3A man may have a hundred children and live many years; yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity and does not receive proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. 4It comes without meaning, it departs in darkness, and in darkness its name is shrouded. 5Though it never saw the sun or knew anything, it has more rest than does that man— 6even if he lives a thousand years twice over but fails to enjoy his prosperity. Do not all go to the same place?
(Ecclesiastes 6:3-6 ESV)
In today’s passage King Solomon gives us another example of how material abundance is not necessarily a good thing. In this example a man lived many years and had a hundred children. Long life and many children were considered to be signs of God’s blessing in ancient Israel [Psalm 127:3–5]. Unlike today, children were not considered an economic burden. They were an economic asset in an agrarian economy.
Yet if he cannot enjoy his prosperity his life is not worth living. In fact, a stillborn child is better off than he.
If someone cannot enjoy the good things they have, like family and longevity, then it would be better if they had not been born at all. Note that Solomon is in no way saying that a miscarriage is a good thing. His use of it for comparison purposes is purely philosophical, not literal. Solomon is saying that it is more tragic for someone to be given life and possessions and honor and riches and not enjoy life than the tragedy of miscarriage.
So many people think that family is the answer to their problems. They think that once they get married they’ll be happy. But they soon find out that marriage is not always easy or fulfilling. Or they think that having children will give them a sense of purpose and will bring enjoyment into their lives. Women especially feel this way. But, again, raising children requires work and that work is often thankless and unfulfilling.
If one seeks fulfillment from things (as we learned yesterday) or other people (as we see today) their life will be restless. They will never find what they are looking for.
Just because someone has the outward signs of a good life that does not mean they are satisfied with their life. This comes to light when they die; they might not receive proper burial. Having a proper burial was, and still is, a statement about the significance of your life.
Despite having a hundred children (and obviously a few wives) the man in this story died unloved. No one cared about him after he died (although I’m sure they cared about, and fought over, the money and things he left behind).
Even living a thousand years twice over – over twice as long as the oldest man who ever lived – is no guarantee of enjoying life. It’s not quantity that provides enjoyment, it’s quality. If God isn’t a part of your life and you aren’t acknowledging that all you have comes from Him, then your life is pointless and tragic.
Because in the end both the stillborn and the one who lives a long time go to the same place. They come face-to-face with God for judgment who will determine their eternity. And it’s better to live zero days on earth with God than thousands of days without Him.
A stillborn child will never know anything about this life. It will never have wealth or riches. It will never be known by anyone. Yet it will experience the grace of God and will be at rest with Him. For those that don’t know God, eternity will have no rest [Luke 16:19-31].
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.