This book features a pretty glum outlook, almost dystopian in nature, from a man that once had it all, lost it all, and found himself wishing it all never was.
Most of you reading this haven’t been there. But here’s a former king warning you to be careful before it all happens. You don’t have to be extremely wealthy to have a poor motivation for life. In fact, your motivation is exactly where it starts.
Solomon makes a lot of comparisons between what’s good and bad, from where he is and where he once stood as king. I decided to break it down. Enjoy.
It’s better to be…
Comforted than powerful/oppressive (v. 1)
While a position of authority might seem attractive, there are few people left to lean upon. There’s only so much room at the top of a mountain. An example: who really wants to be the President? I don’t know how/why they do it.
Dead (or to not exist!) than to live (v. 2-3)
Solomon is not suggesting God is in error for allowing people to live — he is likely drawing from his personal experiences with suffering — but rather acknowledging the vanity of life that so many people are drawn to, only to come away empty-handed.
Living a quiet existence over vigorous toil (v. 4-6)
I don’t think Solomon is favoring employment in the service sector over blue collar work, but he is certainly pointing out that relentless striving for wealth only results in pain. If you’re working OT just to get more stuff doing a job you resent, check your motives.
Surrounded by companions in poverty than be in solitude in riches (v. 8)
Similar to the first point, this declaration has more to do with wealth than position. When you don’t have need for anything (material), it seems harder to find a friend when other types of needs arise that can’t be solved with money.
Poor in youth than wealthy in age (v. 13-16)
I’m still pretty young, and I’m still relatively poor — I cannot possibly relate to this right now. But Solomon, now aging, is writing from the perspective of over his shoulder. He had it all while he was on the throne. Read up. And he’s saying he had it better before.
We chase and dream and hope and strive. American culture promotes this from the day we begin to walk — and I would say, for the most part, that’s great. But what is your motive? Has the utopian state manifested in your mind become your new God?