Series: Under the Sun: The Book of Ecclesiastes
The Better, Man?
August 23, 2020 | John Ewart
Passage: Ecclesiastes 6:1-12
As we move forward into this next chapter as a church. please remember the 3 D’s:
We must be defined by the Word of God
We must be devoted to prayer,
and…We must be totally dependent upon the Holy Spirit.
There is a proverb in the business world that the man who takes no inventories
finally becomes bankrupt.
This morning the book of Ecclesiastes will continue to aid us in taking some
One came for Roy Riegel when he picked up a fumble during the 1929 Rose
Bowl and ran as fast as he could… in the wrong direction. His mistake set up the
winning touchdown for the opposition. Chris Webber’s defining moment came
when he called time out during the 1993 NCAA basketball finals, only to
discover his team had no time outs remaining. Speed skater Dan Jansen’s life
changed forever when at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, he was determined
to win a gold medal for his sister Jane, who had died of leukemia just hours
before. Rounding the last turn, the blade of his skate caught the ice and sent him
skidding into the wall. He fell again in his next race; he also finished out of
medal contention in two races later in Albertville in 1992. Defining moments.
What happened to Roy Riegel? I don’t know. Perhaps he finally forgot his
blunder or went on to somehow use it to his, or someone else’s advantage.
Chris Webber established Time Out Inc. a non-profit agency “to help kids who
need a time out to get going again.” He was able not only to laugh about his
famous blunder but use it as a springboard to help others. And Dan Jansen? He
wears a gold medal from the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, in
which he won in world-record time in a 1,000-meter race no one expected him to
take. Millions of viewers watched as he skated to the side of the rink, embraced
his wife, and took his infant daughter in his arms to begin a long-awaited
Olympic victory lap. His baby daughter’s name? Jane, named after his sister in
her memory. Defining moments.
Life is ripe with moments like these.
Moments that can make us or break us, depending on our perspective.
Above or below the sun.
Solomon took some inventories in Ecclesiastes 6.
He had to check perspective.
1 There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among
men: 2 A man to whom God has given riches and wealth and honor, so that he
lacks nothing for himself of all he desires; yet God does not give him power to
eat of it, but a foreigner consumes it. This is vanity, and it is an evil affliction.
3 If a man begets a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of
his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with goodness, or indeed he has
no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better than he 4 for it comes in vanity and
departs in darkness, and its name is covered with darkness. 5 Though it has not
seen the sun or known anything, this has more rest than that man, 6 even if he
lives a thousand years twice but has not seen goodness. Do not all go to one
I. Without God, Our Wealth Cannot Satisfy
The king sees a problem that is prevalent or common among us all.
We all face this or will face it.
It is not exclusive to a select few.
It affects many.
We should, therefore, pay close attention.
He continues a thought from chapter 5.
It is pitiful to have, but not be able to enjoy, what you have.
Life outside of God’s Mission and purpose has no lasting value.
It is possible to have the very best this world can offer without having any
That is because true satisfaction comes from the Giver not the gifts.
To enjoy only the gifts is idolatry.
Warren Weirsbe writes: Enjoyment without God is merely entertainment and it
doesn’t satisfy. But enjoyment with God is enrichment and it brings true joy and
And note just how blessed we can be.
v. 2 A man to whom God has given riches and wealth and honor, so that he lacks
nothing for himself of all he desires
We can have it all.
And still miss it all.
A person who is blessed by God but does not recognize what he has as a blessing
from God, is going to have a hard time.
Compared back to 5:20, there will be a focus on the temporal here and now and not
a focus on the long-term eternal joy it should produce.
To be blessed by God and not acknowledge it as being from God, is a dangerous
rejection of grace.
yet God does not give him power to eat of it, but a foreigner consumes it.
“No power to eat of it” = no way to enjoy the blessing.
It is taken away by a foreigner and consumed.
Think of the Old Testament stories and testimonies of other nations conquering
them and even carrying them off into exile.
Foreigners hurt. They afflict.
They take away our hopes.
Life’s wealth will not be enough by itself.
We need more to life than what we can know and experience under the sun.
The king even goes into deeper detail in v. 3-6 as he gives various signs of blessing
in this life.
It was a sign of blessing to have children and a long life in biblical times.
But without God they become futile.
No matter how long we live we cannot avoid the inevitable – death.
This book should really lead us to have compassion for those without God!
People who have all the world can offer may seem impressive, have it all, and even
have the envy of other humans, but in reality, as the prophet Jeremiah said, they
may just be bushes in the desert.
5 Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his
strength, whose heart departs from the Lord. 6 For he shall be like a shrub in the
desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places
in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited.
So even great wealth, long life, or lots of kids cannot make up for a life without the
So much so, he says, it would be better to not have the life at all.
but his soul is not satisfied
Soul= nephesh= the spiritual, the eternal.
The appetite of the nephesh is not satisfied.
All this wealth but no eternal enjoyment from it.
