Finding Enjoyment in God’s Gifts
“I perceived that there is nothing better for [men] than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man…Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.” (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13; 5:18-20)
When I think about the things that bring give me pleasure and enjoyment, I think first of people I like to spend time with and the things we do together. I also think of a leisurely walk on a mild, Fall day—blue sky, a temperature in the 70s, with a gentle breeze blowing. I think of work that I love to do, babies, flowers, good food, puppies, beautiful music, and excellent movies. It’s a relief for me, and possibly for you, to know that Solomon wasn’t all doom and gloom in his book of wisdom. We’re safe with our interpretation of this theme in Ecclesiastes as long as we remember that it is directly linked to life “under the sun,” that is, on earth. Food, drink, work, and all the other innocent pleasures of this world are to be enjoyed in moderation, but not expected to satisfy our soul’s longing for fellowship with God with its deep, fulfilling, eternal contentment. In verse 12 above, Solomon states that being joyful is the best thing in this world, linked to doing good. Joy and good works (only possible as the fruit of God’s grace) are to last our entire lives—we don’t retire from these principles. Of course, gladness and our best work are that which is a result of the Holy Spirit’s work in us after regeneration. King Solomon encourages us to enjoy God’s gifts of work, food, and drink—the most basic blessings of this life.
But that which is right in moderation can become our snare in excess. “Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth…which include…all his goods and possessions, movable and immovable, as gold, silver, cattle, fields, and farms; which are all the gift of God…[but] not be a slave to them, as many are: but to have so much command of them and of himself…this is the gift of God; to have such power over his substance, and not be a slave to it, and to enjoy the fruits of his labor, in a cheerful and comfortable manner; this is as much the gift of God as riches themselves.” * (1) When I was a teenager I remember deciding that I was going to enjoy my work when I grew up, because my father never enjoyed his, and my mother was also pretty miserable. So I always found work to do that was pleasant. However, there were times when I worked too much and became a slave to my work, as we sometimes do with food, drink, materialism, and so many other “good” things of this world. Allowing ourselves to become enslaved by gluttony or greed is directly opposed to enjoying God’s gifts as a means of blessing and contentment. “The manner in which Solomon refers to God as the Giver, both of life and its enjoyments, shows they ought to be received and to be used, consistently with his will, and to his glory.” (2)
Is there something that is enslaving you, something God means for good, but preventing you from having joy? How will moderation help you to find pleasure in God’s gifts? Will you receive his presents with modesty, humility, and temperance, knowing that your soul’s contentment lies not in the gifts, but in the Giver?
(1) John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/ecclesiastes-5.html
(2) Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible, Ecclesiastes 5, https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-concise/