The Absolute Certainty of Death (9:2-3)
2 Everything is the same for everyone: there is one fate for the righteous and the wicked, for the good and the bad, for the clean and the unclean, for the one who sacrifices and the one who does not sacrifice. As it is for the good, so it is for the sinner, as for the one who takes an oath, so for the one who fears an oath. 3 This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: there is one fate for everyone. In addition, the hearts of people are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live—after that they go to the dead. (HCSB)
The thing we all know, yet the thing we try to forget: all of us must die. For all of the frustrations that exist in life (like the wicked prospering while the righteous suffer), there is one great equalizer of life. Every person must die. There is nothing a person can do to avoid this reality. People live their lives forgetting that everyone must face the day of death. Our lives would drastically change if we constantly lived under the awareness that death can await us at any moment. Humans like to assume a long life, but such has not been promised to us. James states well the nature of our lives:
What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. (James 4:14; ESV)
Many of us would make different decisions in life if we kept in mind that at any moment we would stand before God’s judgment seat.
Enjoy Life (9:7-10)
7 Go, eat your bread with pleasure, and drink your wine with a cheerful heart, for God has already accepted your works.
Enjoy life while you can. This has been the repeated admonition of the Teacher. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the fruit of our labor. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the things that life has to offer. There is so much to appreciate and experience. Enjoy the life you have been given.
8 Let your clothes be white all the time, and never let oil be lacking on your head.
Live your life in purity. God has not said that you can live your life recklessly or wickedly. Enjoy life, but know that you will be held accountable. Keep your clothes white. Keep your life pure.
Further, never let oil be lacking on your head. Money is made to be spent. Enjoy your wealth. Spend money on your family. What is the point of hoarding? What is the excuse for being tight with money? Who are you saving it for? Spend responsibly and enjoy the blessings that God has given.
9 Enjoy life with the wife you love all the days of your fleeting life, which has been given to you under the sun, all your fleeting days. For that is your portion in life and in your struggle under the sun.
Spend time with your family. Enjoy your spouse. Enjoy your children. Enjoy your parents. Your time is short. The days are fleeting. Appreciate the time that you have because that is the task that God has given each of us.
10 Whatever your hands find to do, do with all your strength, because there is no work, planning, knowledge, or wisdom in Sheol where you are going.
Since life is short, do not do things half-heartedly. Do things with all of your heart. You are going to die. Maximize your time. Maximize what your put your efforts into. In light of our lives being merely a mist for a little while, we need to do things to the best of our abilities, enjoying our work and pleasure fully.
Understand: Time and Chance Happen To All (9:11-12)
11 Again I saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, or the battle to the strong, or bread to the wise, or riches to the discerning, or favor to the skillful; rather, time and chance happen to all of them. 12 For man certainly does not know his time: like fish caught in a cruel net, or like birds caught in a trap, so people are trapped in an evil time, as it suddenly falls on them. (HCSB)
I believe the Teacher instructs us in something that is very important to understand in life. A critical piece of teaching that most of the religious world ignores. Sometimes in life there is no rhyme or reason to events.
Notice carefully how the Teacher words the argument. Sometimes the swift do not win the race. Sometimes the battle is not won by the strong. Sometimes the wise do not have food. Sometimes the discerning do not have riches. Why does this happen? Did God cause this? Is there some cosmic reason for these events taking place? The Teacher tells us: NO! Time and chance happen to all.
Notice verse 12, which further amplifies the point. The fish is caught in the net. The birds are caught in a trap. We are trapped in an evil time and bad stuff suddenly happens. All of these things are without reason. Not everything in life has a reason. Not everything in life has a purpose. Time and chance happen to all of them. The race is not always won by the swift because there are other variables in life.
Please let me impress upon you the necessity of understanding this principle of time and chance. God does not cause everything to happen. Nor does everything happen for a reason. This false teaching is destroying the lives of people who lose their faith during difficult times. If God causes everything to happen, then God is to blame for a lot of evil in this world. When your loved one is stricken with a disease or dies prematurely, God is not the cause. God does not cause everything in this world to happen.
We need to hear these words. Time and chance happen to all. There is such a thing as being in the right place at the right time and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Just the other day my wife found a nice, expensive alarm clock that has an iPod connection for only $20. Should we think that God wants us to have a new alarm clock? No, it was simply being at the right place at the right time. If she had shown up a couple hours later and the clocks were gone, would that have been a sign from God that he did not want us to have an alarm clock? Of course not. The whole idea is absurd.
But if it is absurd with the small things, then why do we think that God is doing the bigger things? People will do the same thing with houses, jobs, and cars. “If God wants me to move, then someone will buy my house.” Why? Why think that God is controlling this? Guess what, if you lower the price enough, someone will buy it. If our car breaks then we need to buy a new car. If I get a flat tire, then God did not want me to go where I was trying to go. If I get a toothache, God is trying to tell me to change my life.
Friends, much of life is left up to time and chance. God does not control every aspect of the universe. God has created a system and order for this world. We must understand that there are many factors in life. We can simply be experiencing the thrust of time and chance in this world. We can be in the wrong place and the wrong time and that is why we happen to experience bad things. We are directly affected by our environment. The decisions of our parents, family, and friends greatly affect the future of our lives. Even the decisions of complete strangers directly affect our lives. A person chooses to drive drunk affects many other people. God is not causing such an evil to happen. We are affected by our genetics. I am not going to blame God because I am losing my hair. I am not going to find a deeper spiritual meaning in hair loss. My genetics have dictated this to be the case. I am not going to question or blame God concerning our daughter’s chromosomal syndrome. God did not cause it. 1 in 10,000 births bring about Prader-Willi Syndrome. It is simply the product of time and chance. God is not telling me that we are sinners. Remember, the error of Job’s three friends was the thinking that God caused the bad things in Job’s life because Job had done something wrong. However, we learn through Elihu in the book that this thinking is false.
Everything does not have a reason. God does not cause everything to happen. Time and chance are powerful factors in this world. We will do better in life and better be able to deal with life difficulties when we remember that God does not cause everything to happen. Time and chance are at work.
Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner can destroy much good. (9:18; HCSB) We also need to remember that sinners cause much evil also. Much suffering takes place because of a person’s sin, either our own or someone else’s.
Live Wise, But Don’t Expect People to Listen or Understand (9:13-18)
13 I have observed that this also is wisdom under the sun, and it is significant to me: 14 There was a small city with few men in it. A great king came against it, surrounded it, and built large siege works against it. 15 Now a poor wise man was found in the city, and he delivered the city by his wisdom. Yet no one remembered that poor man. 16 And I said, “Wisdom is better than strength, but the wisdom of the poor man is despised, and his words are not heeded.”
Wise living is better than worldly wisdom. The frustrating problem is the world does not recognize godly wisdom. In the story the poor wise man is the one who knows what to do to deliver the city. Though his wisdom saved the day, no one cares. You will not receive a ticker tape parade for making good decisions in life. You will not receive glory for using godly wisdom on a daily basis. But a life guided by wisdom is far better than a life guided by worldliness.
3 For there has already been enough time spent in doing the will of the pagans: carrying on in unrestrained behavior, evil desires, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and lawless idolatry. 4 In regard to this, they are surprised that you don’t plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation—and they slander you. (1 Peter 4:3-4; HCSB)
- The certainty of death and our need to take advantage of life now.
- Understand that time and chance happen to all.
- Live the wise, godly life even though the world will scorn you.