Ecclesiastes 5: On Charity


I think that we can sometimes run into a dilemma on the concept of charity. On one hand, we know that we are supposed to help people. We talked yesterday about social justice. It is a good thing to help people who are in need. We can find plenty of Biblical justification for being a good neighbor and helping those in need. Think about the parable of the Good Samaritan. He didn’t think about his own inconvenience; he helped with whatever he had.

Ecclesiastes 5 might seem to run into a bit of a contradiction then.

Ecc 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.

Ecc 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.

I don’t know about you, but I have occasionally wondered how it is possible to do both. For example, I know that all of us here in America have been incredibly blessed. I don’t mean to make light of poverty, but when you compare poverty in America to poverty in other places in the world, there really isn’t very much of a comparison.

How then is it possible for me to justify keeping anything for myself? After all, even if I have one decent sized meal a day, I have more than so many people throughout the world. How can I possibly justify having another one? I should be more concerned about giving that away and using it to help those who have less than I do.

I think that Ecclesiastes 5 is able to help put this in perspective though. Whatever God has given to you, you should enjoy it. You should enjoy your portion. However, God defines that portion. That is what is vital to remember.

Let’s say I became a millionaire. I became incredibly good as an insurance underwriter and brought in quite a bit of money. I would certainly have the ability to buy a Ferrari. I could pick up a pen and write a check. That wouldn’t be a problem.

However, if I only looked after my own desires, that would be wrong. All of that money that I hypothetically made belongs to God and is available for His use. He decides what portion of it I should have. That is why we need to be very prayerful with our finances. God certainly wants us to use some of it because if we gave away everything, we would certainly die of starvation. Jesus tells us not to worry about what we will have to eat, but when that physical need is provided, we certainly do not need to give that gift from God away.

I know this is a difficult topic, but we need to work very hard to find a balance. We certainly have an obligation to be charitable. We have an obligation to help people. However, on the other hand, God has given us things that we are told to enjoy. The biggest thing to remember is that all of that really belongs to God. We cannot fall in love with our money. We follow God, and He directs how we use what we have.

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Posted on May 17, 2014, in Ecclesiastes and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Ecclesiastes speaks about giving to others later in his book of wisdom when he says, “give your bread freely to others, and later, when you are in need, it will come back to you. Share with as many as possible, for you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.”

    In chapter 5 he has just told the account of the man who lost all his investments through an unfortunate event and now is reduced to eating his meals in “frustration, plagued by depression, anger and resentment.” This is a terrible situation not because of the loss but because he is unable to enjoy the blessings he still has. Ecclesiastes says, “I believe we should enjoy our food and find satisfaction in our work during each day of life God gives us—for this is our lot. If God provides us with money and possessions and also grants the ability to enjoy them by accepting our lot and being happy in our work, this is God’s gift to us. If we accept it, we will seldom look regretfully on our past, because God will keep us occupied with joyful hearts.”
    Humans are designed to be happiest when they enjoy their work, no matter what the financial rewards are. Prosperity only makes sense if it is held lightly and our focus is on the daily enjoyment of our work and its simple rewards. To drive this point home he will point out how rare it is for humans to embrace that reality.

    “Instead, a bitter heartache comes to many under the sun, for although God may grant us wealth and possessions until we have everything our hearts desire, we often lack the ability to enjoy those gifts, and someone else enjoys them.”

    He tells us that it is unfortunate when a wealthy person cannot enjoy the good things of life because they are too focused on their wealth.

    “We all work so hard to satisfy our desires, but only end up wanting more. Even the wise do not find more satisfaction than fools, and a poor man is not content even though he tries to accept his situation in life. I say again, it is better to enjoy what we have than to chase what we lack, for that pursuit is futile, like trying to catch the wind.”

    It is possible to be giving to charity but cheating ourselves of the life we were intended to enjoy. As Ecclesiastes will tell us “one handful with rest is better than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.”

    Vance – http://www.artofwork.ca

    • Thank you for your thoughts! I checked out your website, and I noticed that this book has become a major focus of your work. You can tell that you have thought about it a lot.

      I like how you spoke about not worrying about finances. I agree with you. Actually, based on what I wrote on chapter 4, one of my Facebook friends and I began talking about this idea of worrying about money. We both agreed that we prefer not to do it, but it inevitably sneaks then every now and then. I think that your point combined with what I wrote fit together. If you realize that everything belongs to God and if you really think about the idea that humans are designed for certain things and jobs, then everything falls in place. God can certainly use us wherever he has put us and through whatever job we ought to be doing.

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