30 Days in the Bible, Day 3: Ecclesiastes 3:9-13
It seems difficult to reconcile the pessimistic tone of the book of Ecclesiastes with the situation of its author, Solomon. By every earthly measure, Solomon was a rousing success. He had wisdom, wealth, authority, property, possessions, and women. If he lived today, he’d probably be held up as the greatest example of blessing and achievement on earth, and people would flock to hear him speak in order to pick up tips to finding success.
Yet in this book, probably written toward the end of his life, Solomon looks back on all he has gained and considers it emptiness. He sees nothing of lasting value in all that he has and has done. His tone is not so much bitter as it is melancholy. He has had everything that the world values, but he finds no satisfaction in any of it.
Still, in the midst of his reflections he manages to find something of value. He recognizes that the labor of a person can be beautiful “in its time.” The idea is that when we are working for the Lord, whether at our jobs, in our homes, or in our church, as we fulfill what He has given us to do we create something good, something of beauty. The beauty isn’t so much in our toil, but in the results. In New Testament terms, as we work we are bringing about the expansion and fulfillment of the kingdom of Jesus one piece at a time.
On top of this, we as humans have eternity in our hearts. This separates us from the rest of creation; no other creature has an idea that something lies beyond this life we now live, and a longing for the immortality that can only come from our Creator. Even people who deny the existence of God have a desire to live forever in some way, whether by prolonging their life through science and medicine or in leaving behind a memorial so they will not be forgotten.
This desire for the eternal is limited by our human finiteness. We can’t fully grasp who God is, what He has done, or even what eternity really means. We know we long for a greater meaning to our lives, and that somehow there is, or at least ought to be, a bigger picture that we fit into. We see the vastness of the universe and want to find out where it came from, yet we can’t even begin to grasp a small bit of the grandeur of reality.
Left on our own, this would drive us to the same sad state as Solomon. But God, in all of His infinite greatness, goodness, and mercy, revealed Himself to us in His inspired Word. We still aren’t able to truly understand eternity, but we can know we have eternal life through the person and work of Jesus. God’s Word also reveals that eternal life isn’t just quantitatively longer, but qualitatively better. It isn’t just life that is eternal, but it is life with the Eternal. Through God’s revelation, we find a rest for the longing we have for eternity.
As we labor to do something beautiful in its time for the Lord, we also find our satisfaction in our part in the eternal plan of God. Through Jesus Christ, we are brought into contact with the One who gives the beauty to creation. As we see Him and His unfolding plan for us and for His kingdom, we find eternal value in our work, in our lives, and in our future.