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What the Bible says about Enjoying Life
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Ecclesiastes 2:24-26

While concluding the thoughts of chapter 2, these verses also provide a smooth bridge to the instruction in chapter 3. They are the first positive, solid instructions that Solomon has given about both God and life. They pave the way for accepting truly thrilling instruction about God in relation to time and a Christian's life of faith.

Solomon, to this point, describes life as a waste of time and energy, seemingly meaningless, monotonous, repetitious, and unendurable. This occurs even though one's life may be busy, just as Solomon's was. To those who have little or no relationship with God, and therefore have no clear knowledge of His purpose, what Solomon has written to this point is a realistic assessment. Recently, while in a supermarket, I saw a young woman wearing a shirt that proclaimed, “Life is divided between miserable and horrible.” To many, it seems as though life has no object except to bring difficulty and pain.

Ecclesiastes, however, provides a message directly from our Creator about what our attitude must be if we are going to make the best use of the awesome opportunity He has given us—and especially of the instruction in chapter 3.

In the first two chapters, Solomon's approach to life is completely “under the sun.” “Under the sun” implies that his teaching has not positively considered God; it is an entirely earthy view, thoroughly self-centered and carnal. God is mentioned only in Ecclesiastes 1:13, where Solomon calls life “a burdensome task God has given the sons of man.” His assessment closely parallels the words on the woman's T-shirt in the supermarket.

In the final verses of Ecclesiastes 2, Solomon takes a sudden, sharp turn to an “above the sun” approach, advising that we should enjoy good in our labor because it is from God. His statement, “This also, I saw, was from the hand of God,” is important. Our attitude toward labor, he counsels, should be that it is a gracious gift from our Creator. Laboring is a God-designed and -assigned responsibility of man.

Apart from angels, we are the only created beings who can labor like this. We can work using creativity, objectivity, and purpose, but no animal can. We need to give thanks for such ability because it places mankind in a category that no animal can ever enter. We are still less than God but so far above animals that there is no adequate comparison.

Is there a reason such a disparity exists? He adds two verses later that God gives gifts like wisdom and knowledge to those who are good in His sight, another positive reason for a person to approach life in a different attitude. Can an animal by reason appreciate life? Does a beast have the knowledge and wisdom to add value to its life?

Our attitudes and demeanors, however, are often highly variable. Overall, without directly using the terms, Solomon is saying our attitude should be thankful and contented. Why? Foremost, for the very fact that we even have life. Directly tied to this is that we have been given a mind that can think about God, that can look forward to the future on a basis of truth within His purpose, that can realize that we are the called of God, that can think spatially, and that can read and understand. We should be thankful that we can be given even more gifts because of these factors.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Three): Time

Ecclesiastes 8:14-15

Solomon reminds us that, as life falls out for us, we frequently do not understand it. It may seem unfair because the evil are prospered and the righteous are persecuted. But he does not dwell on that. Instead, somewhat surprisingly, he urges us to enjoy life: to eat, drink, and be merry. He does the same at least three other times earlier in the book despite all the vanity “under the sun.”

This is neither a cynical nor resigned-to-one's-fate acceptance of the “Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die” attitude. Notice that the last phrase of verse 15 asserts that these circumstances are a gift from God. In addition, he says in Ecclesiastes 2:24, “There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also I saw, was from the hand of God.” Therefore, this agrees with his earlier counsel that what is happening to us harmonizes with God's purpose for us. So the times and circumstances we are living in are good for our preparation for God's Kingdom.

Yes, there is vanity under the sun. Yes, we see a lot of injustice. But we have a lot of overcoming work to do, and there is joy for us in the ordinary activities of life, sharing fellowship with the people of God. While we are involved with all our heart in these things, God is nourishing and sustaining us as He prepares us. Thus, there is even reason to celebrate. God is calling on us to rejoice.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Fifteen): Deference

Ecclesiastes 11:7-8

Light is a symbol of the goodness of life or joy. Life is just not good of itself, but it is to be savored with enthusiasm, as one might enjoy honey.

Life is good, but it can be even better. This is quite a change from the beginning of the book, where Solomon says life is frustrating, meaningless, and absurd. The difference is that God is involved in the life that is good, and things will work out for the good. God removes the frustration by His Spirit.

It is intended that life be enjoyed all life long, but Solomon says at the end of verse 8 to take advantage of it now, because the clock cannot be turned back. All that is coming is vanity, futility, death, which verse 9 picks up on.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 2)

Ecclesiastes 12:2

There is a progression from sun to moon to stars in terms of the diminishing of light to a person observing from the earth. What does light represent in this context? Joy—the goodness of life. Solomon is asserting that, as a person ages, his capacity to enjoy the good things diminishes. He is underlining the inevitability of the problems of old age.

Even though Solomon directly says, "Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth," his meaning is more emphatic: "Get started now! Do not wait! Do not delay! Live life the right way when you are young because, as you get older, your capacity to enjoy diminishes."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 2)

Related Topics: Enjoying Life | Godly Joy | Joy


 

Ecclesiastes 12:8-13

Verse 8 reminds the reader where Solomon's treatise began. A person's life will end in vanity if he does not take advantage of the life of faith that God has given to him. His life will simply end in meaninglessness.

Solomon advises us to fear God and keep His commandments. He is saying to eat and drink joyfully, but to do it in balance. We should never lose control of ourselves. We need to work with purpose and do it diligently. It is best to enjoy our marriage with our mate. We are to seek wisdom and use it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 2)

Revelation 3:16-18

The drifting of the Laodicean happens so subtly that he is unaware of the decline of his spiritual perception and vigor. What happens when a person begins drifting is that human nature deceives him to judge two things wrongly: 1) the quality of his own spirituality and therefore, 2) the use of his time.

Consider the process of the Laodicean's decline: Does he stop to consider himself as loving death? On the contrary, his nature is selling him on what it calls "enjoying life." However, the reality is that because he enjoys it so much, he thinks that he is fine the way he is. He, though, is guilty of a very serious sin: presumption. This is a sin in which ignorance frequently plays only a small part. When someone is presumptuous, knowledge of what is right is usually available, but he does not think his intent and conduct through to a right conclusion.

On the other hand, carelessness plays a large role in presumption. The Laodiceans should have known better than what their actions reveal. Their lackadaisical approach to spiritual matters, to their Savior who died for them, has earned His stinging rebuke.

Leviticus 4:2 zeroes in on this sin, revealing that it may be more serious than one might suppose. The word "unintentionally" includes more than simply lack of intention, as when a person sins and says, "I really didn't mean it." That is not wrong, but it misses some of the point because that conclusion is shallow and broad. In spite of the sinner's feelings about his intent as he actually committed the act, the term "sin" still appears in God's charge, and he continues to turn aside, wander, err, make a mistake, miss the mark, and go off the path. Though unintentional, the act is still a sin.

Consider the possible effects of such a sin. How many deaths have occurred where a person did something seriously wrong yet claims, "I didn't mean for that to happen"? What could happen if someone is cruising along, not concentrating on his driving, and drifts into oncoming traffic, smashing into another car and killing its occupants? How many people have been killed because a driver's attention was diverted by a cell phone? Just because a sin is unintentional does not mean it is not serious. Such a sin is often one of careless, impatient, lackadaisical neglect. It is the ignoring of a higher priority.

It is in reality often a sin of presumption, an ignoring of God and His law. It includes sins done with a degree of consciousness, a level of awareness of what one's responsibilities are. Even though not arrogantly and deliberately done, they are in reality done willingly.

These can be quite serious. Exodus 20:7, the third commandment, reads, "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain." Because we have been baptized and have received God's Spirit, we have taken on the name "Christian." We are children of God, followers of Christ, and as such, we bear the Family name, an honor not lightly bestowed. Recall again that to whom much is given, the more shall be required.

God warns that we must not bear that holy name carelessly, that is, to no good purpose. He will not hold us guiltless. That name must be borne responsibly in dignified honor to Him, to His Family, and to its operations and purposes. Can we afford to be presumptuously negligent in this privileged responsibility? It is right here that knowledge of God's justice should come to a Christian's mind. It does this because the Christian "sees" God—not literally, of course, but spiritually, in his mind's eye, because he knows Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and God's Justice


 




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