Read: Ecclesiastes 9:7-10
This isn’t the first time that the Preacher has encouraged men to enjoy the fruits of his labor. The Preacher had earlier said that enjoying the fruits of one’s labor was a blessing from God (Ecclesiastes 3:13, Ecclesiastes 5:18, Ecclesiastes 8:15). He also thinks that overwork and laziness are some things that should be avoided too (Ecclesiastes 4:4-6). The preacher gives a longer description saying that one should be merry, let one’s garments be white, and enjoy life with the loved ones. These things are “approved” by God. The Preacher also encourages his readers to find something and do it – that is be industrious too.
The encouragement here though he given in the context of the certainty of death. The certainty of death is a pervaded the thoughts of the Preacher and is apparent especially in chapter 9. The Preacher calls the life that one lives “vain” – that is a life void of meaning and purpose. The Preacher seems pretty certain that the readers and he alike are bound for Sheol, the abode the dead in Jewish though. When one died, whether righteous or unrighteous, he or she went to Sheol and remained there. The New Testament follows the tradition of the Septuagint, the Greek New Testament where translating the word “Sheol” into “hades”. The New Testament uses another word to describe the place of punishment called “Gehenna”. Ghenna is mentioned in the context of judgment particularly in the synoptic gospels (Matthew 5:22-29, Matthew 10:28, Matthew 18:9, Matthew 23:15,33, Mark 9:43-47 Luke 12:5, James 3:6). What the Preacher does not seem to take into account is that there will one day be a judgment and all will be resurrected from “hades”. When one is judged, he or she is either condemned or is lives forever with God. The hope of the Christian gospel is made real by the fact that Jesus himself rose from the dead, showing that resurrection is indeed possible.
A life for a Christian does not have to be meaningless and without purpose. Acts 17:22-31 talks about how a person’s existence is tied up in God. Paul actually quotes a a philosopher named Epimenides saying, “for in Him we live and move and exist”. The totality of one’s being is contingent upon God, and the Preacher realized that man’s hearts are set on this. When Jesus came to earth, his mission was not to condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:17). In other words, he was about the business of making sure people do not have to endure “Ghenna” – that is judgment – when they are judged. Jesus taught his disciples what they needed to know and then gave them the new work of telling the world about the pending resurrection and judgment at the end of days and how Jesus provided a way to escape this by dying on the cross and resurrecting from the dead so the one’s facing judgment would not have to. A Christian who makes this sort of work his or her work does something that has eternal implications. Such a life is not “vain”, rather full of meaning because of the one who they serve, namely Jesus!
Lord, your work is to seek and save that which is lost! Help me to do the same!