Ecclesiastes is an anthology of wisdom penned by a teacher who refers to himself as Koheleth (Ecclesiastes 1:1). This name is typically translated as “the Preacher” (ASV, ESV, KJV, NASB, NKJV, RSV) or “the Teacher” (HCSB, NIV, NLT, NRSV). The book presents the teacher’s search for the meaning of life.
Koheleth’s advises his readers is to exert effort in whatever they might attempt (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going. (Ecclesiastes 9:10 NASB)Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 forms a unit. Naoto Kamano associates:
The fourth admonition (Ecclesiastes 9:10) shares some feature[s] with the previous three admonitions (Ecclesiastes 9:7-9). First, both Ecclesiastes 9:8 and Ecclesiastes 9:10 include כל in their admonitions: “at any time” and “anything your hand can grasp” (anything you are able to do) in Ecclesiastes 9:10. Second, both Ecclesiastes 9:7 and Ecclesiastes 9:10 require persistence. For Ecclesiastes 9:7, the life of enjoyment must be persistent. For Ecclesiastes 9:10 the persistent action to do whatever one is able to do is commanded. Third, Ecclesiastes 9:9 and Ecclesiastes 9:10 are symmetrical in their literary design: admonition (Ecclesiastes 9:9a, 9:10a) plus a motive clause beginning with כי (Ecclesiastes 9:9b, 9:10b) that includes a relative clause introduced by אשר (Ecclesiastes 9:9bβ, 9:10bβ). The motive clauses of Ecclesiastes 9:9 and Ecclesiastes 9:10, however, are contrasting. Enjoy life with one’s wife because it is only available during one’s lifetime (Ecclesiastes 9:9), but do whatever one can do because nothing is available after death (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Those motive clauses stress a deep schism between life and death. Therefore, Ecclesiastes 9:10 is an admonition for a life of persistence in doing whatever is possible and available. There is a sense of urgency in this admonition. (Kamano, Cosmology and Character: Qoheleth’s Pedagogy from a Rhetorical-Critical Perspective, 199-200)Tremper Longman III (b. 1952) situates:
This verse [Ecclesiastes 9:10] climaxes Qohelet’s appeal to enjoy life in the present, especially in view of death. He urges his listeners to act now, because death brings everything to a stop. (Longman, The Book of Ecclesiastes (New International Commentary on the Old Testament), 231)Some have seen Ecclesiastes 9:10 as referencing conventional wisdom. Iain Provan (b. 1957) explains:
The quotation theory holds that in the course of his argument Qohelet often quotes material whose opinions he does not himself agree. He reproduced what is termed “traditional wisdom” only in order to refute it. Verses like Ecclesiastes 2:16 and Ecclesiastes 9:10 were already regarded as quotations—what the “people” say—in earlier times (by the Targum and Abraham Ibn Ezra [1089-1167] respectively. The quotation approach simply builds on these early beginnings, identifying greater or lesser numbers of citations in the text, sometimes to the extent of viewing the overall genre of the book as a dialogue between a master and his students or between two schools of thought. In this way Qohelet’s own thoughts can be distinguished from other, earlier material in the book and a coherent picture of his own philosophy attained...The difficulty with this method of approaching the text, however, it to identify satisfactory criteria for identifying the proverbial wisdom with which Qohelet is thought to disagree. (Provan, Ecclesiastes/Song of Songs (NIV Application Commentary), 31)There are echoes of Ecclesiastes 9:10 in other sources. Choon-Leong Seow (b. 1952) researches:
The only appropriate response to the certainty of death is to enjoy life while one is able to do so. The call to enjoy life includes feasting (Ecclesiastes 9:7), fresh clothes (Ecclesiastes 9:8a), oil upon one’s head (Ecclesiastes 9:8b), and the love of one’s family (Ecclesiastes 9:9). These are precisely the kind of things enjoined in the Gilgamesh Epic, as evident in the speech by Siduri, the tavern keeper...Gilgamesh Epic iii.6-14...It is remarkable that this passage in the Gilgamesh Epic contains not only the same items that we find in Qohelet’s call for enjoyment, but the items appear in the same order: (1) feasting, (2) fresh clothing, (3) washing one’s head, and (4) family. Moreover, the point of the passage in Gilgamesh, as also in Ecclesiastes, is that life is something that mortals cannot hold on to forever...The gods have ordained death for all humanity, retaining life “in their own hands” (see Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, p. 90) Everything is in the hands of the gods (Ecclesiastes 9:1)...Similar attitudes are reflected in the genre of Egyptian texts known as “Harpers’ Songs,” inscriptions that reflected on death and sometimes on the impossibility of immortality. In the face of the inevitable fate of death, the living are urged to enjoy themselves while they are able (see Ancient Egyptian Literature 1, pp. 196-97). Likewise, in a late Hellenistic tomb found in Jerusalem, one finds an inscription urging those who are able to enjoy themselves: “You who are living, Enjoy!” (see Pierre Benoit [1906-1987], “L’Inscription Greque du Tombeau de Jason,” Israel Exploration Journal 17 , pp. 112-113)...For Qohelet, too, people ought to enjoy life precisely because life is ephemeral. This, he says, is the portion of humanity in life (Ecclesiastes 9:9), a portion that the dead no longer have (Ecclesiastes 9:6). That is the difference between the living and the dead: the living still have a portion (the possibility of enjoyment), the dead do not. Therefore, one is urged to do vigorously all that one is able (Ecclesiastes 9:10), for in Sheol there will no longer be possibilities and opportunities that one may find on earth. However bad things may seem on earth, there is still the possibility of good. (Seow, Ecclesiastes (Anchor Bible), 305-06)Many have seen parallels to Ecclesiastes 9:10 in the thought of the philosopher, Epicurus (341-270 BCE). Norman Wentworth DeWitt (1876-1958) compares:
There was one form of Necessity which no logical ingenuity of Epicurus [341-270 BCE] could explain away, the inevitably of death. Metrodorus [331-277 BCE] expressed himself on this theme with a mournful and memorable felicity, Vatican Saying 31: “Against all other hazards it is possible for us to gain security for ourselves but so far as death is concerned all of us human beings inhabit a city without walls.” The immediate effect of this is to invest the present with a pressing urgency and to demand the control of experience with respect to the past, the present, and the future. This amounts to the control of our thoughts. A choice of attitude is involved: the past is to be regarded as unalterable, the future as undependable, and the present alone as within our power...The urgency that accrues to the present is admirably expressed by the Jewish Epicurean, Ecclesiastes 9:10...A similar admonition is placed in the mouth of Jupiter by Virgil [70-19 BCE] and with an odd sort of poetic irony, because both he and Hercules, to whom he speaks are immortals...“For every man the day of death stands fixed; for all men the span of life is brief and irremediable, but by good deeds to prolong fame, this is the task of virtue.” (DeWitt, Epicurus & His Philosophy, 182-83)Matthew J. Ramage (b. 1982) critiques:
