THE UNFULFILLED LIFE

Ecclesiastes 6:1-12

At the end of chapter 5, we came to a positive conclusion. Although the pursuit of money is empty, it is good and fitting to enjoy the gifts of God in this life. However as we come to chapter 6, we are again introduced to that which is negative.

That Which is Grievous: The pursuit of riches (5:12-17)

That Which is Grievous: The unfulfilled life (6:1-12)

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What is good and fitting: To enjoy what God has given (5:18-20)

If I had been writing this, I would have closed this section on a happy note. I like happy endings.

ē The hero rides off into the sunset.

ē The good guy wins.

ē Everyone lives happily ever after.

But life is not like that. When the sunset takes place, night follows. The good guy doesnít always win. And everyone who lives happily ever after eventually dies.

 

RICHES DO NOT REWARD

There is an evil which I have seen under the sun and it is prevalent among men -- 2 a man to whom God has given riches and wealth and honor so that his soul lacks nothing of all that he desires; yet God has not empowered him to eat from them, for a foreigner enjoys them. This is vanity and a severe affliction. (Ecclesiastes 6:1-2).

Twice in the previous chapter we saw the phrase, "There is a grievous evil." We noted that this is not moral evil. Rather, it conveys the idea of a tragic happening.

The tragedy displayed by the Preacher is not unique. It is one that is prevalent among men ( - "it is great") - it happens all the time. It is the tragedy of a man who has that which can be enjoyed, but who, for one reason or another, does not get a chance to enjoy it.

This happens all the time at funerals. People send flowers and the one for whom they are sent canít smell them. People say nice things and the one about whom they say these nice things cannot hear them. Life insurance pays benefits and the one who lost his life cannot enjoy those benefits.

And to make matters worse, it isnít even your descendants who enjoy the things that belonged to you. These things are now owned by "foreigners."

 

LONG LIFE DOESNíT LAST

If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, however many they be, but his soul is not satisfied with good things and he does not even have a proper burial, then I say, "Better the miscarriage than he, 4 for it comes in futility and goes into obscurity; and its name is covered in obscurity. 5 It never sees the sun and it never knows anything; it is better off than he. 6 Even if the other man lives a thousand years twice and does not enjoy good things -- do not all go to one place?" (Ecclesiastes 6:3-6).

The Preacher forms a contrast between two hypothetical people. He chooses one who would be considered the most fortunate and one who would be considered the least fortunate.

Man

Child

Lives many years

Dies at birth

Fathers a hundred children

Never has a chance to accomplish anything

Unsatisfied with life & died without a proper burial

Which life is better? The Preacher says that the life of the child is better because it bypasses the tragedy of a wasted life. He then asks a rhetorical question. Do not all go to one place? The question expects an obvious affirmative answer. And this brings us to a problem. We know from other Scriptures that all do NOT go to the same place.

The answer is that Solomon is giving us a picture of life as it exists "under the sun." Apart from a heavenly perspective, all people die in the same way. They all die and go to the same place. The man who has lived a thousand years dies in the same way as the stillborn baby. They are both just as dead. Long life doesnít last. No matter how long the life, it is destined eventually to end.

 

SATISFACTION DOESNíT SATISFY

All a manís labor is for his mouth and yet the appetite is not satisfied. (Ecclesiastes 6:7).

Have you ever developed a hunger for a particularly appetizing dish? And then you ate it. And by the next day, no matter how good was the meal, you were hungry again. There is a curious repetition of hunger. It doesnít matter how well you ate yesterday, tomorrow you will be hungry again.

This principle is true of more than mere food. Whatever it is that you pick to attempt to satisfy your soul will eventually be found to be lacking. Or to put it another way - Stuff doesnít satisfy. Why not? Because physical things can only satisfy physical needs and that for which you hunger on the inside is a hunger of the soul. This is seen vividly in the Hebrew text of this verse. The word translated "appetite" is the same word translated "soul" in verses 2 and 3

That is not to say that physical needs are not important. But their primary importance is to serve spiritual ends.

