The Wandering Appetite (Ecclesiastes 6:1–12)

Some time ago, I was speaking with a friend about the men she works with. They all are very well educated, hard working, and successful, at least in monetary terms. Most of them are married, and although they do not spend much time with their wives, they compensate for their personal absence with monetary presents.

Are they happy? Do they have the ability to enjoy the wealth they have accumulated so far? Could they call it quits today and take pleasure in their wives, children, and hobbies? Evidently not. They are too competitive. They feel too strongly a need to acquire more and more stuff, and—just as importantly—to make sure their colleagues know about their acquisitions.

They have, in other words, what the Preacher calls “the wandering of the appetite” (Ecclesiastes 6:1–12).[1] Their hunger for more is never satisfied, it is always on a quest for an unholy grail. This lust for stuff, a perpetual discontent with the blessings one already has, is “an evil” that “lies heavy on mankind.” They have “wealth, possessions, and honor”—all gifts of God—but no “power to enjoy them,” which also comes from God’s grace.

To a certain extent, of course, the good life consists of both things: an abundance of material comforts and the power to enjoy them. But, if one must choose between the two, it is always better to have contentment than wealth. “Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the appetite.” A wise person sees what is right in front of him and is happy; a fool is only happy for what he thinks lies unseen over the horizon.

The Apostle Paul knew the surpassing value of contentment. “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content,” he writes in Philippians 4.11–13. “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” Whence comes the source of this contentment? “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Regarding our material possessions, then, we should learn to be content. Only when it comes to God should we have a wandering appetite and an insatiable desire for more.


[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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