The Futility of Living for Prosperity

Ecclesiastes 6:1-12


Jerry A Collins


® Will accumulating possessions bring me happiness?

What happens to me if I try to get happiness from stuff?

How should I use any prosperity God gives me?

Yesterday our family spent the day with some friends who invited us on their boat in Holland. Lake Michigan was too rough so we spent part of the afternoon cruising Lake Macatawa. While we were cruising the lake and later anchored for lunch, Dave pointed out to me the home of Mr. VanAndel of Amway Corp. There are at least ten homes on his property, and seven 40 ft plus boats docked near his property. The whole complex used to have a restaurant and two hotels which he closed down when he bought the property. The homes are leased to employees and friends to enjoy right at the mouth of the lake as you enter the channel into Lake Michigan. He also pointed out the home of Mr. Prince of Prince Corp. whose widow Elsie still lives there. He also pointed out the home of Rich Devos as we cruised on by. As we were returning to the slip he identified a large home where they had just completed $150,000.00 in landscaping! Prosperity plenty. Abundance and material wealth everywhere. It would be easy for us to declare that prosperity is always good. We, too, have prosperity in our own lives. We may not think so when compared to VanAndel but compared to our neighbor or our lives 10 yrs ago or to the millions in India we have it. Is that a good thing? Solomon in his search for the true meaning and purpose for living cautions us about our view of prosperity. Here is what he has to say.


While searching Solomon discovered a number of Misfortunes that visit the human race during the course of his life.

A. Heavy Misfortune: This next misfortune is identified as one that weighs heavily upon men vs 1 (cp. 8:6). And what is this weight that weighs heavily on men? That God gives a person prosperity (wealth, possessions, honor) virtually anything his heart desires, without granting him the ability to enjoy any of it vs 2. Prosperity without the divine gift of enjoyment is empty and despairing. Even worse, a stranger, not even someone from the family, joyfully consumes the whole estate. Enjoyment can never come from increased possessions or recognition but as a gift that God must give to you. If God withholds it, no amount of effort is going to extract enjoyment from them. Without Godís permission this person will not participate in the benefits of the wealth God has given to him. Why would God not enable us to enjoy if He gives the ability to have? Read 2:25-26 For to the man who pleases him God gives wisdom, knowledge and joy. Not referring to any level of religious performance but to a life of faith and obedience. To such a person God gives the gift of enjoying whatever he has. How little of how much it may be is a gift poured out and taken gratefully from His hand. Realizing that it is a gift from God.

B. Another Misfortune 3-6: Even if the case were reversed and instead of being childless and prosperous, leaving all to a complete stranger, this same man had (1) abundance of children, and instead of dying, (2) lived many more years, still, if he were not given the divine gift of enjoying it all, death at his birth would have been preferable vs 3. In comparison a stillborn infant at least is free from all of the burdens of the joyless rich man and as such is better off than him 4-5. In contrast to the wealthy manís position is the futility and obscurity of a stillborn who (a) has no meaning (b) disappears (c) forgotten (d) never saw lite of day (e) unknown. And yet the stillborn is better off since it has more rest being free from the toil, anxiety and despair of the prosperous man unable to enjoy his prosperity. By the way, if even the longest life, here 2000 yrs., terminates having yielded no enjoyment, what is the advantage of all those years? While others may have looked on with envious eyes, the years only produced compounded sorrows for this guy. If your ambitions center in this life, you will despair and give your life to folly. Circumstances are too unpredictable for this to not be so. Our prosperity resides in our relationship with Jesus Christ, which is eternal, rather than the assets He gives to us, which not only are temporal, but also may be spent by others.


There is always the danger of a manís desire outstripping his acquisitions vs 7. While a man labors for his basic need, to fill his stomach, his appetite is never satisfied. There is always the need to put more food in our mouths. We can never eat something today and expect to live on it for the next 10 yrs. Our appetite will come calling. No man, be he wise, poor, or rich can satisfy his desires on his own vs 8. Even though a poor man might know how to get along in the world, that is, know how to walk before the living, he too is susceptible to an appetite for more. The recommendation in vs 9, then, is that making do with the prosperity God gives us is better than striving for what we do not have for pursuing that and wishing for that is meaninglessly chasing after the wind! What is it that you are really striving for? Why are you not satisfied with the prosperity God has brot to you? Wealth belongs to God (Psa 24:1; 1 Cor 10:26) and he places it wherever He wishes (1 Sam 2:7). Enjoy it but do not live for it.


A. This plan was in place before we were created. We cannot set aside this divinely ordained connection between temporal prosperity and the dissatisfaction of enjoying it apart from knowing God.

B. It was decreed in view of what man is it is known what man is. God made us, knows what we are like, what will satisfy us and what will not. So God planned that enjoyment cannot be found in our stuff. Jesus even said, A manís life does not consist of the abundance of things which he possesses.

C. This was planned in spite of our arguments against it 10b-11. How are we ever going to change the laws of God? They govern our lives whether we like them or not.

D. We are ignorant of what is best for us to do and of what the future holds vs 12. Who knows what the results of our present choices are going to be? Given our limited, narrow view of life, it is better to be content with whatever prosperity God has given to us and enjoy it while being grateful to God for it here under the sun!

(1) Does your stuff make you more or less dependent on God?

(2) Do you use it or is it something you put money into that just sits there most of the time?

(3) Is it a tool or a toy?

(4) How does it affect the quality of how you use your time?

(5) Does it bring glory to God as use it?