St. Bonaventure [1221-1274] does...raise the possibility that the bleak statement “there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going” [Ecclesiastes 9:10] was written from the standpoint of an Epicurean (in persona Epicuri). However, in contrast with many exegetes of the Christian tradition, St. Bonaventure does not allege that troubling passages in Ecclesiastes were being stated as a kind of foil to indicate the position of what things look like from the perspective of an Epicurean who does not have faith in God. St. Bonaventure prefers to accept Ecclesiastes 9:10 from the point of view of Solomon, showing the conclusion a man would draw if the premises were true that one cannot know whether what he does is pleasing to God and whether virtue ultimately will have any reward. As for Ecclesiastes’s dark claim “the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward; but the memory of them is lost [Ecclesiastes 9:5],” St. Bonaventure notes that its literal sense is that the dead neither know the things of this world, nor remain in the memory of those in the world, nor have any affection for things of the world. Knowledge presupposes life, but St. Bonaventure observes that the dead have neither life, nor motion, nor sense...This interpretation of St. Bonaventure is consistent with the medieval understanding of the underworld, a view which retained elements of the traditional Sheol imagery. (Ramage, Dark Passages of the Bible: Engaging Scripture with Benedict XVI [b. 1927] and St. Thomas Aquinas [1225-1274], 240-41)Instruction similar to Koheleth’s in Ecclesiastes 9:10 is also found elsewhere in the Bible. Douglas B. Miller (b. 1955) canvasses:
This exhortation [Ecclesiastes 9:10] is echoed at various places elsewhere in the Bible. The Israelites in the wilderness are challenged according to their abilities and resources to give to the building of the tabernacle (Exodus 35:4-10). Early New Testament believers model zeal for their faith (Acts 17:11, 18:15; II Corinthians 9:2). Paul urges followers of Jesus to treat their employment as if working directly for the Lord (Colossians 3:22-25) and to do everything for God’s glory (I Corinthians 10:31). Perhaps ironically, Jesus tells Judas, who is about to betray him, “What you do, do quickly” (John 13:27 NASB). Other texts warn people not to attribute success to the might of one’s hand alone (Deuteronomy 8:17) for it is God who has the ability to make strong (I Chronicles 29:12; II Chronicles 20:6). (Miller, Ecclesiastes (Believers Church Bible Commentary, 166)This is not the only one of the Ecclesiastes’ themes adopted by the New Testament. James Limburg (b. 1935) connects:
Other themes are sounded in Ecclesiastes which are picked up in the New Testament...Work as a gift to be enjoyed (Ecclesiastes 2:24, 3:13, 5:18) and pursued with vigor (Ecclesiastes 9:10); in the New Testament, Jesus works as a carpenter’s son (Matthew 13:55) and Paul makes tents (Acts 18:1-3). (Limburg, Encountering Ecclesiastes: A Book for Our Time, 131)Koheleth encourages his readers to work with their “might” (ASV, ESV, KJV, NASB, NIV, NKJV, NRSV, RSV), “strength” (HCSB) “hard” (CEV), “heartily” (MSG) or “well” (NLT) (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
Michael V. Fox (b. 1940) defines:
For the Masoretic Text’s bekohăka, “with your strength” (i.e., with your full strength), read kekohăka, “according yo your strength,” with Septuagint (and Syrohexapla) ἡ δύναμίς σου. (In 86 percent of its occurrences in Qohelet, ὡς corresponds to Hebrew ke- [or keše-]. The one other occurrence of ὡς = Masoretic Text be in Qohelet [Ecclesiastes 9:10a], probably reflects kaph in the vorlage.) Qohelet does not recommend all-out expenditure of effort (as would be implied by bekohăka), but only moderate exertions in accordance with one’s abilities. (Fox, A Time to Tear Down & a Time to Build Up: A Rereading of Ecclesiastes, 295)Jacques Ellul (1912-1994) relates:
The command given to Gideon comes immediately to mind. In the midst of the catastrophes that were overtaking his people, Gideon becomes convinced that God has abandoned Israel. Then God speaks to him: “Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian” (Judges 6:14 NASB). We must interpret these words in two ways, one positive and the other restrictive. Positively, you have strength. You are to accomplish your task with this might. You may not realize how much strength you have: you may think you lack strength or ability. But Qohelet repeats “with your strength [Ecclesiastes 9:10].” Do not neglect this strength. And since Qohelet says that God gives you work to do, as he gave Gideon, you can count on strength being given you in what you undertake: enough strength to carry it out, strength that gives authority. But you already have might, just like Gideon, who felt so weak...But this command also has a restrictive side...You are to accomplish this work you are about to undertake with your might and nothing else. You must not undertake a task that is too much for you. For instance, you must not count on God to enable you to accomplish some heroic or athletic feat, to break a record or to create a work of art for which you lack the ability. No, you must use your strength, nothing else. You must know your ability and its limitations. Commit your might, but nothing beyond it...This command is personal. We must learn to grow old, then, and not attempt to overcome the aging process when our strength begins to decline, maintaining we can still do what we did twenty years ago. (Ellul, The Reason for Being: A Meditation on Ecclesiastes, 103-04)The activity which is to be completed mightily is “whatever your hand finds to do”(Ecclesiastes 9:10 NASB). Michael V. Fox (b. 1940) bounds:
The hand “finding” or “reaching” signifies metaphorically the concept of ability or of affording something (most clearly in Leviticus 12:8, 25:28; and Isaiah 10:10). Nowhere does it mean “happen to do (something)” without also implying the ability to do it. Qohelet is advising us to expend effort only in accordance with our abilities, to do what we can manage to do. (Fox, A Time to Tear Down & a Time to Build Up: A Rereading of Ecclesiastes, 295)James L. Crenshaw (b. 1934) concurs:
The idiom kōl ’ašer timşā yādekā means “everything one is able to do.” The Massoretic accentuation construes the infinitive la‘aśôt with bekōhakā rather than with the imperative ‘aśēh. Following this lead, one should translate: “whatever you are able to do in your strength, do.” However, the ancient versions (Vulgate, Targum, and several Hebrew manuscripts) read the words differently, connecting bekōhakā with ‘aśēh. The point follows naturally from Qohelet’s observation about death’s power. Enjoy a woman as long as that is possible [Ecclesiastes 9:9], and do zealously whatever you can [Ecclesiastes 9:10]. Knowledge that such intensity of feeling will quickly diminish, subsiding completely in Sheol, motivates intense living. (Crenshaw, Ecclesiastes: A Commentary (Old Testament Library), 163)There has been discussion regarding precisely what actions Koheleth has in mind. Tremper Longman III (b. 1952) informs:
