Obey the king’s command, I say, because you took an oath before God. (8:2, niv)
Americans tend to say, “If only I were free, I would really enjoy life.” For many that means freedom from responsibilities and others’ demands upon me, freedom to do my own thing, freedom even from keeping promises I once made that now impede my ability to do what I want. But this kind of freedom, says the Teacher, is the opposite of what we should want.
Meaning and purpose in life begin with obedience to God. We should listen to God (5:1-2), standing quietly in awe of him (5:7). This is the heart of living meaningfully. And the heartbeat of such a life is making solemn promises to God; not empty vows but thoughtful ones. Keeping such promises is the key to a purposeful life. Those who don’t keep promises are doomed to a life without substance, direction, or meaning.
True freedom is doing what God and rightful authority require (8:2). We don’t have the power to handle absolute freedom. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring (8:7). We are helpless to control our own destiny, especially our death (8:8). Only God can do this, and so our best hope is to place our trust in him and live according to his commands.
God, I want to place myself under your authority, responding to your promises with my own. Amen.