He who loves money is never satisfied by money, and he who loves wealth is never satisfied by income. This too is futile.
I. RICHES CANNOT AFFORD SATISFACTION TO THOSE WHO SET THEIR AFFECTION UPON THEM. A man who uses his property for lawful ends, and regards it in the true light as a provision made by God's wisdom and bounty for his wants, need know nothing of the experience recorded in ver. 10. But he who loves - i.e., desires with ardent desire, and as the chief good of life - silver and abundance, shall not be satisfied with wealth when it is attained. It is not in the nature of earthly good to quench the deep desires of man's immoral spirit.
II. RICHES ARE CONSUMED BY THOSE WHO ARE DEPENDENT UPON THEM. A large family, a circle of dependents, needy relatives, are the cause of the disappearance even of large revenues. This is no trouble to a man who judges justly; but to a foolish man whose one desire is to accumulate, it is a distress to witness the necessary expenditure involved in family and social claims.
III. RICHES ARE a SOURCE OF ANXIETY TO THE POSSESSOR. The laboring man, who earns and eats his daily bread, and depends for to-morrow's supply upon to-morrow's toil, sleeps sweetly; whilst the capitalist and investor are wakeful by reason of many anxieties. A ship richly freighted may be wrecked, and the cargo lost; a company in which large sums have been invested may fail; a mine of precious metal upon which money has been spent, and from which much is hoped, may cease to be productive. An estate may no longer be profitable; thieves may break through and steal jewels and bullion. As surely as a man owns more than is needed for the supply of his daily wants, so surely is he liable to solicitude and care.
IV. RICHES MAY EVEN PROVE INJURIOUS TO THEIR OWNER. In some states of society the possession of wealth is likely to bring down upon the rich the envy and cupidity of a despotic ruler, who ill treats the wealthy in order to secure his riches for himself. And in all states of society there is danger lest wealth should be the occasion of moral injury, by enkindling evil passions, envy on the part of the poor, and in return hatred and suspicion on the part of the wealthy; or by leading to flattery, which in turn produces vanity and contemptuousness.
V. RICHES ARE OF NO AVAIL BEYOND THIS LIFE. They thus add, in the case of the avaricious, another sting to death; for clutch and grasp them as he may, they must be left behind. A man spends his whole life, and exhausts all his energies, in gathering together a "fortune;" no sooner has he succeeded than he is summoned to return naked to the earth, carrying nothing in his hand, poor as he came into the scene of his toils, his success, his disappointments. The king of terrors cannot be bribed. A mine of wealth cannot buy a day of life.
VI. RICHES MAY BE WASTED BY THE RICH MAN'S HEIRS. This was a misfortune of which the writer of Ecclesiastes seems to have been well aware from his prolonged observation of human life. One may gather; but who shall scatter? He to whom wealth is everything has no security that his property shall not, after his death, come into the hands of those who shall squander it in dissipation, or waste it in reckless speculations. This also is vanity.
APPLICATION. These things being so, the moral is obvious. The poor man may rest contented with his lot, for he knows not whether increase of possessions would bring him increase of happiness. The prosperous man may well give heed to the admonition, "If riches increase, set not your heart upon them." - T.
He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver.I. That as GOODS INCREASE, DESIRE INCREASES. This is not the case universally. There are men whose property is daily increasing, but whose desires are not increasing. The answer, as to who these men are, is suggested by the text. They are those who have not set their affections upon money. Love of silver leads to dissatisfaction with silver. Love of abundance leads to dissatisfaction with increase. He who loves silver wants gold. He who loves gold wants land. "Man never is, but always to be blessed," if he look for blessedness only to earth. As bodily hunger cannot be satisfied by fine scenery which appeals to the eye; as thirst cannot be quenched by the strains of even the sweetest music; and as what ministers to mental growth will not, directly at least, tend to physical development; so neither can the soul thrive upon food other than its own. God made man for Himself, and away from God, there is for man no abiding, no solid satisfaction.
II. THAT EXPENDITURE KEEPS PACE WITH INCOME. Wants are born of "goods." These increase and so do those who eat them. Further, wealth has its duties as well as its advantages; and in its possessor be a Christian he will recognize those duties. The practical recognition of them proves this, that "when goods are increased they are increased that eat them."
III. That the LOVE OF WEALTH IS VANITY. "This also is vanity." To love wealth "is vanity": because love of wealth makes men cold, unsympathetic, and morally unmanly, causes them to live from circumference to centre, instead of from centre to circumference. On the contrary he who lives for others lives a radiating life, realizes that all are brethren. To love wealth is vanity, because whilst there is an excitement in the pursuit of wealth there is no true enjoyment in its" possession. A soul centred upon worldly wealth, like the daughter of the horse-leech, cries, "Give! give!" We cannot serve God and mammon
(J. S. Swan.)
1. In all grades of society human subsistence is very much the same. Even princes are not fed with ambrosia, nor do poets subsist on asphodel. Bread and water, the produce of the flocks and the herds, and a few homely vegetables, form the staple of his food who can lay the globe under tribute; and these essentials of healthful existence are within the attainment of ordinary industry.
2. When a man begins to amass money, he begins to feed an appetite which nothing can appease, and which its proper food will only render fiercer. "He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver." To greed there may be "increase," but no increase can ever be "abundance." Therefore, happy they who have never got enough to awaken the accumulating passion, and who, feeling that food and raiment are the utmost to which they can aspire, are therewith content.
3. It should reconcile us to the want of wealth, that, as abundance grows, so grow the consumers, and of riches less perishable, the proprietor enjoys no more than the mere spectator. A rich man buys a picture or a statue, and he is proud to think that his mansion is adorned with such a famous masterpiece. But a poor man comes and looks at it, and, because he has the aesthetic insight, in a few minutes he is conscious of more astonishment and pleasure than the dull proprietor has experienced in half a century. Or, a rich man lays out a park or a garden, and, except the diversion of planning and remodelling, he has derived from it little enjoyment; but some bright morning a holiday student or a town-pent tourist comes, and when he leaves he carries with him a freight of life-long recollections.
4. Amongst the pleasures of obscurity, or rather of occupation, the next noticed is sound slumber. Sometimes the wealthy would be the better for a taste of poverty; it would reveal to them their privileges. But if the poor could get a taste of opulence, it would reveal to them strange luxuries in lowliness. Fevered with late hours and false excitement, or scared by visions the righteous recompense of gluttonous excess, or with breath suppressed and palpitating heart listing the fancied footsteps of the robber, grandeur often pays a nightly penance for the triumph of the day.
5. Wealth is often the ruin of its possessor. It is "kept for the owner to his hurt." Like that King of Cyprus who made himself so rich that he became a tempting spoil, and who, rather than lose his treasures, embarked them in perforated ships; but, wanting courage to draw the plugs, ventured back to land and lost both his money and his life: so a fortune is a great perplexity to its owner, and is no defence in times of danger. And very often, by enabling him to procure all that heart can wish, it pierces him through with many sorrows. Ministering to.the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, misdirected opulence has ruined many both in soul and body.
6. Nor is it a small vexation to have accumulated a fortune, and when expecting to transmit it to some favourite child, to find it suddenly swept away (vers. 14-16). There is now the son, but where is the sumptuous mansion? Here is the heir, but where is the vaunted heritage?
7. Last of all, are the infirmity and fretfulness which are the frequent companions of wealth. You pass a stately mansion, and as the powdered menials are closing the shutters of the brilliant room, and you see the sumptuous table spread and the fire-light flashing on vessels of gold and vessels of silver, perhaps no pang of envy pricks your bosom, but a glow of gratulation for a moment fills it: Happy people who tread carpets so soft, and who swim through halls so splendid! But, some future day, when the candles are lighted and the curtains drawn in that selfsame apartment, it is your lot to be within; and as the invalid owner is wheeled to his place at the table, and as dainties are handed round of which he dare not taste, and as the guests interchange cold courtesy, and all is so stiff and so commonplace, and so heartlessly grand, your fancy cannot help flying of[ to some humbler spot with which you are mere familiar, and "where quiet with contentment makes her home."
(J. Hamilton, D. D.)
Homilist.This is true of all earthly things. No man is satisfied with any human idol.
I. CORRUPT AFFECTION. All worldly love is corrupt. There is nothing good in silver. It has only present beauty and usefulness.
II. THE GLAMOUR OF TIME. How bright is the tinsel of an illuminated theatre! Such is the spell cast over the things of time and sense, until the Spirit of God causes the sunshine to beam in our hearts.
III. THE DISAPPOINTMENT OF AMBITION. Like a mirage the object sought eludes the grasp. No acquisition is final. The more we get the more we want.
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