Nothing is Certain in this Life

Chapter 6

1 There is another serious tragedy I have seen under the sun, and it weighs heavily on humanity. 2 God gives some people great wealth and honor and everything they could ever want, but then he doesn’t give them the chance to enjoy these things. They die, and someone else, even a stranger, ends up enjoying their wealth! This is meaningless—a sickening tragedy.

  • Meaningless – paradoxical: seemingly absurd or contradictory
  • When you try to grab it, it slips through your fingers
  • Tragedy ” A protagonist, usually a person of importance and outstanding personal qualities, falls to disaster through the combination of a personal failing and circumstances with which he or she cannot control.”
  • Weighs heavy, the frequency

3 A man might have a hundred children and live to be very old. But if he finds no satisfaction in life and doesn’t even get a decent burial, it would have been better for him to be born dead. 4 His birth would have been meaningless, and he would have ended in darkness. He wouldn’t even have had a name, 5 and he would never have seen the sun or known of its existence. Yet he would have had more peace than in growing up to be an unhappy man.

Meaningless – temporary / vapor

  • The Teacher is saying: ‘nothing is what it seems’
  • No man who lived experienced more, accumulated more
  • ESV v3: “but his soul is still not satisfied with life’s good things” – lack of purpose – we all recognize this
  • Decent burial : “still depart unnoticed, unlamented and unfulfilled.”
  • Better to die in the womb than to spend your whole life dead

6 He might live a thousand years twice over but still not find contentment. And since he must die like everyone else—well, what’s the use? 7 All people spend their lives scratching for food, but they never seem to have enough.

  • We could live 2000 years and still end in the same place stillborn
  • This observation is lacking spiritual context
  • Some people work their whole lives, never able to stop to enjoy it.
  • We think we know what Justice is, but it doesn’t seem to be true all the time.
  • Ecc. 1:7 “All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full”
  • After winning the world series, do those guys retire? NO! They want more…

8 So are wise people really better off than fools? Do poor people gain anything by being wise and knowing how to act in front of others? 9 Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless—like chasing the wind.

  • V 8, leaving God out, leads to a conflict (wisdom good or not?)
  • V 9 gets to envy, coveting
  • It is meaningless unless we can enjoy it!
  • The conclusion here is to adjust your expectations so your world view doesn’t shatter when horrible things happen for doing the right thing.

10 Everything has already been decided. It was known long ago what each person would be. So there’s no use arguing with God about your destiny. 11 The more words you speak, the less they mean. So what good are they? 12 In the few days of our meaningless lives, who knows how our days can best be spent? Our lives are like a shadow. Who can tell what will happen on this earth after we are gone?

  • V 10 the human condition is what it has always been
  • We are made in the image of God, but sin has made it broken and dysfunctional.
  • Martin Luther said “As things have been, so they still are; and as things are, so they will be.”
  • V 11 is repeated from 5:2: the more we talk, the emptier our words become
  • Job argued with God, he discovered how that goes

Chapter 7

1 A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume. And the day you die is better than the day you are born. 2 Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies—so the living should take this to heart.

  • V 1 in Hebrew it is word play, translation that is closer: “Fair fame is better than fine perfume.”
  • Our reputation ties to our burial ch 6:3
  • All four things mentioned are good things, perfume is GREAT in the ‘smelly world of Solomon’
  • Thomas Boston on Followers of Christ: “In the day of our birth we are born to die, but in the day of our death we die to live.”

This is true for those who have surrendered to Christ as our savior. We find greater purity, deeper rest, better company than the world we entered on the day we were born, our death is our entrance into glory. Our desire for self-esteem shoves bad thoughts out, we don’t like to dwell on painful things. Our natural instinct is to hide in the vapor / meaninglessness. Our reputation is important: we represent Jesus Christ as His followers. Living for the reputation of Christ is what gives our lives meaning / purpose

3 Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us. 4 A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time.

  • The ESV renders V 3: “By sadness of face the heart is made glad”
  • Young people, those in college are not interested in significant things
  • The tendency is to stick to things that numb those thoughts. Superficial lifestyle
  • Without eternal perspective we live ignoring the reality that nothing is certain in this life

5 Better to be criticized by a wise person than to be praised by a fool. 6 A fool’s laughter is quickly gone, like thorns crackling in a fire. This also is meaningless.

  • We learn best from wise people
  • True discipleship includes aspects of personal rebuke ‘Kind Disapproval’
  • Hebrew words for thorn and pot sound very similar “crackling thorns under a pot”
  • Thorns don’t burn very long, no substance
  • In Luke 6:25 Jesus says: If you don’t take things serious, it’ll come to a bad end.
  • If we are wise we will deal with our own mortality

7 Extortion turns wise people into fools, and bribes corrupt the heart. 8 Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride. 9 Control your temper, for anger labels you a fool. 10 Don’t long for “the good old days.” This is not wise.

  • The corruption of the powerful, it happened then, it happens now: timeless truth of the human condition
  • Pride has redeeming traits, but quickly turns to sin.
  • One’s prayer life is a good example; start small. But the end is better, when God molds/grows us
  • Looking back on old times, can be dangerous, you lose touch with the present
  • Live in the moment, enjoy where you’re at, make the most of today

11 Wisdom is even better when you have money. Both are a benefit as you go through life. 12 Wisdom and money can get you almost anything, but only wisdom can save your life.

  • How does wisdom save your life? It is only through God’s wisdom that we surrender to Christ
  • True wisdom is a growing focus on the eternal, moving away from focus on meaninglessness
  • True wisdom itself is eternal; it cannot be lost or lose it’s value
  • Wisdom is made greater with money – deploying resources to help others gain wisdom.

13 Accept the way God does things, for who can straighten what He has made crooked?

  • All of the things that God has made is crooked, (from our point of view) who are we to straighten them?
  • Avoid being too definitive in your statements about this world, a little humility goes a long way
  • When we view catastrophes, genocide, childhood death we should defer to ‘God Knows Best’
  • God has HIS ways and timing Ecc. 3:11 “Everything is beautiful in its time”
  • This includes the things we may think are twisted and ugly.

14 Enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realize that both come from God. Remember that nothing is certain in this life.

  • Enjoy what God has allowed us to enjoy, be content with your lot in this life
  • Remain somber, be reverent regarding the challenges He has given you.
  • Ageless Truth: Nothing is certain in this life! We may think we know…


Who in your life gives you ‘wise criticism’? Have you given someone the license to do this?

Why shouldn’t you ‘long for the good old days’?

Do you think God is really sovereign over the bad things that come our way? Why?