12 I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; 13 moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor—it is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him.15 That which is has been already and that which will be has already been, for God seeks what has passed by. 16 Furthermore, I have seen under the sun that in the place of justice there is wickedness and in the place of righteousness there is wickedness. 17 I said to myself, “God will judge both the righteous man and the wicked man,” for a time for every matter and for every deed is there. 18 I said to myself concerning the sons of men, “God has surely tested them in order for them to see that they are but beasts.” 19 For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same. As one dies so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath and there is no advantage for man over beast, for all is vanity. 20 All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust. 21 Who knows that the breath of man ascends upward and the breath of the beast descends downward to the earth? 22 I have seen that nothing is better than that man should be happy in his activities, for that is his lot. For who will bring him to see what will occur after him?
This is one of the messages I get from Solomon’s letter. As he talks about striving after the wind, he is telling us that we are wasting time. We are wasting time and energy fighting against the rotation of the earth. Solomon mentioned the cyclic nature of life and events in this world. There may not be things we agree with or like, but we can’t prevent it from raining during our vacation and we can’t stop an earthquake from hitting a metropolitan area. Yet the fact that we still get to breathe, work, eat, drink, and continue living is a gift in itself. It has been a gift since God blew breath into the nostrils of Adam.
In verse 16, Solomon discusses there being justice in places of wickedness and vice versa. This is a result of the brokenness of man. It doesn’t mean it is ok that it happens, but rather that we have to recognize it is going to happen. I find this an important lesson for all of us. We tend to see something we consider wrong happen and react emotionally. While this is a warranted and understandable response, it generally provokes actions that cause more harm than good. I was watching a show last night where the storyline told of a family whose child was abducted. A “concerned neighbor” gave the father a list of convicted sex offenders in the area and the man immediately set out to kill the first one he found. The emotional response and desire to help/ do something about it was great but the action was spurred without reason logic and actually worked against the proper way of handling the situation. This is when helping hurts.
“Man is an animal when left to his own devices.” This is a phrase I have not only heard, but have lived out myself, have experienced from others, and have seen from a distance. But in Jesus’ sermon on the mount, we read, “for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Solomon makes a pretty logical yet bold comparison in verse 21. We are all animals. Our wretched brokenness causes us to act not much better than animals do, but from what we can tell they don’t have a whole lot of conscience and don’t know better. We don’t have the luxury of that excuse. The animal instinct is to react without thought of repercussion or analysis of the correct way to proceed. Granted, we still screw it up and we will make mistakes along the way, but letting our emotions call the shots does more harm than good. Afterall, what do we have to gain from it? All came from dust and all return to the dust. So if we truly want to have a lasting impact, wouldn’t it be better to understand and appreciate the brokenness of the world first and then act? If we work towards our own legacy or are driven by pride, we not only will not gain anything, but we will also hurt others in the process.
Nothing is better than that man should be happy in his activities, for that is his lot. Everything in our lives is a gift from God. Once we get that in our heads, we will start to experience what real joy is all about.