Not Missing Out On The Good Life
In Ecclesiastes, an older man named Solomon is writing to a bunch of younger readers who live in a time where their economy was booming. International trade was taking off and fortunes could made quickly. And Solomon’s watching the younger generation get drunk on chasing money and power and their best life now, because they had a fear of missing out on the good life. Everyone else around them was getting money and toys and face lifts and lambos and house cleaners.
So here’s what old man Solomon says to them in chapter 3, verse 9: “What does the worker gain from his struggles? I have seen the task that God has given the children of Adam to keep them occupied. He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also put eternity in their hearts, but no one can discover the work God has done from beginning to end.” You’ve probably had that thought as some point in your working life, right? What am I gaining from all this work? Sure you get a paycheck but it disappears like that (I just snapped my fingers). You work all day so the house can be super clean with all the dishes put away and the laundry done, but two days or for some of you two hours later it looks like you haven’t cleaned in a month! What are you gaining?!
That question shows what’s in all our hearts as we work: eternity. There’s this longing, aching that we all feel about our work and our lives: what’s this really all about. What are we doing? What’s gonna satisfy us? Our souls are hungry and thirsty for something more than the life and work we experience in this life. And it’s because we were made for something more. God has put eternity in our hearts. God wants us to feel that there’s something more that we’re made for than the rat race of our 9-5 job every day.
CS Lewis said it this way: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” That desire is there, inside of us all. But then he goes on to say at the end of verse 11: “but no one can discover or learn or experience the work God has done from beginning from end.” So God gave us this desire to understand all of life, to try to grab eternity, but God also completely limited our ability to actually know all that He does, all these things we wanna know.
Do you feel like that? That you know there’s gotta be something more satisfying, fulfilling, joyful than this life, but you just haven’t been able to figure out what it is on your own? Solomon felt it, and he’s saying that we need to chase that feeling. If you feel like there’s gotta be more to this life, keep pressing, keep asking, keep praying, and see how God answers those prayers and reveals himself to you.
Look at verse 12: “I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and enjoy the good life. It is also the gift of God whenever anyone eats, drinks, and enjoys all his efforts. I know that everything God does will last forever; there is no adding to it or taking from it. God works so that people will be in awe of him. Whatever is, has already been, and whatever will be, already is. However, God seeks justice for the persecuted.” So in verse 12 Solomon tells us what we know; there’s still joy and pleasure in this rat race of life. Even though we live with a longing and ache for something more, there are still real experiences and pleasures to enjoy right here, every day under the sun. God gives us gifts of food, drinks, and enjoying our work. And so for some of us, we just need to recognize that and actually take joy in the good gifts God has given us, instead of just being angry about what God hasn’t done for us. Some of us just need to grow in how we party and celebrate and enjoy God’s good gifts.
But, why Justice for the persecuted here? Because not everyone’s gonna have these gifts. God may have you in a time and place where you’re not experiencing all the gifts of this life that you want to. It may be that for some people, they never experience the gifts in this life that God gives to others. That’s why there’s justice for those who suffer. God is gonna make that right, forever.
And God works in this way of blessing some and not others so that EVERYONE will be in awe of him…
Because for us to see the person who ISN’T experiencing God’s gifts but who trusts him with their life anyway, that leads us to be in awe of God. Who would do that?????
For us to see the person who HAS been ridiculously blessed with the good life, but doesn’t take any credit for it but instead praises God and uses God’s blessings to bless others, that leads to be in awe of God. Who would do that????
The absolute sovereignty of God makes us stand in awe of him.
And the key to this is humility; to be content in this life; not fear that we’re missing out on a better life. But almost everything and everyone around us says that that’s the worst thing we could do. American Idol, YouTube, and Instagram tell us that we can catch a break if we just believe in ourselves. Disney tells us to pursue our dreams and follow our hearts. And it’s all just dressed up pride. Pride makes us want to be the god of our own life, but humility accepts and trusts what the God of all life has for us in this life.
But when we live proud lives on our own, apart from God, trying to grab all the money, power, and success we can in this world, it looks horrifically ugly. Because, look at verse 16: “I also observed under the sun: there is wickedness at the place of judgment and there is wickedness at the place of righteousness. I said to myself, “God will judge the righteous and the wicked, since there is a time for every activity and every work.” In a place where Solomon should’ve found justice, the courts, he found wickedness. This is what life under the sun is typically like; wrecked with injustice, oppression, hate, racism, broken court systems, horrific policies that aren’t based in love for people but protection of wealth, systemic poverty, there’s all kinds of wickedness all around us…and all kinds of wickedness inside of us.
In a place where you’d expect to find love, in a marriage, there’s abuse, neglect, cheating. In a place where you’d expect to find compassion, our relationships with our neighbors, you find walls being built, distrust, failure to forgive. We live in a world of broken social structures and broken people.