I have mentioned that I have helped out on cattle ranches years ago and still
have relatives who run cattle. Every once in a while, a cow wanders off and gets
lost. Ask a rancher how a cow gets lost, and he might reply: “The cow starts
nibbling on a tuft of green grass, and when it finishes, it looks ahead to the next
tuft of green grass and starts nibbling on that one, and then it nibbles on a tuft of
green grass right next to a hole in the fence. It then sees another tuft of green
grass on the other side of the fence, so it nibbles on that one and then goes on to
the next tuft. The next thing you know the cow has nibbled itself into being lost.”
Be careful or you will nibble yourself away from the Mission of God and being the
disciple, He seeks for you to be.
Many keep moving from one tuft of activity or opinion to another, never noticing
how far they have gone away from the truth.
We must be cautious that we are not being controlled by our definitions of self-
In our new creation, we are made for a higher purpose.
25 He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will
keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I
am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will
honor. 27 “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me
from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify
Your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it
and will glorify it again.”
Even in the midst of life’s challenges.
Challenges that are unique during this time.
Our purpose has not changed.
Our focus must not change.
Lord, how can you use, the difficulties, the inevitabilities, along with the great
blessings in my life, to bring you glory?
Well, the king goes on…
7 All the labor of man is for his mouth, and yet the soul is not satisfied. 8 For
what more has the wise man than the fool? What does the poor man have,
who knows how to walk before the living? 9 Better is the sight of the eyes than
the wandering of desire. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind.
II. Without God, Our Work And Wisdom Cannot Satisfy
He moves from wealth to wisdom.
There are a series of three proverbs tied together here.
Work apart from the redeeming work of God is useless.
It provides no lasting satisfaction because the wrong goal is pursued.
Our appetite motivates us but we are never fully satisfied.
In v. 8 we see though that even those with wisdom can also be bound to their
Even the appetite for knowledge can lead to vanity.
Robert Davidson, commentator: It is as if Koheleth is casting his eyes over all
sorts and conditions of men – rich and poor, the wise and the fools – and saying
to us that not one of them has found the key to unlock the innermost secrets of
10 For he sees wise men die; likewise the fool and the senseless person perish,
and leave their wealth to others. 11 Their inner thought is that their houses will
last forever, their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after
their own names.
We all face the same inevitable end.
But we do not have to face it the same way.
In v. 9 we see we must learn to be content with what we have within God’s plan
Scripture warns us not to simply use our senses or feelings to determine the good
I know folks driven by their emotions.
It’s like they ride a roller coaster in life and base truth upon how they feel or what
Experiential and/or emotional theology is a slipper slope indeed.
We need more of an anchor than that!
I John 2:16
16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the
pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.
The wanderings of desire can lead you down many paths.
Some are so caught up in the wandering, they are missing the purpose of today.
He is saying in v. 9, to come to terms with reality.
Learn contentment with what God has blessed you.
We cry over things we can’t have, but we might cry twice as hard if we had
Two little teardrops were floating down the river of life. One teardrop asked the
other, “Who are you?” “I am a teardrop from a girl who loved a man and lost
him. But who are you!” The first teardrop replied, “I am a teardrop from the girl
who got him.”
Life is like that.
11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am,
to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.
Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry,
both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who
We love to quote that 13 th verse but often do so perhaps, incompletely.
We use it to claim we can achieve anything.
Paul shared it to speak of the contentment God had given him in everything.
What I “can do through Christ” is learn to be content.
The ability to enjoy life comes from the Giver of life Himself.
It is a matter of character not circumstance.
“Content” = self-contained, adequate, needing nothing.
Paul carried all the resources within his walk with God for facing life.
A well-known story to many occurred in 1636. Amid the darkness of the Thirty
Year’s War, a German pastor, Martin Rinkart, is said to have buried five
thousand of his parishioners in one year, an average of fifteen a day. His parish
was ravaged by war, death, and economic disaster. In the heart of that darkness,
with the cries of fear outside his window, he sat down and wrote this prayer for
his children: Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices; who
wondrous things hath done, in whom his world rejoices. Who, from our mother’s
arms, hath led us on our way, with countless gifts of love and still is ours today.
Here was a man who knew satisfaction comes from the love of God, not from
But the king is not finished…
10 Whatever one is, he has been named already, for it is known that he is man;
and he cannot contend with Him who is mightier than he. 11 Since there are
many things that increase vanity, how is man the better?12 For who knows what
is good for man in life, all the days of his vain life which he passes like a
shadow? Who can tell a man what will happen after him under the sun?
III. Without God, Our Will Cannot Satisfy
We must confront the realities of life and death.
Wealth, work, wisdom, all the honors of this place, are not enough.
Solomon uses one word four times to hold these verses together.
Adam, or man, referring here to humanity.
Do not miss the imagery of Genesis being employed in this passage.
Always remember we are in the Old Testament.
We cannot understand all of the mysteries of life on our own.
Our will, our abilities, who we are, are not enough for that task.
But the One beyond this life, the One above the sun, already knows.
