There is a vanity that takes place on earth, that there are righteous people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked, and there are wicked people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity. And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun.
None of us, of course, are guaranteed to know the date of our death. But we know something just as certain: unless Christ returns first, that day will come. Until then, Scripture says, we will inhabit a creation that is subject to futility, with evil around us, sin within us, and chaos seeming to prevail more often than not. We will see the wicked prosper and the godly struggle. These truths are poignantly expressed in the words of the Preacher of Ecclesiastes: “There is a vanity that takes place on earth.”
By itself, that observation could send us into a spiral of sorrow, sullenness, and despair. But the writer of Ecclesiastes does not leave us there. Instead, he makes a rather surprising recommendation: “I commend joy … to eat and drink and be joyful.” Observation: life is unmanageable. Recommendation: enjoy life’s simple pleasures!
How can anyone know genuine enjoyment of such pleasures when life is futile and unjust and comes with an expiration date? This is something that is only possible for those who know the truth. We can freely and guiltlessly enjoy the pleasures God gives because we know God; indeed, it honors the Giver of such gifts to enjoy what He gives. The apostle Paul describes God as the one “who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17). The fact that simple pleasures offer no ultimate satisfaction does not mean they offer no satisfaction. It is knowing that there is life beyond the sun that frees us to enjoy our life “under the sun.” As the hymn writer puts it:
Heav’n above is softer blue,
Earth around is sweeter green;
Something lives in every hue
Christless eyes have never seen.
When was the last time you asked someone, “Are you enjoying yourself?” When did you last ask yourself that question? It is a good, Christian thing to ask! We know both that the world is broken and that every good gift comes from God. So honor Him by enjoying your next cup of coffee, your next day with your spouse, your next day at work, the next thing that makes you smile, as a gift from Him. He’s given these blessings to you for your God-honoring enjoyment, so that you can say with the psalmist, “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).
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Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, published by The Good Book Company, thegoodbook.com. Used by Truth For Life with permission. Copyright © 2021, The Good Book Company.