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The Scriptorium

Mere Beasts?

Are we really no different than the beasts?

Ecclesiastes 3.18-21
18I said in my heart, “Concerning the condition of the sons of men, God tests them, that they may see that they themselves are like animals.” 19For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all isvanity. 20All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust. 21Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to the earth?

The Story: We know that Solomon is reflecting here from an “under the sun” perspective because of his reference to the children of men and to vanity. But note that God is sovereign even over those who refuse to acknowledge Him. Why is there injustice in the earth? God is testing men, in order to show them that, apart from any absolute and eternal reference point, they are no more than beasts. If men are not made in God’s image, then there can be no other explanation, for our observations of men and beasts reveal that, whatever may be our differences, we are basically the same, and all are consigned to the same fate. If we do not have God’s Word, telling us that we are His children and showing us how we ought to live, then we have no grounds for supposing ourselves superior to the beasts. Thus God tests men in order to help them see the folly of trying to make sense out of their lives and experiences apart from Him.

The Structure: It is interesting to see that this is precisely where evolutionary and secular thinking leaves us: human beings are animals, differentiated from the other beasts only by our greater brain capacity. Might that be exceeded some day by another creature? What difference does it make? Secular thinking consigns people to the realm of beasts; thus, we should not be surprised when people consistently act that way. In this time of redemption and restoration, God is testing humankind by allowing people to embrace flimsy and frivolous worldviews which, were they to examine them carefully, they would discover to be nothing more than vanity and feeding on the wind. The duty of the redeemed, like Solomon seeking to warn his son, is to help those living “under the sun” to see the folly of their thinking and the futility of trying to make sense out of life apart from faith in God.

Do you think the unbelievers in your sphere of influence have ever thought seriously about the folly of unbelief? Have you ever talked with them about their worldview?

Each week’s studies in our Scriptorium column are available in a free PDF form, suitable for personal or group use. For this week’s study, “Heart of the Matter: Ecclesiastes 3,” simply click here.

T. M. Moore

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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 the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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