Dissatified by ChoiceSermon passage: (Ecclesiastes 6:1-12) Spoken on: August 21, 2016
More sermons from this speaker 更多该讲员的讲道: Rev Enoch Keong For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: Ecclesiastes
Title: Dissatified by Choice
Date: 21 Aug & 4 Sep
Preacher: Rev Enoch
A rich person parked his brand-new Lexus in front of his office, ready to show it off to his colleagues. As he got out, a truck passed too closely and completely tore off the door on the driver's side.
The rich man immediately grabbed his cell phone, called the police, and within minutes a policeman pulled up. Before the officer had a chance to ask any questions, the rich man started screaming hysterically. His Lexus, which he had just picked up the day before, was now completely ruined and would never be the same, no matter what the body care workshop can do in terms of repair.
When the rich man finally wound down from his ranting and raving, the officer shook his head in disgust and disbelief.
"I can't believe how materialistic you are," he said. "You are so focused on your possessions that you don't notice anything else."
"How can you say such a thing?" asked the rich man.
The policeman replied, "Don't you know that your right arm is covered in blood? The truck must have caused that when it hit your car. You really should have called for ambulance instead of the police department?”
“Oh no" screamed the rich man as he looks at his arm. "Where's my Rolex?" 
What we’ve just heard is a joke that I borrowed from the internet. It’s an exaggeration, but it’s telling of an inclination of the human heart that we find in both ancients and moderns. In our text this morning, The Preacher also employs examples of the rich to expound on this aspect of the human nature.
The first example is a rich man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, to the extent that he has everything that he wished for and lacks nothing. Yet, God does not give him the ability to enjoy what he has, but a stranger–a non-family member–that benefited from his riches (v.2).
That’s a very bad situation to happen to anyone. In reading it, we might ask, why God did such a terrible thing to this man? What has this person done to deserve such a sad ending? Would God one day do the same to us? These are questions that I would ask when something so disturbing is said about God. But are the questions in line with the author’s intention?
Let’s take another minute to look at this rich person who has wealth, possessions, and honor but didn’t get to enjoy them. I think it is fair to assume that this man did not obtain all that he had overnight, but had taken years and years to become accumulate his wealth. And if that’s the case, why did he not enjoy what he had along the way? Worse, at the point of death, he did not have an immediate or an extended family member to pass on his wealth. In a society where extended families often lived together under the same roof, this rich man must have been one who not only kept himself from enjoyment but also one who cuts all family ties. The Preacher, I think, is showing us a person that was dissatisfied by choice, and so all he did was to gather and hoard more and more in terms of wealth and possessions, and that’s his one and only focus in life. So, although it is God who did not give him the ability to enjoy, it’s equally true that it was himself who brought about the ending, judging from the way he lived life.
The point made here is therefore on one’s attitude toward life rather than describing a scary God who punishes by sending ill fortune. So please give me and Chenlian about 25 seconds of your attention. Never try to take a text like 6:2 and conjure an arbitrary picture of God, put fear into ourselves and others, and create in turn a Christian version of superstition.
The Preacher is sending warnings here. But he is not warning us against a capricious God, but having a wrong attitude toward life.
The point that he’s making only becomes clearer with the second example: a rich man who fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many. But he remains dissatisfied with life's good things (v.3). This man must be rich to father a hundred children. People in ancient societies don’t imagine themselves striving for a $1 million prize with 1 million Krisflyer miles tacked along. So, to have wealth, children and longevity was already to have it all. The phrase “he has no burial” should read “he has no burial site”  or place of burial. The verse is therefore about a man who had everything, but remained unhappy for every single day that he lives, while at the same time worrying what would happen should he die.
Living unhappily yet at the same time filled with fear of death, have we come across people like that? A Gallup poll in 2011 ranked Singapore as the ‘least positive’ country in the world,  while a recent survey by the United Nations ranked us as the happiest country in Asia Pacific . Surveys are based on random picks, and all we can say is that both the least positive and the happiest are in our midst, the question is of which type are we?
As for the ones who are blessed yet constantly unhappy, and dissatisfied by choice, a stillborn child who finds rest is said to be better off than he who is blessed with good things yet finds no rest. We can see how much The Preacher is frowning upon such a person to have used the imagery of a stillborn for making comparisons. The Old Testament sees stillborn to be the worst imaginable judgement. When persecuted by Saul, David meditated on that which the sinfulness of man rightfully deserved and he penned these words, “Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime, like the stillborn child who never sees the sun.” (Psalm 58:8)
Let’s forgive the harshness of these imageries while not forgetting that the passage is about our attitude toward life. The idea here is that a stillborn sees nothing and knows nothing. But we who are alive are able to see the good side of life and are aware of the importance of ‘rest’ for our growth and wellbeing. And ‘rest’ herein refers not only to 8 hours of sleep without nightmares, but being at peace; in contrast to a life filled with complains, vexation and sickness and anger (5:17). Attitude is a choice to be made, and The Preacher is urging us strongly not to remain dissatisfied and unhappy but to make good of the life we live. How are we to do that?