Disagreement exists over exactly what Qohelet is asking his reader to do. Some think this argues for complete license to do whatever one can and wants. Others say that it is a call to work hard. The reference probably cannot be restricted to either. A comparison with other uses of the idiom (Judges 9:33; I Samuel 10:7) indicates that the issue is opportunity. If you have a chance to do something, do it now, because who knows what the future will bring. (Longman, The Book of Ecclesiastes (New International Commentary on the Old Testament), 231)Michael V. Fox (b. 1940) notes:
Abraham Ibn Ezra [1089-1167], apparently with attention to the preceding context, applies Ecclesiastes 9:10a only to pleasurable acts rather than to other sorts such as work. But since the next sentence (Ecclesiastes 9:10b) motivates this one reference to the entire range of human activities, the broadening of scope probably starts in Ecclesiastes 9:10a. (Fox, A Time to Tear Down & a Time to Build Up: A Rereading of Ecclesiastes, 295)Ellen F. Davis (b. 1950) interprets:
Koheleth cannot be celebrating human achievement, which is never certain (see Ecclesiastes 9:11-12). Rather, these words should be heard as urging humility...and a realistic appreciation of three limitations that affect all human activity. First is the limitation of time. Work hard now; this is the time for it, while we are under the sun...Jesus...too, affirms that the world is the place for strenuous work: “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4). Second is the limitation of ability...Third is the limitation of chance. When beginning a new endeavor, it is right to pray that God may bring it to a successful conclusion, but there is never any guarantee that I will live to see it. Indeed, if I steadily put my hands, mind, and heart to work, I can be certain that at some unforseen “time of calamity” (Ecclesiastes 9:12), I will leave good and important work unfinished. The great teacher of early Judaism, Rabbi Akiba [40-137], uttered a memorable saying that echoes this passage: “Everything is given in pledge, and a net is spread over all” (Pirke Avot 3:25). Some day we will each have to trust God with the unfinished work we hold most dear. (Davis, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs (Westminster Bible Companion), 214-15)Douglas B. Miller (b. 1955) updates:
With regard to toil, the writer begins with a simple statement that exhorts vigor and exudes enthusiasm: Do [your work] with all your might (Ecclesiastes 9:10)...This may be similar to the contemporary saying, “If anything is worth doing, it is worth doing well.” As in Ecclesiastes 9:7b, Qohelet is not urging a “Do whatever feels good” approach to life. Rather, he draws attention to the work to which his readers are committed and advises that they should give it good effort while they can. His rationale is that death is coming, a theme that permeates Ecclesiastes 9:1-10...Just as in Ecclesiastes 7:1-4, the Teacher emphasizes that in order to understand life and develop a healthy lifestyle, one must confront and ponder death. Qohelet is neither superficial about the joys of life (Pleasure! Enthusiasm!) nor despondent about life’s hardships (Toil.. Death...) He shows his reader a way through them both, which means being focused on living in the present. (Miller, Ecclesiastes (Believers Church Bible Commentary, 165)There are dangers connected to misreading Koheleth’s exhortation (Ecclesiastes 9:10). David G. Moore (b. 1958) warns:
The wise person gives his best effort with the available circumstances and opportunities. The temptation for all of us is to take this wise approach to life and push it to its unbiblical conclusion. For instance, it is irrational to be a workaholic because God ultimately gives us our work. Only he can bring good out of it. We work, but he redeems. This truth need not promote passivity or sloppy work habits, but it does keep us from the folly of thinking that hard work alone will make for a rewarding life...It is also irrational to be a workaholic because relationships will suffer. To have the kind of marriage depicted in Ecclesiastes 9:9 takes a lot of unhurried time. This is an impossibility if we expend all our effort outside the home. The unchecked workaholism of so many people is also foolish because we do not know the day of our death. (Moore and Daniel L. Akin [b. 1957], Ecclesiastes, Songs of Songs (Holman Old Testament Commentary), 107)There are activities that should obviously not be done vigorously. R.C. Sproul (b. 1939) restrains:
This particular passage from Ecclesiastes is not a universal absolute that says, “Anything you do, do with all your might [Ecclesiastes 9:10].” There are lots of things that we do with our hands that are ungodly, and we ought not to be doing them with any commitment. What the book is saying here is that in the labor to which we are called, in the devotion that we give to God, in those things that are just and proper and good to which we apply ourselves, we are to do these things with determination, not in a casual manner. It’s somewhat similar to Jesus saying that he would rather people be cold or hot, not lukewarm. Those who are lukewarm he said he will spew out of his mouth [Revelation 3:16]. He seems to have more respect for a zealous hostility than for indifference, for example. (Sproul, Now, That’s a Good Question!, 578)Jacques Ellul (1912-1994) advises:
You must not separate a verse from what comes before and after it. Before this verse we find: “God takes pleasure in what you do”(Ecclesiastes 9:7, Jacques Ellul), and the joy mentioned in this context is to be found in the midst of your work, according to Ecclesiastes 9:9. These comments constitute two limitations, so that “everything” (in Ecclesiastes 9:10) cannot mean “anything at all.” On the one hand, what we choose must be work (and not crime or foolishness); on the other hand, it must constitute pleasure for God. We find a third limitation in the second half of Ecclesiastes 9:10: Do everything during your life, “for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in the dwelling place of the dead where you are going” (Ecclesiastes 9:10b, Jacques Ellul). “Everything” thus means some work, thought, knowledge, etc. Within the triangle of these three limitations, all activities are welcome, and you need not weigh other factors. You should do whatever you find within your reach. (Ellul, The Reason for Being: A Meditation on Ecclesiastes, 103)Matt Pastor suggests:
We should...remember that our entire lives should be lived as worship to God...Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.” Let us run after God today with our might. (Pastor, The Great Giver: A Philosophy of Worship, 66)Douglas B. Miller (b. 1955) applies:
In a letter to his goddaughter, C.S. Lewis [1898-1963] (27) gave this advice: “Remember that there are only three kinds of things anyone ever need do. (1) Things we ought to do. (2) Things we’ve got to do. (3) Things we like doing. I say this because some people seem to spend so much of their time doing things for none of the three reasons, things like reading books they don’t like because other people read them.”...A simple life in which work is done to achieve what is necessary for living, and not out of competition or for display can free persons to do better both what they ought and what they like. The Teacher’s list in Ecclesiastes 9:7-9 is a reminder that doing what we like can be a good thing. (Miller, Ecclesiastes (Believers Church Bible Commentary, 167)Ecclesiastes 9:10 has often been associated with work. Eric S. Christianson chronicles:
