A Study in the Word – Ecclesiastes 6:1-12


The Preacher asks disturbing questions and makes some of the most intriguing and puzzling statements in any book of the Bible. He has a way of talking about things from a disturbing side of life. In this passage He points to opportunities God gives, and observes how people do not realize what they have or how to take advantage of their God-given potential. Why are so many given so much but make so little of it?

It is distressing to see so many blessings enjoyed by so few (6:1-2).

Such opportunities lack nothing in God’s provision, but where is appreciation; where is this man’s “desires”? God may choose a “foreigner” to enjoy them, but not the person He intended for His gift. Failing to grasp opportunity with gratitude is almost a disease, a “severe affliction.”

This failure is worse than the tragedy of a life not lived at all (6:3). Children and long life were gifts of God in Hebrew thinking. Yet, valuing God’s opportunity less than God’s intention leads to discontent and a sorrowful end of life. For the Preacher, a life never lived is more worthwhile than a life wasted (6:4). Opportunity comes with purpose, but mention of the wastrel’s name only serves as a negative object lesson. To see an advantage and not appreciate it is worse than never to have lived (6:5). Opportunity gives life purpose, but since death is the great leveler of all, death is all that awaits those who never value opportunity (6:6).

Many people live hand-to-mouth lives that never satisfy the hunger of their soul (6:7). Being wise or foolish holds no advantage, for a fool can come to terms with his way of life just as a wise person can (6:8). Better to appreciate here-and-now living than what a never-satisfied soul desires, which only comes to futility (6:9). God is the sole determiner of the good life and the future (6:10). Arguing with Him about life is futile because finite man cannot deal on equal terms with an infinite God, which only increases futility (6:11). Since a human cannot know the future, he is in no position to determine independent of God what is of lasting benefit. “What then is the advantage to a man” (6:12)? God Himself is that advantage. Only God determines the meaning of life, so life with Him realizes the true meaning of life here and hereafter.

Dr. David Moore is a university online Bible and theology instructor. Email: dm5867se@outlook.com