Solomon uses the phrase "under the sun" twenty-nine times in Ecclesiastes to describe life "down under" -- life here on earth. Everywhere he looks "under the sun" he sees something meaningless. He who has it all (wealth, wisdom, women, position) possessed nothing of permanence. Solomon is a testimony of Jesus' statement, "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will man give in exchange for his soul" (Matthew 16:24-26).
If your only view is "under the sun" then certainly you will have as gloomy of an outlook as did Solomon at the end of his life. The result of Solomon's perspective reminds me of how I feel after watching the evening news a couple of days in a row. Imagine living on a constant diet of the negative, fear-driven news 24/7 for weeks on end--that's life "under the sun". Very little good news to be heard in the midst of depressing facts and stories. That's what reading Ecclesiastes reminds me of. Not exactly something you want to read when you're already feeling depressed.
So, what do you do to avoid living depressed and cynical in a world full of "vanity"? You simply have to be reminded that "God is in heaven and you are on earth" (5:2b). There's another side to the story and only God has those details. Though my perspective is limited His perspective is really all that matters. I have two choices: I can live "under the sun" and at the end of my life have been a poor steward of my life or I can invest upward by seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).
I don't know about you, but looking around depresses me. I'm looking up!
Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading: Ecclesiastes 3:1-6:12
- Why, in spite of having it all, does Solomon despair? What is it about his makeup that keeps him from living happily "under the sun"? (3:11)
- What does Solomon understand about man's work? God?
- According to Solomon what is a person's main motivation in labor/success?
- According to 4:9-12 what is the one thing Solomon finds to enable man to live more happily?
- Why does Solomon pity the king who grows old?
- Why does Solomon warn people to be wise and limited in their use of words?
- What two things characterize those who love money?
- How should the wealthy view their wealth?
Ask the Lord to show you from which perspective you live most of your life: from "under the sun" or from above. Ask Him to help you appropriate the truths found in Colossians 3:1-3.