Are the rich getting richer, while the poor get poorer? – Ecclesiastes 5:8-6:12, Part 1

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

What are you looking forward to? How would you fill in the blank in the following phrase: “I can’t wait for _______”?

Here are some that I’ve heard recently, from myself and others.

I can’t wait until we have a vaccine for Covid, so we can get back to normal. 

I can’t wait until this election is over, so we don’t have to deal with ridiculous debates and nonstop election commercials.

I can’t wait until this week is over, so I can enjoy the weekend.

I can’t wait until I pay off this loan, and life will feel so much better.

I can’t wait until I’m done with school, so I don’t have the pressure of classes and assignments.

I can’t wait until summer’s over, so I don’t have to deal with the heat and humidity.

I can’t wait until retirement, because I’m so sick of years and years of the grind. 

I can’t wait.  I can’t wait.  I can’t wait.  Have you ever noticed that when what we can’t wait for happens, then there are more things we can’t wait for?  When will it all stop?  Or are we just doomed to be dissatisfied?

We continue our study through Ecclesiastes, this week concluding a three-part mini-series on the central section of the book, chapter 5, verse 8, through chapter 6, and the Teacher drives to the heart of our dissatisfaction.

Let’s starting by reading, chapter 5, verse 8. Initially it might seem unrelated to the theme of dissatisfaction, but the Teacher is building his case. Here’s how the NIV puts it: “If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things.”  Dorsey’s translation clarifies that the Teacher is saying that it is the “rich people in a particular district defrauding the poor or depriving the powerless of justice and due process.”  Not surprising, the Teacher says.  In our world, injustice and oppression abound against the poor. But how does this relate to dissatisfaction?

Let’s follow the Teacher’s logic, as he continues talking about the wealthy and powerful.  In the NIV, halfway through verse 8, the Teacher goes on: “For one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still.”

Does that phrase in verse 8, “one official is eyed by a higher one,” sound odd to you?  My first thought was that the Teacher must be talking about a boss holding her employees accountable, making sure they are doing a good job.  But that’s not quite what the Teacher means.   Dorsey’s translation is helpful: “Influential men protect one another; and they, in turn, are protected by even more powerful men.” See the difference?  When the Teacher talks about one official eyeing another, what the Teacher is referring to is wealthy and powerful people watching out for each other, making sure that they stay in power and retain their wealth. They don’t want the poor people to get their wealth.  Ah, now we can just barely hear how the Teacher is scratching the surface of the theme of dissatisfaction. Even though the rich and powerful have so much, they are not satisfied, so they oppress the poor, committing injustice to make sure the poor people stay in their place.

It’s similar to the phrase, “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”  It’s similar to the talk we hear about the widening gap between the ultra-wealthy and poor.  It is similar to what we hear about the erosion of the middle class. 

Did you hear what happened since the start of Covid in March?

Business Insider reported in August that “When you add up the numbers, billionaires in the United States have increased their total net worth $637 billion during the COVID-19 pandemic so far. At the same time, more than 40 million Americans filed for unemployment. With tens of millions of Americans out of a paycheck and the stock market plummeting by 37% in March, how is it that the rich have continued getting richer?”[1]

Great question.  There are two reasons, Business Insider reports:

  1. The government disproportionately gave more aid to banks and corporations, and
  2. When the stock market bounced back, the unequal bailouts meant that the wealthy still had money on hand to invest and thus profit, while the middle and lower classes did not.    

This is a classic example of how the rich and powerful tend to protect the rich and powerful, and it is contrary to the heart of God.  His heart beats for oppression and injustice to cease.  That’s why Christians should fight against oppression and injustice.  Because God created and loves all of humanity.  So his heart hurts when those he created, people he made in his image and loves, aren’t being treated equally. How are you fighting oppression and injustice?

Check back tomorrow as we continue to follow the Teacher’s thinking and advice about addressing dissatisfaction in our lives.


[1] https://www.businessinsider.com/billionaires-net-worth-increases-coronavirus-pandemic-2020-7

Published by joelkime

I love my wife, Michelle, and our four kids, Tyler, Connor, Jared and Meagan. I serve at Faith Church and love our church family. I teach a course online from time to time, and in my free time I love to read and exercise, especially running,

2 thoughts on “Are the rich getting richer, while the poor get poorer? – Ecclesiastes 5:8-6:12, Part 1

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