Ecclesiastes 2:26 (ESV)

26 For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.

Professor Izak Spangenberg (South Africa) writes in his explanation of Ecclesiastes 2:26, For the Preacher it is not man's actions that determine whether he can find enjoyment, but it is God's will.

Is it really true that the Lord is presented to us here as a God of random choices? Is Solomon saying here that God has favourites? Is God not fair and just in his judgment of people? Can you not trust God at this point?

It is important to understand clearly what the words one who pleases him mean here. These words indicate that it is in God’s freedom to give prosperity to some and to withhold it from others. This does not imply that we would be able to draw the conclusion that someone who lives in prosperity and health is therefore a faithful child of God. Neither can and may we conclude from illness and misery in someone’s life that he or she is an unbeliever.

The word translated in this verse as the sinner also requires our attention. Here it does not primarily point to our guilt before God. This is about someone who experiences no prosperity on earth and therefore, according to people, misses out on the purpose of his life. When you observe the reality of life, it often seems that one person receives everything and another gets nothing. One person works hard but life remains difficult. Another actually doesn’t work or works very little, but gets more and more. His life seems to be going smoothly. The work of one person, who continues to struggle, even seems to contribute to the prosperity of another who does much less.

As a human being you encounter something here that is difficult to grasp. When you don’t look beyond life on earth, it will continue to frustrate you. Everything seems to be in vain again. Yet the day is coming when the Lord will judge righteously. He will then give to each according to his works (see, for example, 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 2:23). Those who have lived and worked in the service of Christ receive their reward for their work out of grace. Anyone who did not want to live in the service of Christ, no matter how rich and healthy he was, will then receive God’s eternal judgment (see, for example, Psalm 49:6–20). Anyone who is in Christ is, in God’s eyes, his beloved child forever. That is the wealth you can never lose.