Ecclesiastes 6 Mid-Libre Crisis

Questions: Is it good to have it all? Even if we don’t enjoy it? Can we ever know what is good for us? What efforts — if any — will be rewarded? Will what comes after show us to be wise, or fools?

“Read More” to pursue answers from Ecclesiastes.

Lord, make me a Fountain of your Love.
Draw me into your holy Presence, that I might know you as my Father
And manifest the image of Christ in this world, and the world to come. Amen.

Ecclesiastes 6:1-12

There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it [is] common among men

After a brief interlude of constructive advice, the author apparently gives in to his recurring theme of how much life sucks:

A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honour, so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it: this [is] vanity, and it [is] an evil disease.

Ouch. Yeah, that would be a total waste. As would this:

If a man beget an hundred [children], and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also [that] he have no burial; I say, [that] an untimely birth [is] better than he. For he cometh in with vanity, and departeth in darkness, and his name shall be covered with darkness. Moreover he hath not seen the sun, nor known [any thing]: this hath more rest than the other. Yea, though he live a thousand years twice [told], yet hath he seen no good: do not all go to one place?

Hang on. This may not so much be whining against God as an artful deconstruction of human folly. It sure sounds like he’s dissecting the traditional causes of human striving:

* riches
* wealth
* honour
* children
* longevity

He doesn’t appear to be against them, but he’s pointing out that having them is not the same as enjoying them.

What I am unclear on is whether he thinks:

a. It is a gift of God to be able to enjoy them
b. These never satisfy, so it is foolish on our part to pursue them
c. God is cruel to fill us with all these futile desires

Or perhaps (d) — all of the above! Though, the next verse seems to lean towards (b):

All the labour of man [is] for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled.

Or perhaps (c), since at this point it isn’t even clear that wisdom will help:

For what hath the wise more than the fool? what hath the poor, that knoweth to walk before the living?

And desiring what we don’t have seems the surest road to misery:

Better [is] the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this [is] also vanity and vexation of spirit.

In fact, he seems to be arguing we’re better off accepting that things will never get better. We’ve already got everything we can get, since we aren’t strong enough to take from those who have more:

That which hath been is named already, and it is known that it [is] man: neither may he contend with him that is mightier than he.

For that matter, would it really help if we got it?

Seeing there be many things that increase vanity, what [is] man the better?

Do we even know what is good for us, either in this life or what comes after?

For who knoweth what [is] good for man in [this] life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?

Well, maybe. Things look pretty bleak here at the halfway point of Ecclesiastes, but the story isn’t finished yet…


God, as we begin this new year, I pray that you would help me question the cliches and habits I rely upon. Save me from treading the path of fools in the pursuit of that which never satisfies. Let me face 2007 with eyes wide open to both the folly of humanity, and your neverending grace and love. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

About the Title:

Today’s title is a play on the phrase midlife crisis.