11Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all. 12For man does not know his time. Like fish that are taken in an evil net, and like birds that are caught in a snare, so the children of man are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them.
(Ecclesiastes 9:11-12 ESV)
After having encouraged us to work hard during our lifetime yesterday King Solomon tempers our expectations in today’s passage. One might think that hard work will guarantee results, but that is not necessarily how life works.
The swift do not always win the race. The strong do not always win the battle. Being intelligent does not guarantee riches.
Life is enigmatic. Things don’t happen the way we think they should. We’re all taught that if we want to succeed we have to get a better education and put in more hours at work.
But success often comes to those who don’t do these things. And those who do those things sometimes don’t get the reward they think they should. That is just how life is.
This however should not deter us from attaining knowledge, nor should it make us lazy. God wants us to be wise and to work hard. But we should not believe that just because we do these things we will get the results we dream of. Rather we are subject to time and chance.
We think we are in total control of our lives. But that isn’t really true. Our lives are subject to the decisions, past and present, made by others.
We drive on the right (or left) side of the road because someone long ago decided we should. We pay taxes because someone decreed we must. We learn in school that which others decided we should learn.
We get into a car accident and possibly suffer physical harm because someone else runs a red light. We lose our money because someone else takes risks that don’t pay off.
Just like fish that are happily swimming along one minute and are suddenly and unexpectedly taken in an evil net, so too are our lives. Unpredictable things happen. And they can disrupt, or even end, our lives.
Life is filled with uncertainty. We can make all the contingency plans we can think of but we have no control over future events, notably the evil ones that will affect us detrimentally. They happen suddenly, without warning.
That is how life operates under the sun – in a world without God. We should not expect it to be otherwise. Life will not always, if ever, go the way we plan because we are unaware of the decisions being made by others – decisions that will affect us in some way.
When life is lived without God people’s decisions tend to favor themselves and disrupt the lives of others. Perhaps this is unintentional. Perhaps it is intentional. Regardless, there are many things that happen to us as a result of other people’s decisions. And there is nothing we can do to prevent it.
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