A life with God and a life without God
Eccl 6:3b-6. “The MSG paraphrase, “I’d say that a stillborn baby gets the better deal. It gets its start in a mist and ends up in the dark—unnamed. It sees nothing and knows nothing, but is better off by far than anyone living.6 Even if someone lived a thousand years—make it two thousand!—but didn’t enjoy anything, what’s the point? Doesn’t everyone end up in the same place?
Solomon uses two illustrations, though exaggerated, but he wants to bring a point to us: First, illustration is about a man who was 2,000 years old and who fathered hundreds of children, and the other illustration is a stillborn child.
The average life span of a person is 70. According to Psalm 90:10, 12 says,
v.10 The days of our lives are seventy years;
And if by reason of strength they are eighty years,
Yet their boast is only labour and sorrow;
For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
V. 12 So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom.
The Bible records the longest life span which was 969 years, his name was Methuselah Gen. 5:27). Now just imagine you see a man 2000 years old walking in the shopping mall and has hundreds of children, grandchildren and great, great, great grandchildren. It is chaotic, to think! Just even 100 children, I could hardly imagine. Family planting, not planning.
In Jewish customs, a big family was an indication that you are blessed by God, if the Patriarch lived long and had many children (Psalm 92:14; 127: 3-5) Solomon’s point is this: You can live a very long life and have more children than anyone else, but if God is not involved, it is all worth nothing.
In Jewish customs, to have no proper funeral service and burial is a sign of dishonour and disrespect to that person and family. A proper burial was important. The lack of a proper burial was considered a curse which contained three elements:
a) the body will be left unburied.
b) the body shall be served as food for the birds
c) the body is considered as rubbish, a refuse and just to be thrown in the rubbish dump.
Then we have the second illustration of a ‘still born child. Unnamed.
What do we see here? This is what we call today the “untimely birth” of a child that is carried from the womb to the tomb, from untimely birth to the grave.
This child never sees the light of day, has never experienced frustrations, disappointment, the rich man had experienced. The still born child knows only the bright shadow of time, while the other man experienced 2,000 years of living without God. (Only a fictional character, to bring a point)
Well, a normal person whether a Christian or not loves to have a long life. Just imagine, if you live one hundred years, the Philippines government gives you P100, 000. Sometimes children are already quarrelling who will get the money and how it will be spent. And the poor 100 year old woman or man has no idea what is happening. In Australia you receive a letter from the Queen.
But if you see, in Solomon’s fictional character, just imagine 20 centuries of loneliness, 20 centuries of searching, trying to find the meaning of life, trying to find paradise upon this earth, but at the end of the road-you are bound for hell.
The crucial question is: apart from God, what benefit would a life of a thousand years or more bring?
We often sing, “Amazing Grace how Sweet the Sound” and I’m not sure if you notice the last verse which says, “When we’ve been there 10, 000 years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise, than when we first begun.” It does not mean we are there for only 10,000 years in heaven. It means forever more. 10,000 years is just the beginning.
The point of the two illustrations mentioned is this: Life without God, and without meaning is worse than never having been born at all. In contrast, having eternal life now with God is deeply satisfying, whether you have little or much, or you have a shorter or longer life.
As someone has said “it is not the years in life, but the life in the years that counts.” I pray that God would always give us the wisdom to know what to do with what He has given us.
Psalm 90:12 tells us:
So teach us to number our days,