Day 13: Attitudes toward death (5:15,16)
“As he came forth of his mother’s womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand. And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind?” (5:15,16).
One thing we can be certain: we will die; just as we came into the world with nothing, we will leave it in the same way. The observations of the Preacher are pertinent: “We go just as we came. We labor, trying to catch the wind, and what do we get? We get to live our lives in darkness and grief, worried, angry, and sick.” (5:16,17 GNT.) Despite this sobering prospect, he follows on his sombre reflecting on the subject of acquisition of wealth on a positive note, repeating some conclusions he had made earlier in his “sermon”: “Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion. Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God. For he shall not much remember the days of his life; because God answereth him in the joy of his heart” (5:18-20). As for balance, consider Paul’s words: “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy” 1 Timothy 6:17.
It is important to reach the right balance such as represented in yesterday’s “Earn all you can, give all you can, save all you can”quote. We are called to be good stewards who need to make wise use of whatever the Lord entrusts to us, and this can be seen in our shared experience – we work and are rewarded financially, begging the question: what to do next? Other than not misusing that money or excessive indulgence, we are free to do what we will, according to our conscience and what is right. The Preacher’s matter of fact counsel is to enjoy what we have: “Here is what I have found out: the best thing we can do is eat and drink and enjoy what we have worked for during the short life that God has given us; this is our fate. If God gives us wealth and property and lets us enjoy them, we should be grateful and enjoy what we have worked for. It is a gift from God. Since God has allowed us to be happy, we will not worry too much about how short life is.” (3:18-20 GNT). We can probably go further than that – after all the Great Command is to Love Thy Neighbor. The rich poor divide is as great now as it ever was in Solomon’s day, and it is unlikely we can do much to change that – but we can do something. Perhaps, the right approach to money is to see it merely as a commodity we can use to bless others and thankfully remember, while not trusting in our money, God gives us richly all things to enjoy.
Prayer: help us to have the right view to money – not to put our trust in it but to be thankful for what we have and enjoy it but also to use it wisely and in blessing others.