Day 4: Eat, drink and enjoy (2:24)
“There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God” (2:24).
There is no let up, after establishing that a life of pleasure is pointless. Having acknowledged there was not much he could do following what his predecessor had done to make the most of life under the sun, the Preacher does concede “that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness” (2:13), yet despite that “as it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me and why was I then more wise?” (2:15). Rather gloomily it seems, he picks up on the same point he made in Chapter 1 – the end of the wise and the fool is the same – death, and very soon after that no-one could tell one from the other or even care. He comes to a view: “Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit” (2:17).
Then he comes to an activity many of us can identify with – the significance of working hard, making the best use of our wisdom, knowledge, and skill, and when it comes to taking a view on accumulating wealth. In the end, we leave what we have to someone who has not earned it and quite possibly to someone who is foolish. While we may dispute the Preacher’s conclusion and argue making good use of our talents etc. is a laudable goal, yet it is still difficult to dispute – “For what hath man of all his labour, and of the vexation of his heart, wherein he hath laboured under the sun? For all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief; yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night. This is also vanity” (2:22,23).
While a more optimistic response is possible when God is brought into the equation, we can begin by going from pessimism to realism, which brings us to today’s text: “The best thing we can do is eat and drink and enjoy what we have earned. And yet, I realized that even this comes from God. How else could you have anything to eat or enjoy yourself at all?” (2:24,25 GNT.) We could take this as a pragmatic view of life. There is a song by one, Bobby McFerrin, that goes “Don’t worry, be happy, In every life we have some trouble, But when you worry you make it double, Don’t worry, be happy, Don’t worry, be happy now” that seems to take a similar view. As for the Preacher, he ends on a positive: “For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit” (2:26).
Prayer: We thank you Lord that your word pulls no punches when it comes to viewing our own labours, but we thank you we can enjoy the fruits thereof.