by Berry Kercheville
There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind (Eccl. 2:24-26, ESV).
We are filled with desires. It is amazing how often the words, “I want,” “I need,” or “I would like to have…” come out of our mouths. If it were possible, who among us would not like to have a life free of trials and problems? We would like to omit dark days and depressing times. We would not only like to eliminate poverty from our lives, we would even like to live so that we never had a worry about paying our bills. We may not necessarily want to be rich, we would just like to get what we want when we want it (sounds like being rich, doesn’t it?). Oh, and how nice it would be to have a job where everything about it was enjoyable; a job that was challenging but not too demanding, and at the end of every day gave us that perfect feeling of fulfillment. We are not asking for much, just a life that runs smoothly with no glitches, negative surprises, or illnesses! Do you think these things are not in the back of our minds? Just consider how our frustration level rises when these ideals are not met. Our desires are so ingrained in us that we are barely conscious of the many ways we make adjustments in order to maintain our supply of comfortable living. These “adjustments” are not necessarily wrong, but they can reveal a dissatisfaction with the Lord and indicate an unrealistic attempt to find lasting enjoyment from what this world has to offer.
Solomon tried to find that perfectly fulfilling life. Chapter 2:10 states, “And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them.” Solomon did it all, far more than any man who lived before him or after him, and in the end said, “There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil.” Now if there is nothing better, there are certain conclusions we should make.
First, in this ‘earth-life’ there are no “ultimates.” There is no such thing as, “Wow, I have arrived; I’m at the top of the world and it will always be this way!” No, that’s not true because the best we can have comes when we eat and drink and find enjoyment in our labor. Did you sit down at your table today and enjoy a meal? Wonderful! Now get this, you just enjoyed the best there is in this life. It doesn’t get any better than that. With that knowledge we have the means to attain to contentment. When we know that eating a meal and enjoying good in our labor is the best we can have, we will have learned not to think that what the world has to offer will give us some ultimate joy. We will have learned to be content with the cheaper car, the small simple house, and the clothes from Walmart. Upgrading those things are fine, but will not make a difference in our level of enjoyment.
Second, the only “ultimate” is serving Christ whether in this life or the next. Those who live a sinful, worldly life are not obtaining what Satan is promising them. I have often been intrigued by how instructive some beer commercials are. A few years ago one such commercial depicted a group of men happily rafting down a wild river. As the day came to an end, they were around a campfire popping open beers. Just as they were about to take their first sip, a group of cheerleaders parachuted into the canyon right into their campsite. One of the men looked around at the others and said, “It doesn’t get any better than this!” Besides the fact that such a scenario is pure fantasy, think about what the man just said. A raft trip, beer, and women – it doesn’t get any better than that? You mean that’s it? That’s all this world has to offer? A once-in-a-lifetime convergence of a raft, a beer, and a woman…hmm…what an utter disappointment.
“It Is from the Hand of God”
This part is critically important. The ability to eat and drink and enjoy good in one’s labor is a gift; it is a gift from God (3:13). Now if it is a gift, that means we did not earn it nor do we have a right to it. A gift can be given and a gift can be taken away. Many do not have this gift (6:1-6), so if you have it, appreciate the moment! Our children desperately need to learn that God is giving us a truly valuable gift. Most of those who grew up in the ‘30’s, ‘40’s, and ‘50’s would not have dreamed of having what we enjoy today. Consider a simple example. Could Solomon have enjoyed strawberries, grapes, or apples year-round? We are truly blessed and are in danger of the anger of the Lord when we raise spoiled, picky kids who complain about what is set before them or that the peas are touching the gravy. It is a complete lack of thankfulness for a gift that one day very well may be gone.
Who Can Have Enjoyment Apart from Him?
Simply being able to eat and drink does not mean one can find enjoyment. In fact, the Preacher says it cannot be found apart from Him. Therefore, here is God’s equation for enjoyment in this life: God + eating and drinking and finding enjoyment in labor = the best life you can have on this earth! Wow. Got that equation? It is inspired; it’s tried & true. But take God out of the equation and what you have is, trying to eat and drink and find enjoyment in labor = hard toil, vanity, and striving after the wind (2:26). Jesus taught the principle this way: “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:35). Our natural instincts say the opposite. Years ago, the jingle of another beer commercial went like this: “You only go around once in life, so get all the gusto!” Actually, Jesus said that if you try to get all the gusto, you will lose life. Jesus was not simply talking about eternity, He was talking about losing life now. There is only one way to gain life and that is to lose our life for Him. Remember, there is nothing better than to eat and drink and to find enjoyment in your labor. This is from the hand of God.