22So I perceived that nothing is better than that a man should rejoice in his own works, for that is his heritage. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?
The Story: Here Solomon returns to the conclusion of his theme about how to live “under the heavens”: men should try to rejoice in their work and their lot, because this is all they have in this life (3.12, 13). They should “seize the day” and not consign themselves to depression and disappointment by spending too much time thinking about what happens when they die. Animals, after all, don’t waste time fretting about what they can’t know. Life “under the sun” is meaningless and offers no abiding hope. Thus all a man has “under the sun” is the day before him and the work of his hands; if he doesn’t learn to rejoice in such simple things, he will know nothing of happiness in this life. Of course, Solomon knows full well that people are not so easily satisfied; his own experience is proof of that. He probably anticipates Rehoboam saying in response to this verse, “No way!” But he at least wants to take his son to this logical conclusion of what life is like when we’re trying to live apart from God. They who live “under the heavens” can actually do what Solomon counsels, for their joy is in knowing that all of life, death, the future, and eternity are in the hands of God, Whom they trust.
The Structure: This complex chapter is the heart of Solomon’s argument. He insists that people are made for eternity and that they can only bear up under the pressures, vicissitudes, and uncertainties of life by resting in the sovereign care of God and trusting in His wisdom and power. “Under the sun” life has no meaning. But “under heaven” people can find joy, happiness, and meaning in even the most mundane and routine of tasks. This is the message believers must boldly declare to our secular age. Like Solomon counseling his wayward son, we must engage our unbelieving neighbors in good faith, winsomely, with respect and passion, in order to lead them to trace out their unbelieving worldviews to their logical and tragic conclusions. But how can lost and hopeless (Eph. 2.12) people break free of the confines and blinders of their false worldview? Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to deliver people from death to life (Rom. 1.16, 17).
Do you have a strategy for getting to know your lost neighbors and beginning to engage them about the things they believe?
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.