In the first part of Qoheleth’s call to joy in Ecclesiastes 9:7-10, he reflects on the product of one’s labour (food, wine and clothing) and only then moves on to human labour proper. Not surprisingly, readers have identified with the zeal for work and, like Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), related it to a broader concern for living: ‘Here on earth we are as soldiers, fighting in a foreign land, that understand not the plan of the campaign, and have no need to understand it; seeing well what is at our hand to be done. Let us do it like soldiers, with submission, with courage, with a heroic joy. Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might’ (in W. Robertson Nicoll [1851-1923] and Jane T. Stoddart [1863-1944] 1910:548). In retrospect (such as Qoheleth’s own narratival aspect), the passage can prompt regret, as Thomas Edward Brown (1830-1897) relates in a moving letter to a friend on the death of Brown’s son: “The pain of separation from those we love is so intense that I will not love...He and I might have been intertwined a great deal more, and that we were not appears to me now a great loss. In this, as in everything else, I accept the words of the Ecclesiast – “What thine hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for” – you know the rest’ (in Nicoll and Stoddart 1910:548). John Ruskin [1819-1900], in a lecture entitled ‘The Mystery of Life and its Arts’ (1868), uses Ecclesiastes 9:10 to reflect on the nature of ‘true work’ in the artistic guilds, as distinct from the futility of most human endeavour. (Christianson, Ecclesiastes Through the Centuries, 213)Work is presented in a decidedly positive vein and this emphasis is unique. William P. Brown (b. 1958) observes:
Noteworthy is the fact that one prominent element featured in Qoheleth’s commendation is remarkably absent in the Akkadian tale, namely Qoheleth’s commendation of work (Ecclesiastes 9:9b-10). For the biblical sage, work is just as integral to joy as it is a part of humanity’s limiting lot (see also Ecclesiastes 2:24a, 3:13a, 22, 5:18, 8:15b). Here, finally, Qoheleth provides a decisive clue as to why he includes work within joy’s embrace. (Brown, Ecclesiastes (Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Preaching and Teaching, 95)Eunny P. Lee (b. 1968) attends:
For Qohelet, enjoyment is not to be equated with the pursuit of gain or profit. The enjoyment of life’s simple gifts—sustaining meals and sleep that rejuvenates in the night—displaces the vain prospect for gain. Hence, as William P. Brown [b. 1958] notes, joy is “both trivialized and elevated.” Qohelet has, in effect, “integrated the solemn Sabbath command into the mundane rhythms of daily living, and in so doing consecrated them.” Qohelet refuses to let toil take over and have the decisive word. Indeed, the word itself tapers off toward the end of his discourse, and human work is described in increasingly positive terms (see especially Ecclesiastes 9:10, 11:6). (Lee, The Vitality of Enjoyment in Qohelet’s Theological Rhetoric, 61)William P. Brown (b. 1958) expounds:
Despite the burdensome nature of toil, Qoheleth urges his readers to work for all their worth [Ecclesiastes 9:10]...Work is not an option; it is an ethical duty. Sisyphus, that tragic character of Greek mythology who was condemned by the gods to roll a boulder up a hill only to see it roll back down into the valley whence it came, is the classical example of meaningless toil. Yet Albert Camus [1913-1960] finds in Sisyphus a certain inviolable dignity: “One sees merely the whole effort of a body straining to raise the huge stone, to roll it and push it up a slope a hundred times over; one sees the face screwed up, the cheek tight against the stone, the shoulder gracing the clay-covered mass, the foot wedging it, the fresh start with arms outstretched, the wholly human security of two earth-clotted hands.”...As Qoheleth has consistently claimed, the value of work is not derived from the gain that one’s labors may yield but, rather, is found in the very doing of work, in the challenge of formidable toil. Qoheleth finds inalienable dignity in the strain of toil during one’s ephemeral life. Moreover, the sage acknowledges a degree of freedom in the exercise of work (“whatever your hand finds to do”). The point is not the kind of work to which one devotes himself or herself but the integrity that is exercised in the very act of toiling. To state the obvious, work is an opportunity that does not avail itself in death. Before the great equalizer, work is revealed to be a privileged duty, the self-satisfying expenditure of power, in short, a blessing. In order for one’s labors to be meaningful, sufficient rest is a prerequisite, hence, Qoheleth’s stress on the essential rhythm of rest and work, of sustenance and toil. Devoid of work and wisdom, death is the vacuum to which all life is headed. Like joy, work concretely embodies the vitality of life. Slowly and subtly, Qoheleth has turned the toil of work into a celebration of the power of life. Gradually, Qoheleth has stripped the weariness from the toil and transformed burdensome labor into life-affirming vocation, developed and sustained in relationship to others (Ecclesiastes 4:9). Like Sisyphus, Qoheleth finds a measure of dignity in the very act of toiling. But unlike Sisyphus, Qoheleth’s joyful toiler is no lone ranger. Community is essential to meaningful labor (see Ecclesiastes 4:7-12). (Brown, Ecclesiastes (Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Preaching and Teaching, 95)Humans should do something with the life God has given them. Myles Munroe (b. 1954) implores:
We have a responsibility before God to be faithful in the tasks He places before us, because he does not want us to take our gifts, talents, and abilities to the grave unused...Ecclesiastes gives us good counsel here: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). God did not create us to do nothing. He has endowed us with intelligence, creativity, spiritual gifts, and natural abilities, and He expects us to use them, to pour them out in service to others for the glory of His name. (Munroe, The Glory of Living: Keys to Releasing Your Personal Glory, 61)Wesley J. Fuerst (1930-2007) rewords:
What God has given you to do, do it with all your might, for this is the sense and ultimate vindication of life, insofar as you can ever know it. You cannot live in your dreams or aspirations, or in the world of what you think you ought to be; you cannot postpone finding sense in life until your death; and you cannot imagine some celestial levelling of accounts after death. While it is good not to press too hard to establish yourself in goodness or evil (cp. Ecclesiastes 7:16), in the sense of making that the obsessive pursuit of your life, do what is given you to do as energetically and forcefully as possible. (Fuerst, The Books of Ruth, Esther, Ecclesiastes, The Song of Songs, Lamentations: The Five Scrolls (Cambridge Bible Commentary), 141)We should do something and this exertion should involve “elbow grease”. Charles R. Swindoll (b. 1934) instructs:
