This is part 7 of a many-part blog series on the book of Ecclesiastes.
We have a trail of bread crumbs. There isn’t much gain under the sun, but Solomon keeps dropping hints that there are things that are better than others. Wisdom is better than foolishness. Relationships are better than being alone. Enjoying is better than striving. Now Solomon adds: listening is better than speaking.

Jesus & Hebel

When you approach God, don’t be hasty with your mouth (5:2). This sounds familiar to us, because Jesus said as much, also concerning prayer (Matthew 6:7-8). In 5:3, Solomon says that with dreams come much business, and a fool’s voice with many words. Then in 5:4-6, he says it’s better not to vow than to not fulfill what you promise. Again, Jesus echoes Solomon, this time concerning vows (Matthew 5:33-37). Solomon completes his thought by repeating v.3: when dreams increase and words grow many, there you will find hebel.

Rich v Poor

Oppression of the poor is routine business under the sun. Solomon goes so far as to say, “don’t be amazed” (5:8). But here follows another gain: a king committed to cultivated fields. In other words, there is gain in the highest official of the land taking a personal interest (and the associated commitment) in the productivity of his/her citizens.

The one who loves money will never be satisfied with it. Hebel. When you get more, more people will get more of what you have (you spend more). The one with little sleeps a lot, and the one with a lot sleeps a little, because he’s worried about his belongings. Wealth has a corrosive effect on the soul, and we are meant to be pipelines of it rather than storage tanks. Solomon saw a man whose riches were lost in a bad venture, and he had nothing to give his son. Naked he came into the world, and naked he returned. He kept nothing of all his soul (5:13-17). He started with zero and ended with zero. Hebel.

What Solomon found to be good and fitting was to eat, drink, and enjoy the fruits of one’s labor. Even those who have been given (not earned!) wealth, possessions, and power should focus not on striving to get more but to enjoy what they have (5:19).

Better than Others

What do we gain from chapter 5, which tells us that some things are better than others. In B4T, we use the wisdom God gave us (better than exercising foolishness!) to build businesses and love people into the Kingdom through them. We would be wise to heed Solomon’s word not to be a loner, as is always a temptation in entrepreneurship.

  • Work with others. Find like-minded people to pray and dream up a business with to bless your people. Then enjoy the journey – too much striving will only keep you up at night (believe me, I have much experience in this!).
  • When you are doing market research for your business, listen: to the LORD and to the local people. Listening is much better than speaking.
  • When you finally get your business up and running, use it not to oppress but to liberate, not to hoard blessing like a storage tank but to transport it to others like a pipeline.

Solomon has given us some nuggets of wisdom here for our businesses. Let’s heed the wisdom.

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.

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