For a man to become truly rich, he must first come to terms with his inner poverty. Jesus said this. He said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they have all the riches of heaven." It is only when you have become poor in spirit, when you have mourned over your lost condition, and when you have hungered and thirsted for that which only God can provide that you can find satisfaction of the soul.

 

ADVANTAGES ARE TO NO ADVANTAGE

For what advantage does the wise man have over the fool? What advantage does the poor man have, knowing how to walk before the living? (Ecclesiastes 6:8).

One of the great American myths is that all men are created equal. It simply isnít true. Or as one cynic stated, "Some are just more equal than others." Some people are wise and others are foolish by nature. Some are born into poverty and others a born to riches. But there IS a measure of equality in the fact that such advantages are really to no great advantage in the important things in life.

Having brains does not guarantee that you will do a better job in raising your family or finding satisfaction in your career. We have already seen that having money or not having money does not bring ultimate satisfaction.

 

WANTING IS BETTER THAN HAVING

What the eyes see is better than what the soul desires. This too is futility and a striving after wind. (Ecclesiastes 6:9).

There is a dychotomy between what the eyes see versus what the soul desires. We tend to think that they are the same thing, but they are not.

Think about something that you really wanted. You thought about having it and you dreamed of the enjoyment it would bring you. And you labored and you struggled and finally you acquired it. What then? It did not seem quite so wonderful.

That is because the thing that you want often looks to be more fulfilling than it actually is. Wanting is better than having. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

People who have entered into illicit relationships usually learn this truth the hard way. That person who looked so delightful later lacked the initial luster. The forbidden fruit that was at first so enticing later soured into a vomitus stench.

 

KNOWLEDGE HAS ALREADY BEEN KNOWN

Whatever exists has already been named, and it is known what man is; for he cannot dispute with him who is stronger than he is. 11 For there are many words which increase futility. What then is the advantage to a man? (Ecclesiastes 6:10-11).

The most that man can do by his intellect in the realm of knowledge is to find out what has happened. But in doing so, he finds that there is One who knows the end from the beginning. The Lord knows what is and what was and what will be. The Lord in His sovereignty has planned each and every event in life. This means that it is impossible to gain new knowledge. Any knowledge that you gain has already been previously known.

Verse 11 says that there are many WORDS which increase futility. When you speak of a "word" in Hebrew, you can be referring to a part of speech, or else you can be speaking of the thing that word represents. Thus it is possible to understand the Preacher as saying that there are many THINGS which increase futility

The more you know, the more you find out you donít know. And so, trying to find satisfaction in the gaining of knowledge is a lesson in futility. Here is the point. The more you know and the more you say and the more you do, the more that you find that it has already been known and said and done and that there is only emptiness in the knowing and the saying and the doing. Thus, the quest for new knowledge or for new teachings or for new experience is an empty quest that can never be attained.

 

LIFE LIVED IS LOST

For who knows what is good for a man during his lifetime, during the few years of his futile life? He will spend them like a shadow. For who can tell a man what will be after him under the sun? (Ecclesiastes 6:12).

To spend your life on a search for the meaning of life is itself a study in futility. Even if you could learn what is this illusive secret of the meaning of life, by the time you found it, your life would be over - spent "like a shadow."

Notice the two questions: The first question asks about THIS life. The second question asks about the FUTURE life.

Who knows what is good for a man during his lifetime? (Question about this life)

Who can tell a man what will be after him under the sun? (Question about the future life)

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He will spend them like a shadow

(This life is not long enough to answer either question)

Where can you go to find real meaning in life? Who would have such answers to those that challenge the soul? It is only in the Lord who made man. He alone has the answers both of this life and the life to come.

Have you noticed something about the descriptions throughout this chapter? They all describe Solomon. He is the man who...

The life lessons that we learn in this chapter are not mere theory. They make up the journal of the wisest man who ever lived. All of his wisdom combined to show him the emptiness of a life without God.


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