The book of Ecclesiastes lacks color . . . literally. I have my colored pencils (aka “pencil crayons” for those of us north of the border) at the ready looking for the grand themes of Scripture to highlight . . . and am finding none so far in these first chapters of Solomon’s end of life autobiography. But maybe that’s because for Solomon life had become colorless. The ways of God had been traded for the weights of this world . . . the race had become boring as he thought he had already won the prize . . . the fight was futile as he thought he already possessed the spoils of victory.
And spoils he had. This guy had it all . . . and what he didn’t have, he had the wealth to go get . . .
I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the children of man. . . . And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure . . . (Ecclesiastes 2:4-8, 10a ESV)
In addition to all this, Solomon says that the wisdom he had become famous for did not leave him, God continuing to give him insight beyond what others understood. And that insight leads Solomon to a bottom-line realization that time is the equalizer of all men. Eventually the wise and the fool have the same outcome . . . eventually the rich and the poor end up with the same amount of possessions — nothing . . . eventually the great and the unknown become, at best, faint memories, if remembered at all. And Solomon, rather than being fulfilled through his wisdom and wealth, is frustrated . . . “So I hated life” (2:17). He was plagued by the thought that everything he worked for might end up in the hands of a another — so what’s the point? “For all is vanity,” he writes, “and a striving after wind” (2:17).
And as I read Solomon’s musings in chapter 2 I’m struck again by how much eternal perspective contributes to current contentment. If my toil “under the sun” is only to get as much as I can “under the sun” then, when I’m no longer “under the sun” it really has been a waste . . . or, as Solomon says, “Vanity of vanities” (1:1). But if my labor is “under the Son” . . . if I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me . . . if the life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20) . . . then there is great joy and contentment and fulfillment in my labors here and now . . . for I know that they will but give away to a glorious reality there and then.
As Solomon grew older it seems he didn’t experience much joy and contentment. But his insight allowed him to see what a prize and gift it could be.
There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God.
Enjoyment in our toil . . . at peace with our present . . . contentment in whatever state (Php. 4:11) . . . this is the fruit of living life in a framework that transcends this horizontal earthly plane and connects vertically with the God of eternity. This is the abiding joy that comes from a divine context revealed in the Word of God . . . illuminated by the Spirit of God . . . founded on the person and work of the Son of God . . . focused on one primary thing. the glory of God.
That’s life “under the Son” . . . that’s the abundant life that Jesus promised. Life not about my treasures nor my accomplishments . . . but life by His grace . . . and life for His glory . . .