Focal Passages: Ecclesiastes 5:8-16, 18-20; 6:7-12
When one hears the name Enron one thinks of scandal. Until the scandal was revealed in October 2001, many people lauded Enron and its brain-trust as examples of exceptional leadership. Enron, founded by Kenneth Lay in 1985, was an energy (natural gas) company based in Houston, Texas, that rapidly grew to become one of the largest U.S. companies. In 2000 its stock price rose to a high of $90 per share. After shareholders filed a $40 billion lawsuit, the share price plummeted to less than $1 per share. On December 2, 2001, Enron filed for bankruptcy protection. Its assets of $63.4 billion made it the largest corporate bankruptcy in American history at the time. The result was that some of Enron’s top executives were indicted for fraud and sent to prison. Corporate greed is a reality. When Enron collapsed many investors lost much or all of their life’s savings.
The Teacher describes a situation where the fabulously wealthy lose it all. On the one hand it is a “sickening tragedy” (5:13). Any number of factors can cause wealth and its lifestyle to disappear – a bad business deal, a collapsing economy, a compromise of integrity. The man who loses the ability to provide for his family invariably feels like a failure. The man who intentionally breaks rules and defrauds his own business can expect no pity.
While unpleasant, failure is an important part of living. It can cause us to reexamine, refocus and reorder our lives. It can lead to making healthier life adjustments and choices. The Teacher found that it is far wiser to prize happiness, hard work and a good family over possessions that may disappear in our lifetime – and that will surely disappear from us at our death. In a society that largely glorifies instant gratification, success and wealth, it is sobering to consider what often happens when possessions are lost. The Teacher says a better course is to be content with that which will endure.