Believe it or not, the kindest thing I can say to you is that you will die!
Life is like a game of monopoly. Playing monopoly, we collect our £200 as we pass go; we accumulate money which ends up being spent on tax, rent and getting out of jail; every now and again we land on a chance square which brings us joy or misery. And perhaps, if ‘life’ treats us well we might end up with a property on Mayfair; on the other hand, maybe we get stuck on the Old Kent Road. Whatever happens in monopoly we spend hours trading, rolling dice, collecting money and spending money – but eventually someone wins and guess what…it all goes back in the box.
Life is the same we spend years gathering money, spending money, landing on ‘chance’ squares and then one day we will die and it is all put back into the box so to speak. This is the reality – there is no distinction, all die. Life just cannot be kept.
The book of Ecclesiastes is a book all about gaining wisdom, and in that wisdom making the most of life under sun. In fact, the author’s purpose in writing this book is to show the emptiness of life, so that his audience would realise their need for the creator God to be involved in their lives. For it is only with the involvement of God that we will be able to make the most of life under the sun.
One of the ways in which we can gain wisdom, argues the author of Ecclesiastes is by learning that death comes to all. Life cannot be kept is the stark message at the beginning of Ecclesiastes 9:
It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner, and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. (vv. 2-3)
Everyone, absolutely everyone, dies. There is no escape from it – whether we are good or bad, righteous or wicked, religious or irreligious – there is no distinction all die. There is no joy in this proclamation. The author makes clear that this is an evil which takes place under the sun (v. 3). The fact that all die is indeed a great evil.
This is not the first time that death has had a prominent role in the argument of Ecclesiastes (2:14). In fact, in chapter three the author doesn’t even make a distinction between humans and animals because the same fate overtakes them both, death. He writes, “For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other” (3:19).
Death is such an evil that in verse 4 the author offers a proverb to reinforce the fact. A living dog is better than a dead lion. In ancient Israel dogs were the equivalent of rats, while lions were held in high regard, as regal even. It is better to be a living rat than a regal but dead lion! The reason is that once you’re dead you are dead – that’s it, no second chance:
For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and for ever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun. (vv. 5-6)
How is any of this kind?
The reason that everyone dies is spelt out by Paul in the book of Romans. Sin entered the world through one man, Adam, and through sin death came into the world. This death has spread to all men, because all men sin (Rom. 5:12). Therefore, there is no escaping death, it is coming and having this perspective is of benefit for us. To know, be aware and appreciate that death is coming is beneficial – it is certainly better than being ignorant of it.
This is why the kindest thing I can say to you is that you will die. However, it is not simply that you will die, but that this death can lead to eternal life.
Paul continues in Romans to explain that there is eternal life available through Jesus Christ out Lord (5:19-21). Death does not have to be something that is paralysing, rather it can be something which spurs us into life now by driving us to Jesus.
As Christians Jesus dwells in us, if we love his Word and love his people. If Jesus has changed our life, then there is hope. There is a future. There is eternal life which is given through Jesus and his righteousness. This truth should give us great hope and encouragement as we face the certainty of death. Life cannot be kept and it will leave us – eternal life, on the other hand, can be kept and it can be kept only through Jesus Christ. But none of this has any meaning if we are ignoring the reality that death is coming.
So, believe it or not the kindest thing I can say to you is that you will die…so make sure death is not the end.