. This covetous worldling, that is so bent upon raising an estate, all his days eats in darkness and much sorrow, and it is his sickness and wrath; he has not only no pleasure of his estate, nor any enjoyment of it himself, for he eats the bread of sorrow (Psalms 127:2), but a great deal of vexation to see others eat of it. His necessary expenses make him sick, make him fret, and he seems as if he were angry that himself and those about him cannot live without meat. As we read the last clause, it intimates how ill this covetous worldling can bear the common and unavoidable calamities of human life. When he is in health he eats in darkness, always dull with care and fear about what he has; but, if he be sick, he has much sorrow and wrath with his sickness; he is vexed that his sickness takes him off from his business and hinders him in his pursuits of the world, vexed that all his wealth will not give him any ease or relief, but especially terrified with the apprehensions of death (which his diseases are the harbingers of), of leaving this world and the things of it behind him, which he has set his affections upon, and removing to a world he has made no preparation for. He has not any sorrow after a godly sort, does not sorrow to repentance, but he has sorrow and wrath, is angry at the providence of God, angry at his sickness, angry at all about him, fretful and peevish, which doubles his affliction, which a good man lessens and lightens by patience and joy in his sickness.
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Ecclesiastes 5:13". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/ecclesiastes-5.html. 1706.
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13