Ecclesiastes 5 & 6

Solomon is something of a schizophrenic. Part of him is disgusted with the utterly apparent futility of life, the seeming injustice of it all. He even says it is better to be a stillborn child than to have a very long life and prosperity if you can’t enjoy it (6:3-6). Even if you do, even if you live 2000 years with prosperity and enjoy it, death still relativizes: “Do not all go to the same place?” In the first section of chapter 5 he concludes with an exhortation to, “stand in awe of God.” So he is no agnostic, secularist, even as he declares that it is all meaningless. It just that when he views things on earth outside of any eternal perspective, it all seems so absurd. Yet though wealth and riches never really satisfy, and are of course, meaningless, there is value in enjoying them:

18 Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him—for this is his lot. 19 Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God. 20 He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.

Then he comments on one who gets wealth, possessions, and honor but God doesn’t allow him to enjoy them. It makes no sense. Solomon ends chapter 6 bordering on cynicism:

12 For who knows what is good for a man in life, during the few and meaningless days he passes through like a shadow? Who can tell him what will happen under the sun after he is gone?

To enjoy, or not to enjoy, that is the question. Who knows why one does, and why another does not. It’s all absurd, and if this life is all there is, indeed it is.

 

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