Throw Yourself Fully into... Whatever (Ecclesiastes 9:10)...Solomon instructed us to do whatever we do in this life with vim and vigor. Don’t wait until you retire to start enjoying life. How do you know you’ll make it that long? If you were to die today, would your family be left with memories or just material possessions?...We need to be active in pursuing the good gifts God has given us. To neglect His gifts or to pick at them delicately may show a lack of appreciation to the Giver. As we partake of God’s blessings, we must also remember to do all things to the glory of God and in awe of Him (I Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17, 23). Wise living balances an enjoyment of the gifts with a love for the Giver, never forgetting that “from Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Romans 11:36). (Swindoll, Living on the Ragged Edge Workbook: Finding Joy in a World Gone Mad)When undertaking any task, we must do our due diligence and do it with gusto. If not for ourselves, for our God.
How would you restate Ecclesiastes 9:10? How does Jesus’ life embody this exhortation? Is there intrinsic value in working hard? When have you seen someone work passionately? Does Ecclesiastes 9:10 characterize your work ethic? How can a reader gage whether or not she is exhibiting enough intensity; what is the litmus test? What is God calling you to do with your might?
The catalyst for humanity’s earnestness is the inevitability of death (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Michael V. Fox (b. 1940) notifies:
Ma‘ăśeh here means “action” rather than “events.” The reason for being active in life (Ecclesiastes 9:10a) is the absence of any activity afterwards (Ecclesiastes 9:10b). (Fox, A Time to Tear Down & a Time to Build Up: A Rereading of Ecclesiastes, 295)This rationale is typical of Koheleth. Philip Graham Ryken (b. 1966) comments:
As usual...the Preacher ends by reminding us that our days are numbered. Here is his sober motivation for working with all our might: “for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). (Ryken, Ecclesiastes: Why Everything Matters (Preaching the Word), 219)Naoto Kamano footnotes:
For “going” (הלך) as a euphemism of death, see Ecclesiastes 3:20, 5:14, 15, 6:4, 6, 9:10, 12:5. For “coming” (בא) as a euphemism of birth, see Ecclesiastes 2:12, 5:14, 15, 6:4, 11:8. (Kamano, Cosmology and Character: Qoheleth’s Pedagogy from a Rhetorical-Critical Perspective, 51)Koheleth alludes to death by referencing Sheol (Ecclesiastes 9:10). As there is no precise equivalent to Sheol in contemporary thought the word is often transliterated rather than translated (ASV, ESV, HCSB, NASB, NRSV, RSV). When it is translated it is presented as “the grave” (KJV, NJV, NLT), “company of the dead” (MSG), “realm of the dead” (NIV) or “world of the dead” (CEV).
Richard Alan Fuhr, Jr. (b. 1971) acclimates:
The Hebrew שאול (Sheol) is found 65 times in the Old Testament, depicting the dwelling place of the dead (whether this refers to the simple grave or the underworld is a matter of considerable debate, but semantic flexibility is apparent from the various contexts in which the word is found), described as a place of gloom and deep darkness, and metaphorically speaking, an enemy to be avoided. In Sheol, all hope in future blessing ceases and there is no longer opportunity to express praise in the Lord. References to the surviving consciousness of the individual in Sheol are vague at best, and the notion of the enduring reality of the “soul” is difficult to maintain from the Old Testament alone. (Fuhr, An Analysis of the Inter-Dependency of the Prominent Motifs Within the Book of Qohelet, 118)W. Sibley Towner (b. 1933) adds:
Sheol, the abode of the dead, is not the Hellenistic hades or the hell of later Judaism and Christianity. It is not the antithesis of heaven (although the reluctance of the NIV to use the term suggests that it wishes to reserve the concept of an underworld for later juxtaposition with heaven)...It is not simply “the grave.” Instead it is a place in which all dead persons have a shadowy existence, a place to which the Lord can send people and from which God can also bring them back (I Samuel 2:6), a place from which the Lord could hear the cries of Jonah (Jonah 2:2). Sheol is mentioned some sixty-five times in the Hebrew Bible, and some of the writers allow the “shades” to continue to possess some kind of memory and existence in Sheol (e.g., Numbers 16:30-33; I Samuel 28:8-14; Psalm 143:3; Isaiah 14:14-17). One Psalmist even imagined that God could be present in it...(Psalm 139:8)...But in his only use of the term, Qohelet maintains the traditional view of ancient Israel: Sheol is a place from which no one exits, from which no prayers arise, beyond which there is no further hope (see Job 14:11-14; Psalm 6:5). It is a place of nonbeing, where all consciousness and all passions have ceased (see Ecclesiastes 9:5-6)...The Teacher maintains this view in the face of some of his contemporaries who were apparently already beginning to suggest that the dead might be resurrected to either of two places, one up and one down (see Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 2:2). Perhaps Qohelet’s view is a manifestation of a conservative, upper-class outlook, analogous to that of the patrician Sadducees of later times who denied the resurrection of the dead (Mark 12:18; Luke 20:27). Perhaps Qohelet’s critic of a later generation, the writer of the Wisdom of Solomon, more accurately represented the hope of the rank and file of Jews even of Qohelet’s day when he wrote, “Righteousness is immortal” (Wisdom of Solomon 1:15 NRSV). (Towner, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom, Sirach (New Interpreter’s Bible), 341)Ben Witherington III (b. 1951) infers:
Ecclesiastes 9:10 says emphatically that in Sheol there is no knowledge, no wisdom, no planning, indeed no consciousness, and hardly what one would normally call being in any real sense. It seems to be a state of oblivion and not bliss. (Witherington, Jesus the Sage: The Pilgrimage of Wisdom, 69)Wesley J. Fuerst (1930-2007) depicts:
Sheol was conceived in ancient Israel as a dark and dismal place inhabited by the dead ‘souls’ of men, in a manner very similar to other ancient ideas about the abode of the dead. In Sheol existence was quiet and separated from God and from human activity or memory (‘Will thy wonders be known in the dark, thy victories in the land of oblivion?’, Psalm 88:12). No life was imagined for Sheol, and as the place where all the dead go it certainly provided no means for Koheleth and his contemporaries of solving the issues of death, mystery, and unfairness through reliance upon some grand recompense at the end of time. In the religion of the Old Testament, Sheol signified neither a last judgement, nor heaven or hell; it was not a place where people either suffered for wrong-doing or were rewarded for good...All of this was of course taken for granted by Koheleth. (Fuerst, The Books of Ruth, Esther, Ecclesiastes, The Song of Songs, Lamentations: The Five Scrolls (Cambridge Bible Commentary), 141-42)Despite its colorless existence, residing in Sheol does not reflect poorly on its residents; in context it represents a universal destiny.