He still has a third example for us before he gives the answer. But even before we get to them, I guess we need to ask if dissatisfaction in fact a bad thing?
The answer has to be both ‘no’ and ‘yes’. If we see 10 foreign workers stacking up in a cramped dormitory and we remain unhappy till some improvement is done, I suppose that’s alright. To aim for better living conditions and to excel in our work and studies would not be only just alright but a legitimate and responsible thing to do. And if you are upset with me because I always tempt you to snore during sermon time, I will still say that that’s a healthy sentiment. So ‘no’, dissatisfaction is not necessarily a bad thing. And my sermon title, “Dissatisfied by Choice” , is at best an understatement of what The Preacher is fighting against herein. The real problem of the human heart is not dissatisfaction but insatiability; that is dissatisfaction fueled by greed. Insatiability is a 6 six syllabic word that describes a mouth so big, a throat so deep, that it can eat away the lives that God has intended for us and others to live.
The actions of the rich and powerful in the third example aptly demonstrate for us how insatiability brings harm to the society.
Verses 7 and 8 reads as follow, “All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied. For what advantage has the wise man over the fool? And what does the poor man have who knows how to conduct himself before the living?” Where are the rich and powerful that I just mentioned? How come we don’t find them when reading the verses? What’s happening? Again, we need a one-minute bible study.
The passage that we are looking at this morning is not a psalm per se. But it is like the second stanza of a song in terms of structure. The first stanza and the chorus are is found in 5:8-20, which is the text that Ps Xiaohui spoke on a few weeks ago. Ours is the second stanza, which mirrors the first in a reversed order . From the comparison shown on the PPT, we see that there is oppression of the poor going on, explicitly mentioned in chapter 5 and assumed in chapter 6, and the oppressors are none other than the insatiable rich and powerful.
And I really love The Preacher for the poignancy in verse 8. Wise men are praised for their wisdom, and wisdom helps the poor gain wealth and walk out of poverty. But when insatiability opens its mouth, wisdom is incapacitated. Insatiability press down on wisdom, goodness and virtues, and consumes whatever it wills. Human relationships, workers’ benefits, even mother earth will be endangered when insatiability rears its ugly head.
Friends in Jubilee would know that I am quite blind physically, and can also tell that I like cars and kinda enjoy driving. So the first thing to note here is that you should keep triple safety distance when you see me on the road, since I am quite blind. On a serious note, news on car tends to catch my attention. The Economist published an article last year entitled “Dirty secrets” when the case of one car company cheating on its emissions figures was exposed. The article begins by saying that “emissions of nitrogen oxides and other nasties from cars’ and lorries’ exhausts cause large numbers of early deaths—perhaps 58,000 a year in America alone, [as] one study suggests.”  When insatiability does rears its ugly head, neither humans nor the environment is left unaffected.
What is our way forward since insatiability is something we may find traces of it in us, something that we tend to bump into in life situations, something that we actually can’t do away with? “Better is the sight of the eyes (v.9),” an expression meaning to reemphasize what the book had been saying all this while. That is we are to accept and enjoy that which is before our eyes and to find rest through properly managing life realities. And we can’t stress this enough that The Preacher is not promoting positive psychology or life philosophy. He is urging us to live life by trusting and relying on God, whether in abundance or in lack. This he makes clear by surrounding all that we’ve been talking about with sayings about God, the strong one, who works behind the scene for our good.
I am reaching the end of my sharing this morning, and I have not said anything new. But it should probably be so since ours shares the same chorus with Ps Xiaohui’s sermon text. But let me say this again, attitude is what The Preacher is aiming at here. And attitude is a matter of choice. The Preacher’s point, I believe we have understood Does our outlook toward life cohere with what he says, we know it for ourselves. If we don’t currently observe coherence in our case, then I don’t suppose we need to know more this morning, but to work on making the choice, with the help of the one who works behind the scene for our good.
The Preacher’s advice reminds me of one of my directors when I used to work in a Christian mission agency. She took a 60% pay cut from her organization for converting from full-time to part-time, in order to lead the local office of the mission agency that I served. One thing noticeable about her is that she will always find a way to laugh over tough situations, with regards to funding or otherwise. I don’t think for her it was a matter of personality or some psychology at work, although I don’t totally discount these factors. But often time, I saw her first do the laughing and praying, before getting to the cracking of the heard and the solving. To me, she is one who really caught the spirit of The Preacher’s message. With God’s help, may we all be able to join this dear former boss and friend of mine, glorifying God through trusting in him.
Borrowed and re-worked from http://www.jokes.net/toogreedy.htm
Seow C. L., The Anchor Yale Bible: Ecclesiastes, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008, 211
The reason for using such a title is that it somewhat reflects observable behavior patterns.
Seow, Ecclesiastes, 217.