10 He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. 11 When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? 12 Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.
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.
18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. 19 Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. 20 For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.
Three books are attributed to Solomon in the Old Testament and there is a tradition that says that he wrote the Song of Songs as a young man, Proverbs in his middle age, and Ecclesiastes in his old age. If you read them, that makes some sense. These words of Solomon sound like an old man who is looking back on his life with some regret. The Bible says that Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom (I Kings 10:23). His fleet of ships traded all the way down the coast of Africa. His was a massive commercial empire, woven together with many treaties and agreements. It must have been a phenomenal amount of work.
I can almost imagine aged Solomon sitting in his palace and looking out the window at some gardener, a poor fellow who was glad to have a job working at the palace. This man pushed his wheelbarrow along, trimmed the trees, pulled the weeds, and generally did his job. He went home to his humble house where his wife and children greeted him. He was happy. Was Solomon just a little jealous of that gardener who found enjoyment in his life and toil? Does that humble man know a true gift of God which the high and mighty find elusive – contentment with what God has given him? Does Solomon not offer us wisdom for today as well? There are so many ladders to climb – career, education, health, and more. Our Facebook pages and Christmas letters might be just another sort of competitive ladder as we construct narratives of our lives which we imagine will please our circle of friends, neighbors, and acquaintances. But does God really care about all that? Should we? God has given us so much. Does real contentment and true joy start with saying thank you to Him? How would our day be different if we started off by thanking God for our job, our home, our family, our city, our nation, and our congregation?