Robert Davidson (1927-2012) identifies:
Sheol...is not hell in the sense of a place to which some people go—the wicked—to be punished. Sheol means for everyone the end of all that makes life meaningful and joyful. It was widely believed that in Sheol no contact with God was possible. The author of the Book of Ecclesiasticus gives voice to a view which we find elsewhere in the Old Testament: “Who in the netherworld can glorify the Most High?...No more can the dead give praise than those who have never lived: they glorify God who are alive and well.” (Ecclesiasticus 17:17-28; cf. Isaiah 38:18-19). (Davidson, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon (Daily Study Bible), 63)Philip Graham Ryken (b. 1966) recognizes:
The word “Sheol” is not a synonym for Hell but simply refers to the place of the dead, whether good or evil. Martin Luther [1483-1546] said it well: Sheol is “the hidden resting-place...outside of the present life, where the soul departs to its place.” (Ryken, Ecclesiastes: Why Everything Matters (Preaching the Word), 219)Ecclesiastes 9:10 marks the book’s sole reference to Sheol. James L. Crenshaw (b. 1934) portrays:
Qohelet depicts Sheol as lacking any promising feature, whether achievement, mental calculation, knowledge, or wisdom [Ecclesiastes 9:10]. The participle hōlēk underlines the fact that human beings are already going that direction. The personal pronoun ’attāh (you) personalizes the point. Qohelet saw no basis for optimism about the next life, either in Hebraic expression, the resurrection of the body, or in its Greek expression, the immortality of the soul. For Qohelet, Sheol was a place of nonbeing. (Crenshaw, Ecclesiastes: A Commentary (Old Testament Library), 163)In Ecclesiastes, the modern expression “you can’t take it with you” would refer to more than material possessions. Jennifer L. Koosed (b. 1971) depicts:
There is no living on (French: sur-vivre, “over-living”), either in the sense of survival, or resurrection. There is only, minimally, Sheol (Ecclesiastes 9:10), a shadowy underworld or place of shades, where all go together...Death, then, for Qohelet, entails these two themes: (1) the extinguishing of memory and (2) the leveling of differences. (Koosed, (Per)mutations of Qohelet: Reading the Body in the Book, 90)There is one facet especially conspicuous by its absence in Sheol (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Jerry E. Shepherd (b. 1953) notices:
It is significant that among the four things he lists in Ecclesiastes 9:10 as missing from the place to which all are going, he saves “wisdom” for last. All along he has been on a quest, by his wisdom, to find wisdom (Ecclesiastes 7:23). But in the end, no one is wise. He has declared that “wisdom preserves the life of its possessor” (Ecclesiastes 7:12). But now, in this sad verse, we find out that, at most, all it really ever does is delay the inevitable. (Tremper Longman III [b. 1952] and David E. Garland [b. 1947], Proverbs ~ Isaiah (Expositor’s Bible Commentary), 337-38)Wesley J. Fuerst (1930-2007) imagines:
As an old wise man, he found most distasteful about the notion of going to Sheol, the fact that there would be no chance in that place for wisdom, knowledge, reflection or action [Ecclesiastes 9:10]. His life’s work as a wise man would be ended, and he could look forward to being still, and perhaps bored. (Fuerst, The Books of Ruth, Esther, Ecclesiastes, The Song of Songs, Lamentations: The Five Scrolls (Cambridge Bible Commentary), 142)Many have deduced that Koheleth rejects the concept of an afterlife entirely (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Wayne H. Peterson (1927-2003) supposes:
The reference to Sheol in Ecclesiastes 9:10 shows that Koholeth had no understanding of a future life in God’s presence, such as is taught in a few places in the Old Testament (Psalm 49:15, 73:23-25; Daniel 12:2-3) and throughout the New Testament (I Thessalonians 4:13-18). In common with the majority of the people in his time he still thought of life after death as a peaceful but pleasureless existence in the underworld. Because this earthly life alone offered the possibility of pleasure, he taught the duty of full enjoyment of these pleasures while life on earth lasted. (Peterson, Proverbs - Isaiah (Broadman Bible Commentary), 123)Tremper Longman III (b. 1952) examines:
The second half of this verse [Ecclesiastes 9:10] is one of the clearest indications that Qohelet had absolutely no concept of life after death. Those who wish to argue otherwise are reduced to special pleading of the most obvious kind, like Ernst Henstenberg [1802-1869], who remarks, “there are forms of knowledge and work which belong only to the present life, and he who does not employ them has buried his talent in the earth, and thus committed a heavy, sin,— a sin, the consequences of which will stretch into eternity.” John 9:4 is not parallel here because the night referred to there is not death in general but Christ’s death, and the work is specifically his redemptive work...The list of things absent after death, actions, thought, knowledge, and wisdom, suggest both physical and mental processes coming to a complete end. For Qohelet death is the absolute end. We thus see that “under the sun” entails the entirety of human possibility; it is no wonder that ultimate meaning alluded him. (Longman, The Book of Ecclesiastes (New International Commentary on the Old Testament), 231)Robert Alter (b. 1935) considers:
It is possible that Qohelet’s uncompromising insistence on death as a realm of utter extinction is a polemic response to the new doctrine of an afterlife that was beginning to emerge toward the end of the biblical period. (Alter, The Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes: A Translation with Commentary, 378-79)At the very least, Ecclesiastes 9:10 provides hope that, even without the enticement of the afterlife, hard work is worth the effort.
