This is part 11 of a many-part blog series on the book of Ecclesiastes.
Death: the Great Equalizer. Ultimate things are completely and utterly outside of our control. Nothing makes us feel the weight of our finiteness more than death.
“It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath” (9:2).
Not many truths are more humbling than this one. If your righteousness is superficial, you will give up once you internalize this. If you are only following Jesus to receive the “good life” now, you might as well quit. If you think by doing B4T you will become a hero, you should not get on that plane.
Death is Coming
“This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all” (9:3). Yet, it is better to live because in living you at least have a shot (9:4-5).
This is starting to sound like a good country song. Death is coming, so eat, drink, and enjoy the simple things (9:7). Wisdom is better than folly, so be wise. Life is gift, not gain. Stop striving because you don’t know how long you have and enjoy what is already right in front of you (9:9). Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all you have (9:10).
In life under the sun (among created things), you can only enjoy what you do not worship. As long as you don’t worship money, sex, notoriety, etc., you can enjoy them in their proper place within God’s good created order. Once you begin to worship them, their value will begin to decay right before your eyes.
(Hey, seriously, if you are a country music artist reading this, I want my royalties when you write this song!)
Uncertainty in Life
Much in life is uncertain (vv.11-12). Don’t put your faith or hope in anything under the sun because it is all out of your control (“man does not know his time” – 9:12). You don’t know when you will die, so live well today.
I want to stress here that this advice is often used outside of Christian circles as if Solomon is simply saying, “Carpe diem” (seize the day). Let’s be clear: this isn’t advice to eat, drink, and be merry because there is no hope. That’s not what Solomon is saying at all, despite his frustration in not fully understanding why things are the way they are or even why his advice is best. He can’t quite put his finger on it because he doesn’t have the full picture, but he knows there is a God in heaven who judges.
David Gibson says it well:
“Those without Christ often abandon themselves to eating and drinking because sometimes it looks as if that’s all there is to do before we die. But those who love Christ cherish eating and drinking because it looks a little like what we will do after we die.”
The Here and Now
Chapters 7-9, when read correctly, really push us toward longing for eternity. No matter how good we have it here and now, we realize there and then will be so much better. No matter how bad we have it here and now, we realize there and then will be worth the endurance.
All of our heroes in Hebrews 11 responded as they did to God’s assignment for them here because they found the future reward to far outweigh the costs. If the Most High assigns you to a life of laboring and suffering among the least-reached, are you willing? Does making His Name famous and having His Kingdom fully inaugurated on earth motivate you enough for the road ahead?
Greg is the President of OPEN USA. He used his education to work as a tentmaker in the Middle East for 8.5 years seeking to plant a church amongst a least-reached people group. Currently back in the USA with his wife and children, they aim to return to finish what the LORD used them to start.
To learn more about B4T, read Business for Transformation by Patrick Lai.