Just as Adam was named, he also named the animals in Genesis.
Everything is named.
We are named.
That means we are defined.
Names were hugely important to the Hebrew culture.
To the Jewish mind, giving a name to something is the same as fixing the character
and stating what or who it really is.
Once a thing is named it was defined.
This is one reason why the Hebrews would not speak the personal name of God.
God called Himself “I AM THAT I AM”.
We have made Yahweh from that.
But for a Hebrew to utter Yahweh was to presume that they had defined Him.
So, they would never utter that name aloud.
It would have been dishonorable, presumptive, almost idolatrous.
You can’t define God- He is Sovereign.
Is God in charge or not?
You would never hear “oops” or “what are we going to do about that?” in heaven.
The throne room of God is awesomely peaceful.
From God’s perspective, everything is under control.
And since God is sovereign, me must admit that man is not.
God is the potter; we are the clay.
God is all-powerful, we are limited.
We may be a lot of things, but sovereign isn’t one of them.
And yet, man contends with God.
“contend” = dispute.
Disputing with God is a waste of time and effort.
Adam contended with God in Genesis 3 and had to face his mortality.
Surrender yourself to Him.
Quit wasting the life He has for you!
9 “Woe to him who strives with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the
potsherds of the earth! Shall the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you
making?’ Or shall your handiwork say, ‘He has no hands’? 10 Woe to him who
says to his father, ‘What are you begetting?’ or to the woman, ‘What have you
brought forth?’ ” 11 Thus says the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker:
“Ask Me of things to come concerning My sons; and concerning the work of My
hands, you command Me. 12 I have made the earth, and created man on it.
I—My hands—stretched out the heavens, and all their host I have commanded.
He is in control, He made it all thus he controls it all.
C.S. Lewis: To argue with God is to argue with the very power that makes it
possible to argue at all.
We are simply not in control.
Pitting our will against the will of God is completely foolish.
God does precisely as God wills.
35 All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to
His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one
can restrain His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?”
God does His will, period.
With or without us.
As long as I fight God, I lose.
I do not learn the lessons He is trying to teach me.
I will not enjoy the blessings He is giving me.
And everything that blesses me comes through Him.
So, during this world’s chaos and craziness, when I find myself getting anxious
again, it is usually because the size of mankind has become greater in my heart and
mind, than the size of my God.
The horizontal has overshadowed the vertical.
I have lost sight of who is truly on the throne, with or without my permission.
In v. 11 (Since there are many things that increase vanity, how is man the
better?), instead of resting in the truth of being named and defined by God and
recognizing our great limitations, we get frustrated.
“Many things” in other translations means “Many words”.
Ecclesiastes 6:11 (ESV)
11 The more words, the more vanity, and what is the advantage to man?
Ecclesiastes 6:11 (NASB)
11 For there are many words which increase futility. What then is the advantage
to a man?
Many words do not always reflect wisdom.
They are often a sign of a fool:
19 In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is
Quit wasting your energy and words arguing with God.
Instead remember, in v. 12 (For who knows what is good for man in life, all the
days of his vain life which he passes like a shadow? Who can tell a man what
will happen after him under the sun?) that only God knows the future.
It is absolutely senseless not to trust Him.
It makes not sense to leave this place or this broadcast today without trusting in
Those who willfully turn away destroy themselves.
Unfortunately, this is the option most choose.
And life passes like a shadow.
It is so frail, so transitory.
Quit living in the days past.
Quit only focusing on the days of tomorrow.
God has given you today. Right now.
We can’t answer the big questions on our own
We must face the inescapable truth, we need God!
As we move forward, we must be defined by the Word of God.
We must be devoted to praying to God, and…
We must be totally dependent upon the Spirit of God.
Our greatest freedom comes when we are lovingly lost in the will of God and not
in our own willful choices.
Man, or God, who is the better?
Man says, “Get all you can!” God says, “Give and it shall be given unto you.
Man says, “Only the strong and powerful survive!” God says, “The meek will
inherit the earth.
Man says, “If someone hurts you, get even!
God says, “Turn the other cheek. Do good to those who treat you badly.”
Man, or God, who is the better?
To the poet, a pearl is a teardrop of the sea or a drop of dew, solidified.
To the ladies, it is a jewel they can wear on their finger, neck, or ear.
To the chemist, it is a mixture of phosphate and carbonate of lime with a little
gelatin. To the naturalist, it is simply a morbid secretion of the organ that certain
bivalves use to produce mother-of-pearl to deal with irritations. To a believer, a
pearl is a marvel in God’s creation.
Is this life some random selection of evolution?
Some willful choice of man?
Or, some beautifully named and defined marvelous creation by a gracious God
who seeks you to seek His face?
Moments that can make us or break us, depending on our perspective.
I believe a defining moment came for Solomon when as Ed Young writes, “he
reached the end of his extended, existential safari and discovered that there was
nothing under the sun that could give his life meaning or purpose.”
You need God.
We heard that declaration earlier through baptism. What will you declare now?