Passage: Ecclesiastes 5:8-17
Guide for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection
It is part of our fallen nature to pursue through material wealth what only God can give us. Ecclesiastes shows how our idolatrous pursuit of material wealth is hevel (vanity) and brings frustration, both at a societal and a personal level.
At a societal level, our innate greed has become institutionalized—baked into “the way things are”. This has been true in all kinds of societies and in all time periods, and therefore, both in the Preacher’s day and in ours, we “should not be amazed…if we see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied” (5:8). People’s hunger for “enough”, and their anxious drive to obtain and to “watch over” their piece of the pie (5:8) works itself into society’s systems and institutions in ways that are hard to disentangle and even fully discern. One thing is clear, however: when this greed becomes institutionalized—the poor almost always suffer.
On a personal level, our pursuit of wealth fails to satisfy as well. “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income” (5:10)—and “as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep” (5:12). Very few of us feel that we ourselves have a problem with greed, because we fail to discern that our pursuit of wealth is more about what we think money can give us—security, status, comfort, peace, etc—than anything else. When we pursue wealth this way, wealth has become an idol, and our idols can never satisfy our longings. Indeed, idols blind us to reality and bring on new frustrations of their own, so that those driven by wealth “eat in darkness, with great frustration, affliction, and anger” (5:17).
Only Jesus can heal us of the idolatrous ways we pursue wealth. He is the true “rich young ruler”, the one who was truly wealthy, yet utterly free from its idolatrous grip—the one who, owned all the wealth of heaven and earth, but gave it all away in love. When we truly grasp, and rest in the generosity of Christ’s heart, we can be set free from the idol of wealth and the frustration it brings. We can grieve the damage our greed has caused and live our lives as generous stewards of all God has put in our possession.
- How Greed is Institutionalized (5:8-9)
- How Greed Leaves us Hungry (5:10-17)
- How Greed is Healed (Luke 18:18-30)
Group Discussion & Personal Reflection Guide
Re-read the passage(s): Ecclesiastes 5:8-17
How Greed is Institutionalized (5:8-9)
Q) INTRO: Jesus talks about money more than almost any other practical issue, and yet very few people seem to feel that they themselves have a problem with greed. Why do you think that is? Do you view greed as a temptation that affects you personally? Why or why not?
Q) Re-read Ecclesiastes 5:8-9. Why are we “not to be amazed” when we see oppression and injustice in a land?
Q) Ecclesiastes 5:9, which is a notoriously difficult verse to translate, most likely means something like the NIV translation: “the increase from the land is taken by all; the king himself profits from the fields.” The idea is that though many laborers work for the land to yield its increase, the profits are taken by many “higher officials” (see vs. 8), with the king himself profiting the most. What contemporary examples can you think of, where the poor fail to enjoy the fruits of their labors?
Q) Pastor Bobby said that in every time period, and in every society, we can see examples of how people’s personal greed and personal “hunger for enough” works itself out into the broader systems and structures of society. Individual sin gives rise to corporate brokenness. Can you think of examples of how this happens in America, in 2021? How have you contributed to this?
How Greed Leaves us Hungry (5:10-17)
Q) Re-read Ecclesiastes 5:10-12. What does the Preacher observe about the one who “loves money”? What is the difference between the experience of the “laborer” and the “rich” in verse 12? Why?
Q) Have you ever found the pursuit of wealth to be personally unsatisfying? What did you experience?
Q) In the sermon, Pastor Bobby mentioned that it’s hard to discern our own greed, because we typically use material wealth as a means of trying to satisfy deeper longings. Reflect on the list below. If you’re honest, which best describes the reasons you personally pursue wealth?
• I use wealth…for comfort.
• I use wealth…for status.
• I use wealth…for a sense of security.
• I use wealth…for a sense of control (over life, over the future, over others).
Q) What would it look like to repent of this way of pursuing wealth? What new obedience and generosity might God be asking of you?
Q) Re-read Ecclesiastes 5:13-17. What are some of the frustrations experienced by the rich in this passage?
Q) In the sermon, Pastor Bobby mentioned that often wealth brings on new problems of its own—new headaches, new anxieties, new cares. Have you ever noticed this happening in your own life, or in the life of someone you know?
How Greed is Healed (Luke 18:18-30)
Q) Re-read the story of the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18-30, and discuss together:
How was Jesus seeking to free the rich young ruler of his idol of wealth?
Why was it so hard for man to respond in obedience?
In the context of the passage, and of this week’s sermon, why does Jesus exclaim: “How difficult it is for those with wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (vs. 24-25).
Q) In his sermon, Pastor Bobby said that Jesus is the “true rich, young ruler”. How is Jesus the true “rich young ruler”, and how was he different than the rich young ruler in Luke 18?
Q) How does the gospel story display the generous heart of Jesus? How does trusting in Jesus’ generosity empower us to stop seeking wealth in idolatrous ways, and to be free from greed?
Q) What is one practical area God is calling you to be generous with your material wealth this month?
Additional Application Questions
Q) How else would you like to engage with God this week?
Q) How can you tangibly care for those in your community this week, both inside and outside of the church?
Spend time praying for yourselves, our church community, the North Shore community, and our nation and world—particularly those most vulnerable.