24There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, 25for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? 26For 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.
(Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 ESV)
Yesterday we read King Solomon’s thoughts on work and how, in the end, it’s all meaningless because we have to leave behind everything we work for on this earth. But, paradoxically, Solomon notes that there is nothing better for a person that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil.
Solomon is not advocating ‘Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!’ That is the philosophy of hedonism justified by fatalism.
In fact, enjoyment of life is from the hand of God. God wants us to enjoy life [1 Timothy 4:4, 6:17]. But no one can have enjoyment apart from Him.
Up until this point King Solomon has looked at life from the “under the sun” point of view. He’s noted that when we live as if all that exists is what is “under the sun” – that is, earth – life is meaningless. It is devoid of true enjoyment. Rather it is filled with struggle.
Pleasure and work have no meaning in and of themselves. When we expect them to fulfill us we are disappointed. So we seek even more pleasure and work even harder only be even more disappointed. And the cycle continues. We then end up hating life because we expect to get more out of these pursuits than they can give.
The path to wisdom and knowledge and joy is to please God. And the one who pleases Him is the one who has faith in Him [Hebrews 11:6].
We enjoy life by pleasing God. And we please God by having faith in Him. When we realize that we can’t work to please self nor do we have to work to please God, life becomes much more satisfying. We can take pleasure in all that life offers because all that life offers is a gift from God.
God wants us to enjoy not only eternity in heaven but our present on this earth. After all, our current life is part of our entire existence. But we cannot enjoy our present if we don’t understand that enjoyment doesn’t come from things, or money, or other people. Enjoyment comes from having a relationship with God.
By contrast, the sinner spends his life gathering and collecting – working and accumulating (friends, possessions, money etc.). But this is nothing more than striving after wind. It is pointless, impossible, and without end.
When we realize that all of life – pleasure, wisdom, work – is as much a gift from God as life itself we can enjoy what we have without being discontent about what we don’t have. We can be satisfied in who we are – people who are loved by God and who have a heavenly Father who cares for them and takes care of them
Throughout the rest of this book, Solomon will explore this further, including common objections to his conclusion.
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