Summary: Enjoyment of what we hold is the gift of God.



“Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.” [1]

How do you define what is good? The writer of what is admittedly the dark book of Ecclesiastes says that eating and drinking and finding enjoyment in one’s labour is “good and fitting.” How different from the caricature of the Faith presented by the world! How different from the caricature presented by many churches! The world, to say nothing of the attitude from many pulpits, is that the Faith is designed to ensure that there is no joy left in life.

Many Christians seem to imagine that when they go to the House of God, they are to look sour and bitter as though God is offended by joy. I briefly pastored a congregation in the Lower Mainland that was opposed to anything that even appeared to spread joy among the members of the assembly. Early in my tenure at that doleful church, during a congregational meeting I proposed that the church schedule a picnic following a Sunday morning service. We could enjoy a meal in the park and play a game of softball and organise some fun events for the children. When I said this, a woman fairly exploded to ask, “Do you mean to play games on the Sabbath?” I was less inhibited in those days than I am today, so I casually responded, “Yes, I do propose that we enjoy some activities for those wishing to participate. It isn’t the Sabbath, you know.” Spontaneously, older members began to sing, “The Fight is On”—well, figuratively, at least. I was quickly informed that those dear saints didn’t even read the funnies on a Sunday. They didn’t watch television on a Sunday. And they sure didn’t play softball or run races on a Sunday! They appeared to believe that anything that might bring a smile to their face was an offence to God.

God created mankind to be joyful. Christians, walking with the Living God, should express incredible, intense joy in everything they do. God’s purpose is our good and His glory. However, since the fall, we tend to choose that which is inferior, sacrificing the permanent on the altar of the temporary. Our immediate “happiness” leads us to surrender that which is permanent and good. Consequently, left to our own interest, we seldom discover what is good. We know little of joy—intense, overwhelming joy that infuses every facet of life. Transience defines the pleasures we pursue and permanence becomes a phantasm, a will-o’-the-wisp, an ignis fatuus always just out of reach. Thus unfulfilled, we lurch from one meaningless pursuit to the next.

GOOD AND FITTING — “Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him.” Be cautious about making this an absolute truth. Solomon couches his language to clarify that this is his observation. Though it is a generalisation, it nevertheless generally holds true throughout life.

Previous sermons provided exposition of the verses leading up to the text for this day. [2] I mention that because the opening word of our text serves to connect us to what has preceded. “Behold” is a discourse marker as the Preacher takes up his advice to enjoy life. The word could be translated, “Despite that” or “However.” It can be rendered as, “But this is what I discovered.” [3] It is as though the Preacher has said, “I’ve been exposing the fact that you seek satisfaction in all the wrong places. Now, contrast that to what God actually longs to give us!” Solomon is challenging readers to ponder that God seeks our good! And when we have received what is good, it always results in His glory. This is radical; it means that God desires that His people should experience joy—settled, sustained, satisfying joy in our service and in our life.

Let that thought sink in: God wants His people to be joyful; our lives are to be characterised by joy. The idea that eternity will be dull and boring is a caricature of what God has planned. Citing the Prophet Isaiah, Paul declares,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,

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