Though many modem critics deny that Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, I believe that a strong case can be made for his authorship. In this book, the wisest king of Israel explored the various avenues that men pursue in their quest for happiness.
One area of particular interest was that of material wealth.
Many believe that if a man accumulates wealth, he can be contented. The richest man of the antique world repudiated that assumption!
On Riches Kept
The wise man declared that a grievous evil that he observed was “riches kept by the owner thereof to his hurt” (Eccl. 5:13). He concluded his discussion by suggesting that the covetous man spends his days in darkness. In other words, in gloom and misery.
Why would money and wealth cause someone to become depressed?
He is often suspicious that those who befriend him, suspecting base motives. He frequently worries over what will happen to his fortune after he is dead.
Solomon concluded that the covetous man is sore vexed and is consumed with sickness and anger (Eccl. 5:17).
This inspired passage suggests that those who hoard money rather than using it wisely as stewards of Heaven’s kingdom will be afflicted with sorrow and sickness.
Covetousness and Physical Health
Some years ago, Dr. Irene Hickman, an associate professor of psychology at California State University, prepared a report based on hundreds of case studies reported in various medical journals. Dr. Hickman declared that nine out of ten illnesses in this country are money related.
She stated that “economic insecurity and preoccupation with making more and more money is a national illness within itself.” Professor Hickman asserted that the average income in America is adequate to house, clothe, and feed our families. But our citizenry is obsessed with wanting more and more luxuries.
In his fascinating book, None Of These Diseases, Dr. S. I. McMillen tells the story of John D. Rockefeller. As a youngster, Rockefeller was a strong and husky farm lad. But he drove himself to make money.
At thirty-three, he was a millionaire. At forty-three, he controlled the largest business in the world. At fifty-three, he was the world’s richest person. By then, though, he was but a shell of a man.
He developed a condition called alopecia, where the hair falls out. It was said that he looked like a mummy.
His income was $1 million a week, but his digestion was so bad that he could eat only milk and crackers. He was despised by many, upon whom he had trampled in his climb to success. He was immersed in anxiety. He couldn’t sleep. He was a wreck.
Here was a man whose life seemed to be over at fifty-three. It was generally agreed that he could scarcely live more than a year or so. Many newspapers already had his obituary on file, ready for his imminent demise.
But something dramatic happened. One night it suddenly dawned upon Mr. Rockefeller that he could take none of his treasures with him to the grave. After all, funeral shrouds have no pockets.
So he made the decision to start helping others with his great fortune. He poured millions of dollars into hospitals, universities, and missions. He became interested in the underprivileged. He provided vast sums for medical research. His contributions aided in the discovery of penicillin. His focus of interest turned from inward to outward.
As a result of this change in disposition, something marvelous began to occur in the physical life of John D. Rockefeller. He could sleep again. His digestion improved. Rockefeller actually began to enjoy living.
And note this. He did not die at fifty-four, nor even at sixty-four. Rather, he lived to the ripe old age of ninety-eight years!
Christ Teaching on Covetousness
There was an interesting case chronicled in one of the Lord’s parables (Lk. 12:16ff). It had to do with a certain rich man whose land produced such a bountiful harvest that his barns could not contain it.
But he had utterly no concern for others. Instead, he conceived grand plans for hoarding it all.
His philosophy was “get all you can, and can all you get.” His daily consolation seemed to be, “Soul, take it easy. You have vast possessions laid up for many years. Eat, drink, and be merry.”
He omitted the final phrase, “for tomorrow you die,” in that well-known saying. He had no plans of dying tomorrow!
But where men propose, God can dispose. His observant Creator said: “You fool, this night your soul is required of you” (Lk. 12:20).
There is an interesting turn to this rebuke in the Greek text, reflected in the footnote of the American Standard Version. A possible rendition is: “This night they shall require your soul.” The impersonal form may suggest that the very possessions that the rich man treasured were his undoing!
Paul affirmed that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil: which some reaching after have been led astray from the faith, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim. 6:10).
Material prosperity can be a great blessing if employed in the service of God.
But covetousness is a curse everyone should avoid (cf. Lk. 12:15).