Can I be honest about something? I had a really hard time getting through Ecclesiastes 6, even though it is the shortest chapter in the book. The words were not sticking in my memory. The thoughts and themes were not penetrating my mind. But I slugged through, because I have a goal, and I’m not giving up when I’m halfway through!
A quick look at the chapter suggests that it’s not the easiest to digest, given its lack of carpe diem conclusion compared to previous chapters. Solomon is opining again about the vanity and evil. People unable to enjoy their life. That it would be better to be a stillborn child than live on the earth. And on and on. Maybe I was just getting sick of misery‘s search for company.
My perspective slightly changed when I finally sat down to read the chapter again, with the intention of writing this reflection. The results make me so thankful for this little project I’ve embarked on, to not just memorize, but to digest as well.
The first thing I realized was that really, the last several verses of Chapter 5 (vv.18-20) go along with the first three verses of Chapter 6, and provide the background for the musings of the rest of the chapter. This definitely helped lighten up the tone of the chapter for me. This also helped me see another theme that runs throughout the chapter. Maybe you’ll see it too.
The problem that Solomon considers is that of the rich man, “yet God does not give him power to eat of it…” (Ecclesiastes 6:2). Which got me thinking. What power are we really talking about here?
He goes on to consider the proverbial über-fertile octogenarian, and notes that all those kids and long years of life are pointless because “his soul is not satisfied with goodness.” (Ecclesiastes 6:3) As an aside–if he has so many kids, how in the world is there no one to bury him?
Moving on, the life of longest living man imagined is empty because he “has not seen goodness.” (Ecclesiastes 6:6).
Then a poem (vv.7-11), and embedded in the middle the key that unlocked this chapter for me: “Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of desire.” (Ecclesiastes 6:9)
Satisfied With Goodness
Did you catch it? It’s better to fix your eyes on something than to keep looking at everything. Otherwise, your eyes can’t be satisfied with goodness. And it becomes a quest for quantity over quality. But what is the power to “eat of it” that the man lacked? The power to appreciate quality over quantity (surely three kids would have been more fulfilling than a hundred!). More simply stated: the power of contentment.
When one receives the gift of contentment, they have the experience of Ecclesiastes 5:20. When they don’t, they keep trying to add on, and add on, but find that volume does not fill the holes of the heart.
This chapter still remains my least favorite. But I am thankful for finding in it a renewed call to learn to be content and to always seek quality over quantity.