4 For whoever is joined with all the living, there is hope; surely a live dog is better than a dead lion. 5 For the living know they will die; but the dead do not know anything, nor have they any longer a reward, for their memory is forgotten. 6 Indeed their love, their hate and their zeal have already perished, and they will no longer have a share in all that is done under the sun. 7 Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works. 8 Let your clothes be white all the time, and let not oil be lacking on your head. 9 Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going. 11 I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all. 12 Moreover, man does not know his time: like fish caught in a treacherous net and birds trapped in a snare, so the sons of men are ensnared at an evil time when it suddenly falls on them. 13 Also this I came to see as wisdom under the sun, and it impressed me.
There is an element to the bible that I do not like. It’s complexity and analogies sometimes confuse me and I imagine others as well. The application of the terms life and death can be misleading as we know that sometimes they refer to the physical and other times the spiritual. Furthermore, Solomon’s use of Sheol here is a bit perplexing. Sheol is the Hebrew term for the “bad” part of the afterlife. It sometimes refers to the grave but in many places throughout the scriptures, it is meant to represent hell. Go ahead and read the passage again if you did not already have these elements in your thought process. It seems complicated, contradictory, and confusing, doesn’t it? I’d like to refer to what I talked about in cut and paste theology: that we must read in context in order to get the full meaning.
Here, Solomon is referring to the physical world. Sheol is being used to mean grave or “the realm of death” and his reference to the living and dead is in a physical sense. Carpe Diem is Latin for “seize the day”. It’s used for cool tattoos and otherwise motivational inspiration to “live today as if it is your last”. I’m reminded of a scene from Fight Club when the main character is learning that freedom is when you can “let go” of that which does not truly matter. Solomon’s words today reveal the same message. In Matthew 6, we jump into the middle of Jesus’ sermon on the mount when He is talking about the frailty of worry:
24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. 25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28 And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
At first look it might not seem as if these two passages are related but I tell you they are directly related. Jesus starts by talking about the difference between serving wealth and God. In serving money/wealth we create unnecessary worry and concern because if we have money and things, aren’t we continually concerned about losing it? If we put our faith and security in a savings account, we concern ourselves with not spending it. Why do we put money in a bank? For safekeeping. Why do we put a security alarm on a pricey car or invest in surveillance systems for our houses and businesses? To protect it. I’m not necessarily saying these things are bad, rather I am pointing out that the more we have in monetary value, the more importance we put in keeping it safe. Our relationship with God, however, is always safe as long as we remain in it. This is what Jesus means in Luke 9:24 when He says, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.”
We don’t have to worry about God suddenly not existing. We don’t have to concern ourselves with someone stealing Him. Furthermore His creation has been put here for us to enjoy and live in. We have been given the earth to keep and cultivate. We have been given an opportunity to have a relationship with God right where we are and grow through it. So why then do we waste time worrying, hustling, and bustling for all the things that in the end won’t matter? We spend all this time at work trying to “earn a living” but we never “live”. I find it interesting that Jesus used Solomon as an example to explain how God takes care of us better than he could even take care of himself, even though he had everything in the world at his disposal.
What are you going to serve? How are you wasting your life with worry? Are you enjoying the breath that God has given you today or are you wasting it on something that won’t truly matter?