Such a thought...seems to contravene traditional religious views. Kohelet does not even speak of immortality through children, as the reader would have expected in the context of the Bible. Hence, the Targum understands the verse to refer to the righteous who achieve their good works before they die so that they may receive their reward for them after death. Rashi [1040-1105], taking cheshbon as “accounting,” tells the reader that the righteous need not be concerned about “accounting” in the world-to-come, but the wicked should be very concerned about it. (Kravitz and Olitzky, Mishlei: A Modern Commentary on Proverbs, 95)Some have attempted to defend the possibility of an afterlife in Ecclesiastes. Daniel J. Treier (b. 1972) argues:
The statements about Sheol need not preclude some kind of afterlife, given potential hints elsewhere in the book. In this passage, though, the Sage gives full voice to his tragic side; most Old Testament references to Sheol concern those under divine judgment, whereas this makes it the destiny of everyone (Craig G. Bartholomew [b. 1961] 2009:305). The Sage’s statements portray the apparent certainties from our current, empirical perspective; this verse does not weigh in on other possibilities. Similarities are frequently noted between Ecclesiastes and the Gilgamesh Epic yet, although these words sound alike, the epic’s advice could amount to little more than “let us eat and drink, / for tomorrow we die” (I Corinthians 15:32)—according to which eating and drinking becomes everything, blown out of proportion. However, just because the Sage does not say everything in every verse, we should not assume that pagan, hedonistic resignation captures his perspective. Ecclesiastes commends these pleasures in moderation that reflects the influence of divine judgment, even without clearly foreseeing the ultimate basis on which that judgment makes sense. Since the Sage can reach such a nuanced perspective on human joys without revelation about resurrection in Christ, Ecclesiastes can help to engage pluralistic civil arenas. Some teaching on cardinal virtues and capital vices commends itself with the book’s logic regarding how to handle human limitations and earthly fragility under God. Still, in the end this message drives us toward humility and the necessity of theological virtue. (Treier, Proverbs & Ecclesiastes (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible), 209)J. Vernon McGee (1904-1988) justifies:
It is certainly true that the body in the grave can no longer hold a hammer in its hand. The brain is no longer able to study or perform any mental chores. Solomon is speaking only of the body. “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might [Ecclesiastes 9:10].” He is talking about the hand, not the soul. It is the hand that will be put into the grave. If you are a child of God, you will go into the presence of the Lord. If you are not a child of God, you will go to the place of the dead until you are raised to be judged at the Great White Throne [Revelation 20:11-15]. This life does not end it all. This book does not teach soul sleep. (McGee, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon (Thru the Bible), 70)Philip Graham Ryken (b. 1966) clarifies:
When the Preacher says that there is no work or wisdom there [Ecclesiastes 9:10], he may sound as if he denies the afterlife. But the Preacher is not trying to answer our questions about what does or does not happen to us after we die; to answer those questions we need to turn to other places in Scripture. He simply is saying that we are all going to die and that when we do, it will be the end of our work on earth, the end of everything we know about what is happening in the world, and the end of all our earthly pleasures. (Ryken, Ecclesiastes: Why Everything Matters (Preaching the Word), 219-20)It is worth noting that an afterlife is a feature of some Old Testament texts. Iain Provan (b. 1957) surveys:
The one “place” to which all the living go to is Sheol, the world of the dead (e.g., Job 30:23, “the place appointed for all the living”)...The Old Testament often speaks of death as if it were a final ending of human existence—a place of separation from God (e.g., Psalm 6:5, 88:10-12) that the righteous as well as the wicked will experience as darkness and chaos, and from which even they will not return (e.g., Job 10:20-22). Other texts, however, tells us that the wicked depart to Sheol (e.g. Psalm 9:17, 31:17), implying that the fate of righteous is ultimately (if not immediately) different—a point explicit in Psalm 49:13-15, where the righteous are ransomed from Sheol’s power (cf. also Psalm 16:10-11). Proverbs 15:24 tells us that “the path of life leads upward for the wise to keep him from going down to the grave [Sheol]” (cf. Proverbs 12:28, 14:32); Psalm 139:7-12 claims that God is not, after all, absent from Sheol, but present with the worshiper even in the midst of the darkness; and Job 14:13 pictures Sheol as a place in which God might hide Job until his wrath has passed, the passage envisioning a later time when God will remember him and the dead will be roused out of their sleep (Job 14:12, 14-17; cf. the famous Job 19:25-26). In passages like Isaiah 26:19 and Daniel 12:2-3, moreover, there are clear references to resurrection from the dead. (Provan, Ecclesiastes/Song of Songs (NIV Application Commentary), 93)In Ecclesiastes, Sheol represents death, the great equalizer (Ecclesiastes 9:10). In this sense, “the grave” is an appropriate translation (KJV, NJV, NLT).
