Ecclesiastes’ Guide to Joy

“Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.” (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 ESV)

God delights when we enjoy his gifts fully

This is a guide to happy Christian living. What do I mean? The first word in verse 7 is “Go.” It doesn’t say wait; be passive. “Go” is an action word. These are things we are free to pursue along with the joys they create in us. There is no guilt or shame. It doesn’t mean we are unspiritual. He delights in our joy in his gifts!

We have celebrated two birthdays in the DeWitt house in June; both daughters in the last three weeks. We have given gifts. As a parent I have discovered there is great joy in seeing your kids excited about the gift. I know this because I also know the feeling when they aren’t excited. They open it. They look at it. No joy. No excitement. They set it aside. Another item doomed for the garage sale. It’s kind of disappointing. We paid good money for that. Don’t you like it? But when they open a gift and the joy is on their face, and days later they are hugging the doll or playing with the toy, I love it. I gave it to her hoping she would like it.

God has given us wonderful gifts that he delights in seeing us delight in. Not to worship them but to receive them as gifts. If I ever got the idea that Kiralee actually loved her Elsa doll more than me, I think Elsa would find herself in the garbage bin. I don’t want her to love my gifts more than me or to use me as a way to simply get gifts. I want her to love me first and when she does, I have total joy seeing her enjoy my gifts for her and I want her happiness in them.

This is why verse 10 is there. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10) This passage is not biblical permission for a hedonistic life, but rather a circumspect one. There’s no marriage in eternity. There’s no sex in eternity. There will be aspects of this world we love there, but now is the time for these to be vigorously pursued and savored.

This applies to two different Christians. First is Mr. Sunshine. He’s carefree. He enjoys the finer things of life. Everything’s cool. Mr. Sunshine gets the joy but not the seriousness of it. Life and time are being wasted.

The other Christian is the too serious one. All he has in his wardrobe is sackcloth and ashes. He would never waste money on cologne or a latte for that matter. Why should I enjoy a latte when people are dying and going to hell? The story of Jesus he likes the least is Jesus celebrating at the wedding feast and turning water into wine for no other reason than to keep the party going.

Some of us aren’t serious enough. Some are far too serious.

The wisdom in this passage is to look back to creation and God’s blessing on these gifts and to enjoy them to his glory. And to look ahead to our certain death and savor every sweet moment in this life which will make all our joys serious ones.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

©2016 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

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