One can’t go very far into Ecclesiastes without seeing the viewpoint Solomon argues from. Whether he truly believed it or not, or is simply taking the argument of a person living apart from God, is a point of contention, but basically he argues from the viewpoint that this life is all there is. Time and again in chapters 2, 3, 8, and 9, you see him making this argument.
At times, he seems to despair at this thought, saying things like,
“The fate of the fool will overtake me also.
What then do I gain by being wise?”
I said in my heart, “This too is meaningless.”
For the wise man, like the fool, will not be long remembered;
in days to come both will be forgotten.
Like the fool, the wise man too must die! (2:15-16)
I also thought, “As for men, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” (3:18-21)
Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come? No man has power over the wind to contain it; so no one has power over the day of his death…righteous men who get what the wicked deserve, and wicked men who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless. (8:7-8, 14)
All share a common destiny—the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not. As it is with the good man, so with the sinner; as it is with those who take oaths, so with those who are afraid to take them. This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of men, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead. (9:2-3)
Solomon’s basic conclusion to all of this is one of resignation. Just make the most of life that you can. (3:12-13, 22; 8:15; 9:7-10)
I would agree with Solomon that we need to make the most of life. To enjoy this life on earth and the pleasures God gives us. To be happy. To do good. To eat, drink, and enjoy the labor we’ve been given. To enjoy our lives with our spouse.
But there is more to this life than just our time on earth. Death is not the end. And so when we see evil on this earth, we can know that there will eventually be justice. When we see all the hurts and pains of earth, we can know that there will be healing. And we can know that our decisions will have eternal consequences. That God will repay us in eternity for the things we have done while on this earth.
Solomon said that God sets eternity in the hearts of men (3:11). Part of that means that people would see death and cry out against the idea that this is the end. Many people do, and despair. Or like Solomon, they resign themselves to just making the best out of life that they can. But what many people miss is that God sets eternity in the hearts of men so that they would hunger for him and seek him. And if they would just do that, they would find healing in their brokenness, peace in the suffering they see in this world and in their lives, and a life worth living, both here on earth, and in the one to come.
So as we live this life, it doesn’t have to be lived in despair or resignation, but in the joy of knowing that there is more to this life.
How about you? Are you in despair because you think this life is all there is? Are you resigned to just making the most of life, thinking that everything is ultimately meaningless? Seek God. Because when you do, you will find the hope and meaning for your life that you and everyone else on this earth longs for.
Remember always the precious promise given in John.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)