Maybe you see this time we live in with all it’s wickedness, and it overwhelms you.. Maybe you horrified the younger generation, the political divide, all the shootings that are happening. Maybe you fear another stock or housing market crash, or just the cost of living getting so high, or the thought of another world war. Maybe the racism, injustice, and hate you see in this world feels suffocating.
But notice that Solomon says that God will judge the righteous and the wicked. As evil and broken as life under the sun can be right now, ultimately justice will be done. God will bring justice into all this brokenness.
But as he looked at it day in and day out, it really got to Solomon. Look at verse 18: “I said to myself, “This happens so that God may test the children of Adam and they may see for themselves that they are like animals.” For the fate of the children of Adam and the fate of animals is the same. As one dies, so dies the other; they all have the same breath. People have no advantage over animals since everything is futile. All are going to the same place; all come from dust, and all return to dust. Who knows if the spirits of the children of Adam go upward and the spirits of animals go downward to the earth?” Solomon’s giving himself to this maddening question that he can’t answer: what happens to our spirits? In verse 21 he says Who knows? Who knows if our spirits go up and the spirits of animals go down, who knows how these things work! He’s not speaking as a man of faith right now, he’s speaking just as a man observing the world.
He’s saying that no humans have figured this out. We don’t know about the spiritual or our spirits. We have no clue about what’s really going on in this world. There’s SO MUCH uncertainty. And if you JUST look at it from a human perspective, we have no advantage over the animals. What difference is there really? There’s no way to figure that out.. unless someone who has that knowledge reveals it to us.
But Solomon’s not looking for that. He’s just looking at this life in the brutal honesty of human terms, so here’s what he concludes in verse 22: “I have seen that there is nothing better than for a person to enjoy his activities because that is his reward. For who can enable him to see what will happen after he dies. Again, I observed all the acts of oppression being done under the sun. Look at the tears of those who are oppressed; they have no one to comfort them. Power is with those who oppress them; they have no one to comfort them. So I commended the dead, who have already died, more than the living, who are still alive. But better than either of them is the one who has not yet existed, who has not seen the evil activity that is done under the sun.” Based on what I know about old man Solomon, I bet this was on the doily hanging in his bathroom. You know those laced patterned things that white people frame and hang on their wall that usually have a verse or something on them? This was Solomon’s: To be dead is better than to be alive, but to never exist is best of all. Don’t forget to wash your hands.
Solomon wants us to feel this. To wrestle with it. He doesn’t want us to sweep this feeling under the rug of our existence, but to really feel that apart from Jesus, this is true. Death is better than life, because at least you’d escape all the evils of the world. But to never be born is even better because you’d never have to experience them in the first place. Solomon’s showing us what it looks like to view our lives apart from Jesus. It’s hopeless. You’d just have to either hide the despair you feel about all the evils of this world, you have to commit to ignoring them, or you can hopelessly try to fight against them.
But with Jesus, you can defy them. You can attack them. You can destroy them. Because Jesus has given you the hope that He will bring justice into this world forever.
But many will not live that way. Because to live that kind of humble life; a life of fighting injustice, giving to the poor, helping widows, advocating for immigrants and orphans, fighting for racial reconciliation, working hard to fight against the injustices of this world, to live that kind of humble life, means that you’ll miss out on the good life. Because you’ll pour yourself out as a sacrifice for others, you’ll give your life to serve others, and in the end you’ll miss out on good things for yourself. You’ll miss out on joy in this life. So because we have this fear of missing out, we only serve ourselves, instead of seeking justice and serving others.
But look at what Psalm 22 says: “The humble will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord will praise him.” There are people in this life who’ll eat, who will experience life, and be satisfied. And here they’re called the humble. In Matthew 5 Jesus talks about these humble people this way: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” They aren’t hungering and thirsting for their own good life, they want righteousness. They want rightness in this world. They want justice.
These are the people who want something more out of life than what this world can offer them. They know they’re made for something more; it aches in their soul, they’re seeking, hungering, thirsting for something to give them what their soul longs for.
And look at what Jesus says in John 6: “I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them.“No one who comes to me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in me will ever be thirsty again.” Jesus says that if we feast on him, taste him, that we will be completely satisfied and filled in this life. If we give him our lives, we’ll never again hunger, thirst, or search for something more satisfying.
The message of Jesus is that the satisfaction, joy, and contentment we long for CAN be found in this life. But it’s not in the good life that the world offers us. That life of self-promotion and accumulation will never fill us up. Only Jesus can satisfy the longing and aching in our soul for something better. And when he does satisfy that longing and ache, it’ll free us to live the humble life. The life of enjoying his gifts, seeking justice, and serving others. Because we’ll know that we have Jesus, and Jesus is enough.
Have you experienced that? Total satisfaction for your soul through Jesus. You know how you can know? Are you pouring yourself out, seeking justice in this world, or are you just laser focused on living the good life; ignoring the injustices, evils, and brokenness all around you? If you’ve experienced Jesus, you’re freely doing so.