Devotion on Ecclesiastes 5:10–20 | Proper 24 - Year B

Today we focus on the reading from Ecclesiastes 5, specifically verses 18–20. Our devotional reading is from Concordia Commentary: Ecclesiastes.

Scripture Readings

Ecclesiastes 5:10–20
Psalm 119:9–16
Hebrews 4:1–16
Mark 10:23–31

Read the propers for today in Lutheran Service Builder.

Devotional Reading

By the time Solomon wrote [Ecclesiastes], God had helped him to learn true wisdom and its peaceful, happy outcome. Solomon learned true wisdom, and true wisdom is the fear of God. The fear of God is this: Once a person is overwhelmed by life’s difficulties and by his own total depravity and incapability, he is dashed to the ground, completely helpless and hopeless. Then and only then can he turn to the one last alternative: the triune God, the Maker of heaven and earth, who would also send his Son to redeem sinful humanity and his Spirit to sanctify and lead his redeemed people.

The fear of God means throwing everything over to him, trusting that God is omniscient and also merciful. The fear of God means trusting that God will take care of, in his own time and in his own way, absolutely everything—life’s problems, life’s disappointments, life’s sadness, life’s apparent meaninglessness, life’s total sin and depravity, and yes, life’s outcome. God knows, God cares, God does it all.

That brings the reader to the present section. The burning question is this: if God does it all, what is left for his people to do? The answer is an incredibly bitter pill for human pride to swallow. The answer is “not much.” If we wonder how we might somehow help God, the answer is that we can do absolutely nothing to contribute to our salvation or even to our own happiness. But to prevent his trusting children from being crushed by boredom, sitting on their hands while he does everything, God tells them through Ecclesiastes: “Here are some things you can do: Rejoice! Enjoy yourself! Enjoy the gifts I give you, from the big eternal gifts down to the smallest gifts of daily bread. Have fun in the simple tasks I assign to you. You’ll get so busy doing useful things that you won’t have time to worry. On the other hand, trusting me doesn’t take any time at all.”

With such a childishly simple message as the theme of the whole book, it is no wonder why interpreters wrestle with it and consider its message obscure. Interpreters either get it or they don’t get it. If the book’s theme, as it is found in these three verses, escapes the interpreter, the whole book is bound to escape him. He will grapple with the issues of Ecclesiastes like Solomon grappled with the issues of life in Ecclesiastes. Such an interpreter becomes, if you will, Solomon once removed: both the pre-enlightened Solomon and his interpreter are endeavoring to be co-grapplers with God. Naturally every human being is going to wrestle with life’s problems, and the wrestling itself may seem to make at least a minimal contribution to God’s plan for the world, but the interpreter must always find his final resting place in the same place as Solomon did: in the grace of God alone.





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Devotional reading is from Concordia Commentary: Ecclesiastes, pages 209–10 © 2011 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Video is of “Consider How the Birds Above” © 2017 Concordia Publishing House.


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