“A man may have a hundred children and live many years; yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity and does not receive proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. It comes without meaning, it departs in darkness, and in darkness its name is shrouded. Though it never saw the sun or knew anything, it has more rest than does that man— even if he lives a thousand years twice over but fails to enjoy his prosperity. Do not all go to the same place?” Ecclesiastes 6:3-6
Solomon’s tale of woe continues. He speaks now of a man with a hundred children (meaning that he had economic security and that his name is certain to live on after he is gone), and he himself lives many years—let’s say that he lives for 2000 years! Surely that man should count himself happy and blessed. Not so fast. What if that man cannot enjoy his prosperity and what if he doesn’t have a decent burial? Well, then, it’s would have been better if he had never been born.
What’s going on here? This man is rich, blessed with children, and he lives to a ripe old age. Yet he doesn’t enjoy what he has and he dies either in misery or in shame or is somehow completely forgotten. Even his children don’t care enough to give him a decent burial.
Solomon means to drive home the point that satisfaction is a gift from God. Contentment is a precious gift that not everyone receives. A person can have it all—and still be miserable and unfulfilled.
Jesus told a parable to drive home this very point (Luke 12:13-21). He spoke of a rich man who decided to expand his barns because he had so much grain that he couldn’t store it all. Then he uttered these famous words: “And I’ll say to myself, ‘’You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry’” (v. 19). Little did he know that he would die that very night and someone else would own all his wealth.
I believe if Jesus spoke to a group of contemporary Christians struggling against materialism, this is what he would say: “If you want to invest your money, find the investment that will give you the most security and the best rate of return over the longest period of time. There is such an investment open to you. But it’s not on earth. It’s in heaven.” (Matthew 6:19-24). To “store up treasure in heaven” means to live so that when you finally get to heaven, you won’t be disappointed with what you see. Those who have invested only in this world will be paupers in the next. Don’t let it happen to you. What are you sending ahead to heaven? What will you find when you pass through the Jordan River on your way to the Celestial City?
O Lord, may I learn to value things in relation to eternity and to count as greater worth the prosperity of my soul then my prosperity in this world. Amen.