Solomon continues here the theme of chapters 7-8. The problem of evil is insoluble by human wisdom. And in a world such as ours that has been corrupted by sin, we can’t predict what will happen to us, whether good or bad. Good and evil come to all, even those who are righteous and wise (as much as fallen man can be righteous and wise, anyway). As Solomon puts it in verse 1,
So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands, but no man knows whether love or hate awaits him.
But then he talks about the one thing we can all be sure to face. Death. And Solomon notes that it doesn’t matter whether you’re good or bad, death will come to all.
Basically, he says that when you’re dead, you know nothing, you do nothing. You have no more reward for what you do. All that you experienced, both good and bad, are things of the past. And eventually, you’ll be forgotten.
And so he says,
Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do. Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun–all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. (7-10)
In other words, make the most of your life. Enjoy this life God has given you while you can. And with that sentiment, I completely agree. So often we let ourselves be overcome with worry about our lives, what’s happened in our past, what’s happening now, and what we fear for the future, that we fail to enjoy the good things we have in life now. And that is a waste.
But there is one advantage that we have that Solomon didn’t. The absolute knowledge that there is more to this life. In the Old Testament, the best you have are shadows of an afterlife. In the New Testament, Jesus makes it very clear that there is more to this life. That there is something after the grave. At a time when a woman named Martha was weeping for her brother Lazarus who had died, Jesus told her,
I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. (John 11:25-26)
So make the most of life. Live it to its fullest. God made it for us to enjoy. But know that there is hope beyond the grave. We don’t have to live in uncertainty about what happens after we die. We can know.
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (I John 5:13)
May we live and rejoice in that knowledge every day.