Robert Davidson (1927-2012) traces:
Death...has been hovering in the wings and sometimes stepping forward to occupy centre stage ever since Ecclesiastes 2:14. Death is no respecter of persons, Koheleth reminds us. We may not like it, we may even try to avoid thinking about it. It is what he calls “an evil” (Ecclesiastes 9:3), but it comes to good folk and to bad folk alike; to those who are punctilious in their religious observances and to those who are not; to those who go to church and to those who never darken the door of a church. We will go down to “the dead”; we have all been issued a one way ticket to Sheol (Ecclesiastes 9:10). (Davidson, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon (Daily Study Bible), 62-63)The shadow of death looms large and an awareness of death colors one’s perception of life. Daniel J. Treier (b. 1972) reveals:
Ecclesiastes 9:10 forbids reading Ecclesiastes 9:1 deterministically or fatalistically: freedom entails taking advantage of opportunities. Memento mori (“remember your death”) anticipates what it means to remember your Creator; we are all headed to Sheol, the realm of the dead, far too soon from our current perspective. So carpe diem: we ought to seize the day, working and thinking and knowing while we can. Gregory the Great [540-604]’s comment is apposite: “So death itself will be defeated when it comes, if we always fear it before it comes.” (Treier, Proverbs & Ecclesiastes (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible), 208-09)The reality of death’s inevitability is often resisted. Chris Morrant and Joyce Catlett (b. 1932) analyze:
Summing up individual and societal defenses against the terror of death, Ernest Becker [1924-1974] (1973/1997) wrote: “Everything that man does in his symbolic world is an attempt to deny and overcome his grotesque fate. He literally drives himself into a blind obliviousness with social games, psychological tricks, personal preoccupations so far removed from the reality of his situation that they are forms of madness—agreed madness, shared madness, disguised and dignified madness, but madness all the same. (p. 27)”...As Robert W. Firestone [b. 1930] (1994) points out death is not a choice, it comes for us all. What counts is how we live and fight our resistance to the good life. He encourages us to “make each day count” as in the book of Ecclesiastes, which says, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest” (Ecclesiastes 9:10 KJV). (Adrian Tomer [b. 1944], Grafton T. Eliason [b. 1967] and Paul T.P. Wong [b. 1937], “Separation Theory and Voice Therapy: Philosophical Underpinnings and Applications to Death Anxiety Across the Life Span”, Existential and Spiritual Issues in Death Attitudes, 367)The realization of death need not be depressing. Edward M. Curtis (b. 1940) acknowledges:
Qoheleth’s observations could lead one to resignation and despair, but he urges his readers to greater diligence, because he sees a basis for confidence and hope in fearing God and trusting in his providence. This does not guarantee a life that is materially prosperous and trouble free, but it does enable people to face an unknown future confidently, because they know God’s purposes cannot be thwarted by the enigmatic experiences that are part of life. (Curtis, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs (Teach the Text Commentary Series), 86)Andy Sochor (b. 1980) encourages:
Reminding us that our lives are temporary should not be dispiriting to us, causing us to abandon our labors in life because there is no lasting benefit from them. Rather we are to work hard and take advantage of the time we have now. After we reach Sheol (the grave), there will be no more work, preparations, or learning to do. We will be judged based upon what we do after this life. Therefore, we must do the best we can now to accomplish those things we ought to be doing. (Sochor, Vanity of Vanities: Notes on Ecclesiastes, 75)Frank Johnson (b. 1943) supports:
Sheol’s rewards are even less attractive than life among the living. Qoheleth resolutely believes that persons can find life enjoyable, even with limited knowledge, with no retribution and with a common fate. (Johnson, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon (Cokesbury Basic Bible Commentary), 121)We must do what we can when we can. Time is a factor when “you only got a hundred years to live”. Roland C. Ehlke (b. 1944) remarks:
Death is certain. Life is short. Once you’ve gone, you’ll never return to live on this earth. Why, then, waste time fretting over things you can’t control? ‘Enjoy life,’ urges the Teacher. You can enjoy life without abandoning yourself to sin and madness [Ecclesiastes 9:7-10]. (Ehlke, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (People’s Bible Commentary), 96)Martin Sicker (b. 1931) implores:
Time is man’s most valuable possession and should not be wasted; it is a non-recoverable asset. Therefore, whatever one is able to do to extract the most rational enjoyment from life should be done expeditiously and with appropriate determination and fervor. Put another way, Koheleth may be understood as urging that one not mortgage the present for an uncertain future aside from the certainty of the grave. (Sicker, Kohelet: The Reflections of a Judean Prince: A New Translation and Commentary, 125)Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. (b. 1933) agrees:
The time to labor for God is while we are still on this side of the grave, for when death comes, the day of opportunity will have passed. The phrasing of Ecclesiastes 9:10 is reminiscent of Colossians 3:23: “Whatever your task, do it heartily, as unto the Lord and not to men.” Men must not opt out of total, earnest, and dedicated involvement in the privilege of work. They may think that the presence of evil and their impending death are massive obstacles to believing that God has a good plan for all fo life, and therefore they may refuse to do anything pending further disclosures on the subject. But such inactivity is wrong. Counsels the teacher, “Get involved and work vigorously” to the glory of God while you still have life in your bones. (Kaiser, Ecclesiastes: Total Life (Everyman’s Bible Commentary), 101)David Balsley (b. 1946) strengthens:
Because life is fleeting (as Solomon has just observed in Ecclesiastes 9:9), we seldom have enough time to do all the things we think we would like to do...Anything we are going to get done during the brief lifetime we spend on this earth will have to be done now or the opportunity will soon be gone. So Solomon calls his readers to diligence - to do with all our might whatever it is we decide to do with the short span of time we call our lifetime. Life will soon be over, and the chance to do what we wanted to do will be gone. (Balsley, The Puzzled Preacher: A Pastoral Exposition of Ecclesiastes, 238)Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) belabors:
Let us not wait for large opportunities, or for a different kind of work, but do just the things we “find to do” day by day. We have no other time in which to live. The past is gone; the future has not arrived; we never shall have any time but the present. Then do not wait until your experience has ripened into maturity before you attempt to serve God. Endeavor now to bring forth fruit. Serve God now, but be careful as to the way in which you perform what you find to do, “do it with your might [Ecclesiastes 9:10].” Do it promptly; do not fritter away your life in thinking of what you intend to do tomorrow as if that could recompense for the idleness of today. No man ever served God by doing things tomorrow. (Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, 331)L.D. Johnson (1916-1981) charges:
Ecclesiastes 9:10 is the ultimate statement of “seize the day.” Don’t be halfhearted about the task at hand. Wherever you are, be all there. Give it your best shot, no matter whether the assignment seems challenging or not. Why? Because that is the only “shot” you have at life—the one at hand. (Johnson, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon (Layman’s Bible Book Commentary), 120)We should use our time, perhaps the scarcest of human resources, wisely as lost time is never found. Since death marks the end of an era, Koheleth reminds his readers to act now as life is a limited time offer. There is no time like the present! Strike while the iron is hot! So do something. Now.
How does the inevitability of death affect your life? What meaning does death bring to life? What is on your bucket list? Should our actions be taken with a sense of urgency? What should you be doing now?
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” - Theodore R. Roosevelt (1858-1919)