Ecclesiastes 11 & 12. Act

In the face of uncertainty we are to act. But how? By managing risk, by seeking joy, by living with reverence. [Audio | Notes]

Michael Flynn


Ecclesiastes 11 & 12

For further thought

Be bold (11:1-7)

Ecclessiastes teaches that he context of enterprise is caution (chapter 10) because the world is an uncertain place and God has deliberately made it so (11.5). Therefore, don’t be irresponsible. Time and chance can overturn plans but Ecclesiastes advises that shouldn’t paralyse us but actually motivate us into wise action that spreads risks.

Q: What type of risks hold you back in decision making?

Ecclesiastes is saying what Robin Williams said to the young men in dead poet’s society: “Seize the day” while it is still day, while you are still young. Don’t expect to find the perfect business opportunity, the perfect course, the perfect spouse, the perfect church. Simply they do not exist – they never have, because that is how God keeps us humble before him.

Few successful enterprises have waited for ideal conditions and neither can we.

Be joyful (11:7-10)

Take hold of the blessing of being young and alive. Take life and live it. Don’t be so stingy with your money that you don’t make time to enjoy the fruit of your work. Don’t be such a workaholic that you miss the simple pleasures of spending time with your family, with your friends or partner. Have a hobby, run jump, laugh, sing, do stupid and daring things but remember that if you let trivia or sin overtake your joy it will destroy your joy. 

If your joy turns into vice, your energy into lust, your wit into cynicism, your looks into vanity: God will judge you.

Joy was created to dance with goodness, not to dance alone or to dance with evil.

Q: Our culture says to enjoy life is to act badly. How can we encourage each other to live in godly and joyful ways?

Be godly (12:1-14)

The teacher’s advice to young adults concludes with the charge to remember their creator because everyone will die. 

The wise youth lives boldly, joyfully, mindful of God and of his/her own mortality.

Verses 2-7 give us a picture of a broken household slowing in old age until it grinds quietly to a halt.

If we live long enough we will arrive at a point where the life we made for ourselves has been and that is that.

Australians are habitually terrified of death but Ecclesiastes is saying; young man, young woman if you want to live wisely, if you want a life filled with meaning and purpose then remember you will die. That is why God must be the answer to the question of how you live during your life because in the end you must answer to God.

God is the answer. – Yay! But the work of Ecclesiastes is to make young men and women understand the question. When Ecclesiastes says ‘God is the answer’ after a lifetime of questions and a wealth of experience he means there is ultimately no other hope, there is ultimately no other centre to our existence, in the face of all the facts of life there is ultimately no other pleasure, significance or meaning outside of humble submission to God.

Ecclesiastes has taken the forest that is our life and burnt it down to the ground. He then cleared away the stumps, the top soil, the clay until he has exposed the bed rock and he has said: “there! that rock is God, there is where you young man, there is where you young woman can lay the foundation upon which to rebuild your life. In all the risks, achievements, crises, pleasures and ambiguities you will face in life remember there is your significance, there is your meaning, there is your satisfaction in seeking first to satisfy him.”

Q: How does it help us to live knowing we will die?

Q: The final words of this book include the line: ‘Fear God and keep his commandments for this is the whole of humanity.’ What does he mean?