The Carefree Life
Wayne C | January 26, 2023
The Book of Ecclesiastes can be a perplexing book. A first-time, casual reading of the book would cause one to doubt that the title of this article came from that book.
Because of the recurrence of the word "vanity" (or "futility"), this short book has often been maligned by some as being cynical or fatalistic. There are passages in the book which make it easy to see how some have drawn this conclusion. Consider some of the statements Solomon makes in Ecclesiastes: "So I hated life. It made me sad to think that everything here on earth is useless, like chasing the wind. I hated all the things I had worked for here on earth . . ." (2:17-18). Also, "A man might have a hundred children and live a long time, but what good is it if he can’t enjoy the good God gives him or have a proper burial? I say a baby born dead is better off than he is" (6:3).
However, this negative view of Ecclesiastes fails to take into account the major thrust of the book which is brought out in such statements as, "Live joyfully with the wife whom you love . . ." (9:9), and, "So I decided it was more important to enjoy life" (8:15). Seventeen times in this short book, the Hebrew words for "being glad" and "gladness" are found. The fundamental theme of the book stresses that one should learn to find joy or pleasure in life despite its troubles. (It needs to be pointed out that such sentiments in Ecclesiastes are not addressing what is necessary for eternal life which is available only in Christ under the New Covenant.)
One of the perplexing statements in Ecclesiastes is found in chapter 5, verse 8. Solomon said, "In some places you will see poor people mistreated. When they are not treated fairly or given their rights, don't be surprised."
Solomon does not instruct one on how to correct the mistreatment; He addresses the situation merely as an unattached observer. If you see someone mistreated, and justice being perverted -- don't be shocked. But, are we not to care about injustice? Does this mean one should not try to correct unfair treatment toward others at work or in the community? This misses Solomon's point.
Solomon is saying there are things in life over which we have no control. Is it beneficial to wring our hands and fret constantly over such things? Are we to get involved in every injustice we encounter throughout our lives? Solomon answers this in Proverbs 26:17, "Interfering in someone else’s quarrel as you pass by is like grabbing a (mad) dog by the ears."
Solomon also expresses his inability to figure everything out, and the futility of trying. "I tried to understand all that happens on earth. I saw how busy people are, working day and night and hardly ever sleeping. I also saw all that God has done. Nobody can understand what God does here on earth. No matter how hard people try to understand it, they cannot. Even if wise people say they understand, they cannot; no one can really understand it" (8:16-17).
Solomon is observing that a lot of things are just God's business. We need to be content to deal with our own lives instead of trying to fix things that are in God's control. As Robert Turner has said, "Don't try to whittle on God's end of the stick."
Numerous times, Solomon makes statements like this one: "So I saw that the best thing people can do is to enjoy their work, because that is all they have. No one can help another person see what will happen in the future" (Eccl.3:22). This is a central theme running throughout the book. (See 2:24; 3:11-12; 5:18, et al.)
Many live their lives for fun and fascination. Many think they have found life's purpose when they discovered drink or drugs, wealth or power. Solomon says that living according to God's teachings ("Fear God and keep His commands" 12:13), and learning to enjoy the simple things ("be content with what you have" Heb.13:5) -- are the keys to living a meaningful, stress-free life.
"Carefree living" is living a life free from care or anxiety. This is made possible because the Christian knows that God is in control. It brings to mind the statement by Ralph Abernathy, "I don't know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future."
(Note: I used the New Century Version for most of the quotations.)