The penultimate chapter of Ecclesiastes gives us more valuable insights and wisdom. There are some practical truths mentioned that we can keep in mind throughout all stages of life. The ideas can be used by the young or the old.
The first two verses value both saving and generosity with our earthly goods and our money. “Cast your bread upon the waters” communicates the idea of saving money. Whether investing or under the mattress, saving and not spending is a virtue. In tandem with saving is the idea of giving. Notice that the generosity mentions giving to seven and eight, not just two or three. The fact that we do not know what disastrous conditions could enter our lives should compel us to be wise and save and share our money.
The next group of verses (3-6) uses examples from the natural world to tell us to work diligently and consistently, independent of factors that are beyond our control. Why worry about which way a tree will fall (my land or my neighbor’s) and who will get the wood? Why worry and wait upon the wind and the rain when these things are beyond our control? True, these are important factors in agriculture, but they are ultimately uncontrollable factors.
It is understandable to be concerned with factors that affect our work and our lives, but the message here is to not waste time worrying over things that are beyond our control. This is certainly an easy concept to grasp, yet a difficult concept to regularly and consistently practice.
In the absence of worrying and trying to control the uncontrollable, the wise king Solomon urges us to trust in God:
“As you do not know what is the way of the wind, or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child, so you do not know the works of God who makes everything. In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not withhold your hand; for you do not know which will prosper, either this or that, or whether both alike will be good.”
These last verses do not pull any punches. In life there will be both good and bad. Surely, as we live long and look back on our lives, we will remember the good times the most and they will be treasures in our memories. However, in this practice we are cautioned to remember death in the midst of it all because death is inevitable and it is coming. Remember the refrain of this book: vanity. In this life, we live and have joy and trouble, but what matters most is how we obey God. Regardless of how sweet our memories and relationships are, they will be surprisingly meaningless when we stand before God on judgment day.
It serves us very well to come back to this wise truth regularly throughout our lives. It is easy to forget and there are so many distractions that convince us otherwise. The challenge is that we need to live effectively, but think eternally.
As the last two verses of this chapter encourage, all should endeavor to follow and obey God in their youth. Creating and maintaining godly habits and creating a relationship with Him is so very important to our lifelong spiritual health and even more important to where we will spend eternity.
In youth, as in life, we remember the encouragement in this book to enjoy life and enjoy all of the richest blessings that God has to offer. But we need to do so with a spiritual and ethical intelligence that reminds us that we will pay for those choices we make that go against the will of God.
“Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; walk in the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes; but know that for all these God will bring you into judgment. Therefore remove sorrow from your heart, and put away evil from your flesh, for childhood and youth are vanity.”