This is part 8 of a many-part blog series on the book of Ecclesiastes.
Recall that the concept of hebel—though unnamed then—was introduced in Genesis 3 at the fall of man. Ecclesiastes 6 puts on display another facet of hebel that combats the good order God created in Genesis 1-2.
Rule & Reign
Genesis 1:26 says we were made in the image of God and that He made us to have dominion (rule and reign – “control”) over the world. In ancient Sumerian cultures, chaos was considered evil (they wouldn’t have liked my home!!!), so having a bit of control was akin to creating order. This is our purpose as humans. We were created to have dominion and to rule and to reign as God’s regents over His creation. The Hebrew is quite clear: “Let us make man in our image so that he may rule” (Genesis 1:26 In the Hebrew the phrase is causative, meaning the purpose of the creation of man is to have dominion/rule/reign). Because of the sin of man, our concept of dominion is now skewed.
Ecclesiastes 6 shows us two ways to experience the hebel and evil associated with it under the sun:
- You work, but someone else gets to enjoy (you lack control over your God-given calling to rule and reign over His creation).
- You work and, instead of being satisfied, become greedy and lustful and always need more (you skew your God-given desire to rule and reign over His creation and extort others).
Where is the balance? Either one is poor and lacks proper dominion, or one becomes greedy with too much and dominates others.
Wealth – Worth it?
Solomon saw a man with much wealth from God, but he never got to enjoy any of it; rather, a stranger enjoyed it instead (6:1-6). Though we don’t have the details, I’m sure we’ve all seen cases like this. Someone works hard through college and graduates at the top of their class from an elite university—only to not get a job because the Great Recession hit.
I once spoke to a man who was excited to retire with his millions after 30 years of working “for the man.” I went to check up on him 6 months later only to find out he had died from a heart attack. Hebel.
Dominion or Domination?
Then in 6:7-9, Solomon goes the other direction and says others have too much dominion and in greed they lord it over those around them. This is all too common. The rich treat their plumber or electrician or maintenance man with contempt. Human slavery persists in some parts of the world, particularly regarding maids. We saw many people around us overseas treating their maids with contempt as slaves, rather than the huge blessing they were. Given enough resources, we are prone to become control freaks. This is also hebel under the sun.
We were clearly made for something more than we experience right now. Human depravity + hebel is that gap between our experience and what we were made for.
We were made to have dominion—to rule and to reign—but it doesn’t quite work out correctly here. Some get no rule, and others get too much. Those who get none work for someone else’s satisfaction, and those who get too much get greedy and always feel they need more. We have no choice but to agree with Solomon that this is evil under the sun (6:1)!
In B4T, we have an opportunity to right this wrong, to fight back against the enemy’s plan to cause either too much dominion or not enough. He hates everything good God created, and if he can distort our perception of control, he will win many battles. In B4T, we are stealing from the enemy’s economy and breaking his supply chains. When you have dominion over others in the workplace and exercise that control with love and grace, you are restoring the original intent of ruling and reigning. Amongst a least-reached people group, I had employees who could have left my company and made more money but wanted to stay and work for me because they knew they would be treated well. I was able to explicitly share with them why I was the sort of boss that I was—because of what Jesus had done to redeem me.
In this life, we will work for many people who don’t exercise rule and reign properly, but under God’s good grace we can stop that tragedy where we have control. Some people want to dominate others from some insecurity or to get ahead in life. Most people in the world don’t have enough, but a few have way too much and yet they are still not satisfied. I’ll leave you with a quote.
“There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.” (GK Chesterton)
Greg is the President of OPEN USA. He used his education to work as a tentmaker in the Middle East for 8.5 years seeking to plant a church amongst a least-reached people group. Currently back in the USA with his wife and children, they aim to return to finish what the LORD used them to start.
To learn more about B4T, read Business for Transformation by Patrick Lai.