Ecclesiastes 5:11-20

Ecclesiastes 5:11

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?


Then Solomon brings to light another situation that the greedy man would hate.  When he increases his wealth, there will be many more who will come and enjoy his wealth.  They will come and eat his food which he would have to buy extra and then he would have to hire more servants thus cutting further into his wealth.  When these people keep eating his food and using his material goods, then how does the owner benefit?  All he can do is watch them consume his provisions.  When his wealth increases all he can do is look at it.  I have been a coin collector since I was 5 years old and I am familiar with the 1804 silver dollar.  The last auction it sold for around four million dollars.  So basically a person paid four million dollars just to have the privilege of looking at the coin because what else can you do with it?  Basically, something has value only to the point of what someone is willing to pay for it.


Ecclesiastes 5:12

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.


A person who labors for a living will have the ability to have a good night’s sleep and it won’t matter whether he has enough money to buy food or does not have enough money to buy a needed amount.  The rich man does not sleep well because he will always be worrying about his wealth and if he will lose it or not.  So the rich man is robbed of needed sleep because of his concern for his wealth.  When too many things affect us during the day, it will affect us at night when we try to sleep and sleep is one of the most important things a human needs to maintain good health.


Ecclesiastes 5:13

There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt.


There is a double hurt which having wealth can cause and that is both their temporal destruction and their eternal destruction.  Riches in and of itself is neutral and cannot harm but when wealth gets into the hands of a person who cannot handle wealth or even an evil person, they may start making wrong decisions or they may use their wealth to gain more wealth in a criminal manner, both of which can cause their physical demise.  Then the other hurt which the rich man faces is that they use their wealth as their security not even considering that wealth could not keep them out of hell.  And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.  (Matthew 19:24)  Jesus commented on this very situation that rich men are not concerned about anything but their wealth and are willing to go to hell to keep them, even though they cannot take anything with them.  There have been Christians who have been very wealthy and used their wealth to further the kingdom of God on this earth.  A saved person will use wisdom in handling wealth but an unsaved person may become reckless in handling their wealth.  The worst cases are lottery winners who win millions and then in a few short years they are bankrupt and in debt.  Family members have actually killed other family members over lottery winnings.  See my article:


Ecclesiastes 5:14

But those riches perish by evil travail: and he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand.


Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;  (1 Timothy 6:17)  Maintaining wealth in this world is never guaranteed.  Riches are uncertain and a man may make wrong decisions in business or he may invest in evil dealings like trying to increase his wealth by buying and selling contraband such as drugs.  If a man loses all his wealth in any manner and has a son, he will not have anything to leave him as an inheritance.  Sometimes that is a good thing as it forces the rich kid to go out and fend for himself thus breaking dependence on the parents.  The bottom line is that parents do want to leave an inheritance to their children but bad judgment can eliminate that inheritance.


Ecclesiastes 5:15

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.


And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.  (Job 1:21)  When Job lost all his wealth and his family, he stated the same principle that Solomon did (maybe he got it from Job since Job was written about 1,000 years before Ecclesiastes).  No matter how rich a man is or how poor a man is, no matter how hard he labored in his life, he may never carry anything with him to his grave.  The old adage of “there are no U-Hauls behind any hearse” is truer than people want to believe.


You talk about a miser wanting to take it with him.  I heard a comical story some years ago about a miser and his wise wife.  The miser had stated that when he died he wanted to take all his money with him and his wife was to place the money in his casket with him.  The funeral came and went and his lawyer told his wife that she did not fulfill the instructions in the will by placing all his money in the casket.  She replied “I sure did comply, I wrote him a check.”  Good for her!  This was a true story.


Ecclesiastes 5:16

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?


This verse builds upon the last verse by strengthening the reality of life.  Just as a person comes into this world which is naked and with nothing, they shall leave the same way no matter how much wealth they have accrued or how much they have labored.  They will not be able to take anything they labored for out of this world.  Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.  (Proverbs 23:5)  All labor and wealth finally ends up staying on earth and no one can hold on to any of it because the wealth is like an eagle which flies toward heaven.  Eagles have been seen soaring as high as 20,000 feet (6096 Meters).  Just as we do not know where the wind starts and ends, we do not know where our wealth and labor will eventually wind up but one thing we can be sure of, it won’t be with us.


Ecclesiastes 5:17

All his days also he eateth in darkness, and he hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness.


The rich man is so worried about his wealth that he cannot even enjoy his meals.  Here he is shown eating in the dark, that is, when the sun goes down he eats so this way he will not miss any time during the day doing business.  Coupling this with the fact he cannot sleep can cause much sickness in a person because eating before going to bed is bad for the digestive system plus it can also cause death.  The wrath may be a sickness which he has amassed over the years in gaining wealth and maybe some of his workers did not do well and that caused him to be angry for the money he could have made.  If he has become sick and bedridden then he would also have anger because then he could not fulfill his desires of making money and if his sickness is unto death, then he has to leave it all behind and that would make any miser wrathful.


Ecclesiastes 5:18

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 his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion.


Solomon learning by his intense study plus his personal experiences has finalized his understanding of working for the wind.  He states that a person should buy the necessities of life and enjoy their labors by taking some of their income and using it to buy the good things and do the good things of life which God gives him.  We have already listed some of the things which God gave us that is good for us such as rivers, mountains, hiking, oceans and other natural things the LORD has given us on this earth.  This is the portion of the earthly dwelling that we have and those who are believers have a greater portion or inheritance in Heaven because of their relationship with Christ.  While we are here on earth, it is not sinful to enjoy those things the LORD gave us as long as they do not become an obsession.


Ecclesiastes 5:19

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 labour; this is the gift of God.


The Bible is very clear that there is no such thing as a self-made millionaire as we read here that it is God who gives riches and wealth.  But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.  (Deuteronomy 8:18)  God has decreed that some people on this earth will have the ability to make a lot of money and that includes not only money but his entire estate and all that he owns.  The Lord has also given him the power to trade, sell, and buy any part of his estate which may be conducive to good business practice.  To “eat thereof” is referring to the fact that while the man is alive he has authority over his estate and goods to deal with them as he sees fit.  Solomon states that even the rich man should take his portion and spend some of it to enjoy the things of this earth.  He can also rejoice in his labor by supporting the work of the Lord sending forth the gospel.   Since it is God who gave the wealth, if the man is operating his estate in a godly way, then he should not have to worry about his wealth since God gave it, God can guard it, and God can grab it if a man is operating his estate improperly against the law of God.  All wealth is the gift of God and wealth to a poor man might be the essentials of life plus a little left over to enjoy.


Ecclesiastes 5:20

For he shall not much remember the days of his life; because God answereth him in the joy of his heart.


People do not remember the tedious and toilsome days of their life so that they are vexed in spirit because God has become their joy.  Many times when doing ministry, we never remember the troubles we have when we see the results.  It is the same with this man in this verse, he will not remember the troubles of life in light of his relationship to God.   God has become the joy of his heart which means of his total existence.  Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.  (Nehemiah 8:10)  The joy of the LORD was the strength in the days of Nehemiah and they built the wall in just 52 days.  Hard work is definitely seen as joyful when done for the right reason.  It sounds strange but keeping your eye on the goal makes the effort a little bit easier.