I have recently been spending a lot of time studying the book of Ecclesiastes. It clearly outlines the thoughts of a king who had pursued many things in life to achieve fulfilment and was unable to do so. Ultimately, he ended up with the conclusion, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanities of vanities, all is vanity” (Eccl 1:2)
The author of Ecclesiastes is not clearly identified, He simply referred to himself as “The Preacher”, although Chapter 1 verse 1 refers to the writer being “the son of David, King of Jerusalem”. Also, verse 16 makes a strong case that the writer may have been Solomon, “I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge”
Over the various chapters of the book, the writer continues to highlights how the various pursuits of man ends up in nothingness and tried to encourage his readers to focus on things that have meaning.
As I read through the chapters, I could not help but be grateful for the opportunity and privilege of living in times such as this. The Preacher had so many questions but no valid answers and offered what he thought was the ultimate answer to life’s questions.
In Chapter 7, Solomon was thinking about death. He starts by acknowledging that “A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume and the day you die is better than the day you were born” (Eccl 1:1) My daughter asked me the question recently, “Which is more important? The day you were born or the day you die?” I thought about it briefly and replied, “Surely the day you were born. It’s a happy day for everyone, isn’t it?” Thinking about it again, I believe my answer was not correct especially in the context of what Christ did on the cross of Calvary.
While the birth of Jesus is celebrated across the world, it isn’t His birth that saved the world from sin, it was His death. Without His death, there would have been no resurrection and without resurrection according to Paul, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ was raised. And if Christ was not raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:13-14) Paul further concluded, “And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.” (1 Cor 15:19)
When we were born, the scripture states that we were all born into sin however, the moment we surrender our lives to Jesus, we ‘die’ to sin which is why we become ‘born again’ into a new life with Jesus. (John 3:16) Without the dying, the new birth would not have occurred. While the Preacher is correct that the day you die is better than the day you were born, he was not privy to the new life in Jesus, so his reasoning was based on the fact that death is a reality that comes to all and that if people were to think more about death, then they would make good decisions while they are alive.
Paul the Apostle considered both living and dying important to him. He could not decide which one is better. “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.” (Philippians 1: 21-24)
I believe this is the same mindset that we as believers in Jesus, should have. When our lives are focused on doing what God has called us to do, we won’t spend our lives wondering if we are missing something much more fulfilling. This was the problem with the Preacher, the wise king. He had wealth, wisdom, influence and power but that still wasn’t enough. There was a void he could not fill and he kept exploring more and more until he came to the conclusion that, ‘nothing mattered’ and that everyone should just accept what they have been destined to be.
Are you asking the same questions today? Are you wondering whether life is worth living? I have good news for you. Jesus said, “I have come that they might have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10)
I like the way the New Living Translation put it, “ My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life”.
Jesus didn’t just come so that we can be guaranteed a spot in heaven, He also came to make living worthwhile for us. If the Preacher was looking down on us today, he’ll be shouting out loud, “You have the secret to living that I was looking for!”
For believers in Christ, whether we live or die, it is a win-win situation because of what Jesus did for us. Remember that.