Take Pleasure

Jeff Munroe

Read: Ecclesiastes 3:1-15

Everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. (v. 13)

These well-known verses are the flip-side of Ecclesiastes 2:1-11. Qoheleth switches from prose to poetry, and also steps away from taking the role of Solomon, to show that God, not us, is in charge and orders the timing of events. We aren’t in control of our births or deaths, the seasons, the weather, or a host of other things we worry over and delude ourselves into thinking we control. This isn’t bad news; it is good news. God has ordained and ordered life. Therefore, Qoheleth says, the thing for us to do is enjoy it.

Didn’t Qoheleth just say that pleasure is a vanity? The point he was making there is that the pursuit of pleasure is vanity. The point he is making here is that since God, not us, is in control, we can relax and enjoy life. The two sentiments are not in conflict.

The poet, novelist, and essayist Brian Doyle died last year, six months after being diagnosed with brain cancer. He was that rare writer who was happy (instead of tortured)—he loved his family, his childhood, his career—and most of all he loved the gift of life. Shortly before he died he posted a final prayer online, thanking God for his “slather of gifts” and noting how he “gaped more in astonishment at the wealth of miracles everywhere every moment.” Qoheleth can’t quite get that excited, but he would agree. —Jeff Munroe

Prayer: Thanks for your slather of gifts, Lord, and help us embrace them with joy.