PHOTO CAPTION: “Mammon” by George Frederic Watts (1885) is a painting in the collection of Tate Britain, London, England (public domain).

The fourth chapter of Ecclesiastes ended with a recommendation from the teacher that companionship and fellowship with God gives meaning to people’s lives. The fifth chapter of Solomon’s examination of the meaning of life is a commentary on the futility of wealth.

Ecclesiastes provides a first basis for Matthew 6:24, where Christians are informed that they cannot serve two masters – one cannot serve God and money. Solomon speaks of the futility of wealth as far as meaning is concerned. In modern times, there are many stories of celebrities, professional athletes and wealthy people who are consumed by the costs of those around them. Solomon shows that this situation is not new. He says that when goods increase, there always appear more people to consume them.

The pursuit of wealth and the accumulation of goods are vanities against which the ecclesiastical master warns us. But the chapter ends by emphasizing the joys that God gives us in life. Whether we are rich or poor, powerful or oppressed, when we appreciate what God has given us, we do not dwell on the sorrows we have experienced or the brevity of our earthly existence.

Ecclesiastes 5: 10-11

ten He who loves money will not be satisfied with money; nor the one who loves abundance with increase: it is also vanity. 11 When goods increase, they increase those who eat them: and what good is there for their owners, if not to see them with their own eyes?