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It is written:
Ecclesiastes 10:19-A feast is made for laughter, And wine makes merry; But money answers everything.
Recently, I read an article that defended the premise that the Bible teaches money is the answer for all of our problems. Of course, the Bible tells us quite differently: indeed, we are reminded that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:9-10). The author of the article in question, however, quoted Ecclesiastes 10:19.
Ecclesiastes 10:19 (GW)-A meal is made for laughter, and wine makes life pleasant, but money is the answer for everything.
What is Solomon telling us in this passage?
The first thing to notice is the different ways that this passage is rendered in different Bible translations. In some cases, it seems to be translated in such a way that money is said to be the solution for all of our problems.
Ecclesiastes 10:19 (BSB)-A feast is prepared for laughter, and wine makes life merry, but money is the answer for everything.
Ecclesiastes 10:19 (NET)-Feasts are made for laughter, and wine makes life merry, but money is the answer for everything.
Ecclesiastes 10:19 (NLT)-A party gives laughter, wine gives happiness, and money gives everything!
Other translations, however, suggest that there may be other ways to interpret this passage. The Amplified Bible, for example, suggests that city officials and tax collectors may be in view:
Ecclesiastes 10:19 (Amplified)-[Instead of repairing the breaches, the officials] make a feast for laughter, serve wine to cheer life, and [depend on tax] money to answer for all of it.
Other translations suggest that this is just saying that money seems to answer a lot of the problems that we face in life:
Ecclesiastes 10:19 (ERV)-People enjoy eating, and wine makes life happier. But money solves a lot of problems.
Ecclesiastes 10:19 (CEV)-Eating and drinking make you feel happy, and bribes can buy everything you need.
So there is a lot of ambiguity with the text that can altar our understanding of what Solomon is saying. He certainly is not saying that money is literally the solution for everything, as he points out earlier in the Book that money leads to sorrow!
Ecclesiastes 5:10-He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; Nor he who loves abundance, with increase. This also is vanity.
The second thing to notice here is the viewpoint from which Solomon writes. The Book of Ecclesiastes is basically a research project, where the author is trying to investigate whether or not there is any real and lasting joy and purpose on Earth, apart from God. To describe his search parameters, he uses phrases like “under the sun.”
“While it is true that the Preacher takes a sober view of life, never flinching from any of its complexities and confusions, it is equally true that he has solid hope in the goodness of God as well as lasting joy in the beauty of his many gifts. This is exactly why he has shown us the futility of everything earthly: it is so we will put our hope in the everlasting God. The Preacher hints at his evangelistic purpose by using an important phrase almost thirty times over the course of his argument: “under the sun.” As he describes the absurdity and futility of work and wisdom and pleasure and everything else, he repeatedly says that this is what things are like “under the sun” (e.g., Ecclesiastes 1: 3). In other words, this is what life is like when we view it from a merely human perspective, when we limit our gaze to this solar system, without ever lifting our eyes to see the beauty and glory of God in Heaven. If that is all we see, then life will leave us empty and unhappy. But when we look to God with reverence and awe, we are able to see the meaning of life, and the beauty of its pleasures, and the eternal significance of everything we do, including the little things of everyday life. Only then can we discover why everything matters. We catch glimpses of this eternal perspective throughout the book of Ecclesiastes, but it becomes even clearer at the very end. Vanity does not have the last word. Instead, the author says, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12: 13). Similarly, the book of Proverbs says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (1: 7). Here in Ecclesiastes, Solomon says that the fear of God is not just the beginning but also the end—the goal of our existence. But in order to know and enjoy God properly, we first have to see the emptiness of life without him, becoming thoroughly disillusioned with everything the world has to offer. To this end, Ecclesiastes gives us a true assessment of what life is like apart from the grace of God. This makes it a hopeful book, not a depressing one; ultimately its worldview is positive, not negative. Like a good pastor, Qoheleth shows us the absolute vanity of life without God, so that we finally stop expecting earthly things to give us lasting satisfaction and learn to live for God rather than for ourselves. The great English preacher John Wesley once preached his way through this great book of the Bible. In his personal journal he described what it was like to begin that sermon series. “Began expounding the Book of Ecclesiastes,” he wrote. “Never before had I so clear a sight either of its meaning or beauties. Neither did I imagine, that the several parts of it were in so exquisite a manner connected together, all tending to prove the grand truth, that there is no happiness out of God.” 21 What Wesley discovered was a life-changing truth, which we can pray that Ecclesiastes will also teach us: we will never find any true meaning or lasting happiness unless and until we find it in God.” (Philip Graham Ryken, Ecclesiastes: Why Everything Matters (Preaching the Word), 20-21 (Kindle Edition); Wheaton, Illinois; Crossway)
To the person who is looking at life apart from God, it seems that “money is the answer to everything.” Yet when we put God back into the equation, we see the exact opposite is true! Money cannot buy true happiness, joy, meaning, or redemption!
So Ecclesiastes 10:19 is merely pointing out the (mistaken and incorrect) view of those who want to live apart from God, that money is indeed the solution to all of our problems in life. When we understand the context under which Solomon is writing, the confusion of the passage disappears.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.