It's our last week studying the book of Ecclesiastes. Jump in with us by downloading the weekly guide for spiritual growth and reading the article below.
One day we all die, or as they say, kick the proverbial bucket. Knowing we will die, there is a general consensus that life has enough misery and responsibility, therefore we have to make an effort to have some fun and make some memories. This to do list of good times is referred to as our “bucket list." Together, we learn that you should fulfill your bucket list before you kick the bucket.
When do you think you will kick the bucket?
What do you have on your bucket list?
These questions are the same ones that Solomon asked roughly 3000 years ago in Ecclesiastes 9:1-10. He begins by reminding us that we will all kick the bucket in 9:1-4.
Everyone dies. This is because everyone sins. The righteous guy who drives to church every week, and the wicked guy who stole his car for a drunk driver joy ride both die. The good woman who tithes faithfully and gives beyond that to feed the poor, and her coworker who lied about her to get her fired both die. The college student who never has a drink or cheats on a test, and their hung over roommate who skips class and copies their copious lecture notes both die. The guy who reads his Bible and prays every morning before work, and his buddy who curses God as a hobby and makes fun of stupid Christians both die. When kids are little, they are told that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people but, good people and bad people both die.
This all just seems plain wrong. Why worry about being good and bad if what really matters is being dead or alive. After all, Solomon says that a live dog is better off than a dead lion. In that day, a dog was held in low regard. In my travels across various Middle Eastern countries, dirty wild mongrel dogs roam freely barking and biting at will. But, even such a lowly dirty creature is better off if they are alive than a regal and more powerful lion that is dead.
We don’t like death, and so we try to extend our life. We exercise, drink filtered water, eat organic food, and take our vitamins – only to die. There’s no way around it and life is filled with tremendous uncertainty. Every single one of us has an expiration date on the calendar, and when our time is up we are done – we just don’t know when that day is.
We don’t know how God rules, but when things are the worst it is most important to cling to the truth that our Father does, in fact, rule. Solomon reminds us that everyone and everything is in “God’s hands”. When life seems to be drifting off course, it is tempting for us to take matters into our own hands, trying to grab the helm of our life. We want to steer it in the direction we desire, only to discover that other hands are on the wheel, and they are more powerful than ours. Rather than seeing this fact as sad fatalism, we are to rest in this fact, much like a child who falls off their bunk bed and happily caught by their father’s hands.
Solomon then proceeds to remind us in 9:5-6 that we cannot work on our bucket list after we’ve kicked the bucket. Life is busy, so busy in fact that all our other “to do lists” keep us from working on our bucket list. The hard, cold, sad truth is this – much, if not most or even all, that we are working on so diligently and persistently doesn’t really matter. What we do is not remembered, and like a sandcastle on a beach the tide of life rolls in and washes our life efforts away.
Knowing this, we are empowered to not let the laundry, dirty dishes, lawn care, and inbox keep us so busy that we never get to the important business of living our life. The points Solomon are making are crucial. Don’t let the mundane duties of life rob you of the joy of life. Don’t let the pain of life rob you of the joy of life. Don’t let the mystery of life rob you of the joy of life. Instead, understand that God has a bucket list for you to pursue. It would be sin to disobey his list, and the list might surprise you.
When it comes to holiness there are really only three options.
One, there is holiness by subtraction. Religious people prefer this option. They deny themselves worldly pleasure and live a minimal, miserable, miserly life. God is not impressed with us beating ourselves because the beating his Son took was enough. Holiness by subtraction does not go far enough.
Two, there is holiness by addition. Irreligious people, especially the rebellious kids of religious people who grew up with parents whose view of heaven was apparently an eternal root canal, prefer this option. They were taught that sin and fun were synonymous so they make up for lost time by throwing themselves into self-indulgent and self-destructive behavior, only to find that sin ain’t that fun. Holiness by addition goes too far.
Three, there is holiness by redemption. In holiness by redemption, the joys and pleasures that God gives are enjoyed with him. In fact, in this section of Ecclesiastes (9:7-10) there is a God-given bucket list of what God wants you to redeem by enjoying with him as an act of worship.
1. Go ahead
2. Eat your food with joy
3. Drink your wine with a happy heart
4. Get dressed up (in white)
5. Put on cologne/perfume
6. Have fun with your spouse (or get a spouse and then have fun with your spouse)
Yes, God is good and he invites you to go ahead and have some good times before your time is up. Religious neatnicks won’t understand this. But, they are the great great grandkids of the religious nitpicks who Jesus speaks of in Matthew 11:19, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by his deeds.”
Questions For Personal and Group Study Ecclesiastes 9:1-10
1. Do you think you ponder your death too much, too little, or about enough?
2. What is on your bucket list?
3. What things on God’s bucket list for you surprised you? Why?
4. What things on your to do list are preventing you from enjoying your life?
5. Are you more prone to holiness by addition or subtraction?
6. On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being not at all and 10 being very much, how much do you enjoy your life right now?
Keep diving deeper into Ecclesiastes with us by downloading our weekly guide.