Reading the Word
Ecclesiastes 3:16–22 (ESV)
16 Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness.
17 I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work.
18 I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts.
19 For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity.
20 All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.
21 Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth?
22 So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?
Understanding and Applying the Word
Once again, Solomon comments on his observations of life in this world. In the beginning of this passage he speaks of the prevalence of wickedness and the lack of justice and righteousness. He then goes on to observe that both humans and beasts suffer the same fate. They both die. Some may wonder what Solomon means when he says that “all go to the same place.” He is referring to the grave. In such a cruel world where death waits, Solomon surmises that people must find fulfillment in their work, for that is all there is.
The words of this passage seem terribly negative, but they reflect the reality of a life without God. The world becomes a cold, dark place without meaning. Even work actually becomes meaningless in such a world because whatever we are able to produce will eventually fade away and be forgotten. By contrast, in a world with God, we know that wickedness will be judged and that there is hope beyond the grave. Mankind is promised an eternity in the presence of God for all who will repent of their wickedness and trust in Jesus Christ.
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