Nobody gets out of here alive. This may sound like the plot of a horror story, yet this is the reality of life. Every person who draws breath on this planet will, one day, cease to breathe. As we have seen previously in the book of Ecclesiastes, death is the great equalizer (Ecclesiastes 2:12-17). Modern Western society, however, tries everything it can to slow the effects of aging and prolong life. Don’t get me wrong, these can be helpful, but the truth is death comes for us all. In addition to these tactics, modern society tries to distract us from the reality of death by overstimulation. If we can be distracted enough with relatively meaningless things, we do not have to think about our mortality. Yet, this is not the way the Bible encourages us to think about life and death. The entire book of Ecclesiastes is about this topic. Solomon wrestles for twelve chapters with the meaning of life. When he gets to the end, he reminds his readers to consider their mortality, because it is inevitable. In the passage at hand, Solomon discusses three principles that will help the reader to live with the end in view.
Enjoy All of Life
First, Solomon encourages the reader to enjoy all of life. In verse 7, he states, “light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.” What he is trying to convey in this statement is to enjoy life while you have it. Every life stage comes with its own enjoyments and difficulties, however, life is to be enjoyed. Solomon’s basic principle here is “live in the moment.” Life comes and goes in the blink of an eye, therefore a person is to enjoy it while they have it. This truth is more evident when a person is battling health problems. A doctor’s diagnosis can bring life into perspective in the blink of an eye. I believe it is healthy to live in light of our mortality because it brings clarity of purpose and cuts through the distractions that society props up to make us forget that we are mortal beings. Living with the end in view can help a person to enjoy life more fully because it makes us realize that how we live our lives matter in eternity. In their commentary on the book of Ecclesiastes, Danny and Jonathan Akin put it this way “contemplating death is a means to enjoy life and a means to live wisely” (Christ-Centered Exposition: Ecclesiastes). Yet, this contemplation should not drive a person to fear death, thereby paralyzing them with anxiety about the unknown. Living in the age after Christ provides the advantage of knowing the One who has conquered death and promises eternal life. Therefore, the Christian has nothing to fear about death because of the hope they have in Christ.
Judgment is Coming
Second, Solomon reminds the reader that judgement is coming. This may sound strange in light of what he has just been discussing, however, it makes perfect sense to remind the reader of judgement at this point. In the same verse, he says, “Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes,” which sounds odd in light of a coming judgment. However, what Solomon is trying to say here is, enjoy life but keep the end in view. By living this way, it can help us ensure that we are living life as the Lord intended. This means that “we don’t for ourselves how we will do marriage, food, drink, sex, finances, family, work, and relationships” (Christ-Centered Exposition: Ecclesiastes). Jesus taught this principle both in the Sermon on the Mount and the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46). He explicitly teaches that how we live our lives on this earth matters for eternity. What we do for the “least of these” we do unto Him. Every seemingly small act of kindness counts eternally. This principle does not teach that a person can earn his way to heaven, but that all of one’s life will be judged in the end. Living in light of this truth can help us make wise decisions in the here and now.
The point of Solomon to remind the reader about a coming judgment is to urge them to deal with their sin now, while there is still a chance. Repentance is the heart of the Christian faith. While it is true that the whole of a believer’s life should be one of repentance, it is easier to come to initial repentance early in life before a person gets set in their ways. The difficulties and trials of life have a way of making it harder for a person to see their need for the Lord. Human nature has a tendency to believe that we can do it on our own. Yet, the truth is that repentance of self-sufficiency is at the heart of the gospel. Trust the Lord and deal with sin before it is too late.
Seek God While You Are Young
The last principle that Solomon teaches in this section of Ecclesiastes is to seek God while you are young. In light of our mortality and the coming judgment, it is wise to seek godliness early in life. There are so many distractions in the modern world that vie for the attention of young people. This is the stage of development when they are setting habits and formulating their worldview. Statistics show that young people who practice the Christian faith at an early age are more likely to continue in faith as an adult (LifeWay Research*). Therefore, it is crucial to encourage faith in children and teenagers. This does not mean that it is impossible for adults to come to faith, only more difficult. I meet with a mentor every week who did not come to faith until his early thirties. When he came to faith he didn’t look back and has become a fervent believer. However, he regrets not coming to faith earlier in life, so that he could have had more time to walk with the Lord. It is for this reason that he feels called to meet with younger men to encourage them in the faith, while they are young. This is an essential aspect of Christian discipleship, making sure that young people know and are growing in the Lord.
The application of this text is simple, enjoy life God’s way. The Lord intended for human beings to find enjoyment in this life. However, He desires to be the source of our enjoyment. He knows what is best and wants his people to live within the bounds of his loving grace. Yet, we are not to live this life alone. He designed the Church to be the source of community and encouragement to ensure that all whom He has called are growing in Him. I love how the author of Hebrews puts it, “exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 13:3). Seek the Lord, and enjoy the Lord today while there is an opportunity.