The Scriptorium

Better Dead or Unborn?

Life is worth living. Even unbelievers know that. Ecclesiastes 4.2, 3

Ecclesiastes 4 (2)

Pray Psalm 72.12-14.
For He will deliver the needy when he cries,
The poor also, and him who has no helper.
He will spare the poor and needy,
And will save the souls of the needy.
He will redeem their life from oppression and violence;
And precious shall be their blood in His sight.

Read Ecclesiastes 4.2, 3.

1. Do you think Solomon is serious about what he says here? Why or why not?

2. Do some people look at life this way? Explain.

This bit of hyperbole should not be taken literally; after all, Solomon wants to hold out the hope that even those trapped in an “under the sun” existence can find their way back to God, just as he had.

But his point is clear: life under the sun, from a merely “secular” perspective, is filled with pain and sorrow, so much so that one is better off dead or never having been born. We see this same sentiment expressed in our own day, for example, in young parents who determine not to have children because they don’t want to bring a child into this hard, evil world. Those who commit suicide or turn to euthanasia in one form or another also testify of their belief in what Solomon here asserts: I’m better off dead.

For many people, hopelessness and despair are the logical outcomes of believing that there are no eternal verities and no absolute truths or values by which to live. Happily, while some philosophers may trumpet such ideas, most people choose to live as if something else were true, as if life really does matter, even if they can’t explain why they do. Made in the image of God, they can do no other (Rom. 1.18-32; 2.14, 15).

The French existentialist Albert Camus represented this view of life. Life is absurd, Camus insisted. It makes no sense, has no purpose, and isn’t worth living. Nevertheless, men must fight against absurdity, as if they and their lives really mattered. The story of Sisyphus, condemned to roll a huge bolder up a hill, only to have it roll back down on him each time, was the commanding myth for Camus. His view is echoed in scientific naturalism and postmodern theory.

The Christian worldview exposes the inconsistency of those who claim that there is no purpose to life but then live as if there really is one; and the Christian is able to explain both why people live this way, and how they may know life as it is meant to be “under heaven”. 

1. What sorts of things cause people to despair of life?

2. How does the Christian message offer hope to those who are living “under the sun”?

3. What would you say to someone who insisted that life is absurd, has no meaning or purpose, but we still have to soldier on nonetheless?

He complained that he had seen deceit beneath the sun because he knew that above the sun there is a just judge “who dwells on high and looks down upon humble things.” Above the sun there are dwelling places in which the righteous receive due rewards for their righteousness. The Venerable Bede (672-735), Commentary on 2 Peter 3.13

Help me to live a full and meaningful life today, Lord, to show that life really is worth living, especially as I…

Pray Psalm 72.1-8.
Thank the Lord for the many ways His sovereignty over creation reminds us that life is beautiful, good, and full of meaning.

Sing Psalm 72.1-8.
Psalm 72.1-8 (Martyrdom: Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed)
O give the King Your judgment, Lord, and righteousness Your Son.
And let Him judge by Your good Word the need of everyone.

Let now the mountains ring with peace, the hills in righteousness.
Let justice rise, oppression cease, and all the needy bless.

Let nations fear You while the sun and moon endure on high.
Refresh, renew us, every one, like sweet rain falling from the sky.

Let righteousness abundant be where Jesus’ reign endures.
Let peace increase from sea to sea ‘til moonlight shall be no more.

T. M. Moore

Where does the book of Ecclesiastes fit in the overall flow of Scripture? Our series of studies, God’s Covenant, can show you, and help you discover the great beauty of the unity and diversity of Scripture, and how it all points to Christ. To order your copy of this important workbook, click here.

You can download all the studies in this series on Ecclesiastes by clicking here. If you value Scriptorium as a free resource for your walk with the Lord, please consider supporting our work with your gifts and offerings. You can contribute to The Fellowship by clicking the Contribute button  at the website or by sending your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore