Scripture Reflections @ CEC by Cindy Graff (7/6/20)
“So anyone who thinks that he has understood the divine scriptures or any part of them, but cannot by his understanding build up this double love of God and neighbor, has not yet succeeded in understanding them.”
―Augustine of Hippo, On Christian Doctrine
Scripture & Devotion: Scriptural focus: Ecclesiastes 11:7-10
Light is sweet, and it pleases the eye to see the sun.
However many years a man may live, let him enjoy them all,
but let him remember the days of darkness, for they will be many.
Everything to come is meaningless.
Be happy, young man, while you are young,
and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.
Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see,
but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment.
So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body,
for youth and vigor are meaningless.
Light and shadow, youth and age
“Light is sweet, and it pleases the eye to see the sun.” When the sun is shining, it just seems easier to get out of bed in the morning. The air seems fresher, our neighbors seem in better spirits. We here in Oregon can truly appreciate this verse because we spend so much of the year under a gray and rainy sky. For us, summer’s brevity makes it all the sweeter.
In this passage, Solomon compares sunny days to the period of a person’s youth, when the world seems bright with possibility and there are many paths that beckon. The wise man encourages the youth to be happy. “Let your heart give you joy,” he advises. But the wise man knows that hiding in the background is the shadow of age with its potential share of regrets, unrealized dreams, and ill health. While there is nothing inherently wrong in enjoying life and its temporal blessings, ultimately, it is prudent to keep in mind that youth, like a summer day, will not last forever, and that sooner or later, human beings will be called to account for their attitudes and actions.
While this may seem at first a pessimistic view of life, actually, the opposite is true. Who wants to spend their old age regretting a misspent youth? God loves us and wants to protect us from behaviors that will hurt us in the long run. Psalm 90:12 says “Teach us to number our days aright, so that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Some of the choices we make along the way at any age can stay with us throughout the rest of our lives; therefore, it is important to act wisely at so that we do not end up doing something that will prevent us from enjoying life in the future. Everyone knows that indulging in risky or addictive behaviors such as smoking, drinking to excess, etc. when we are young has the potential to affect us negatively for a lifetime. The wise person at any stage of life adopts a long-range view and is mindful of the possible consequences of his/her behavior.
I must confess that I have a little trouble with the last part of this passage, the part that says “banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body.” Anxiety is something I do very well, the result of having had years of practice. I am now at a stage in life where “the troubles of the body” seem to present themselves unexpectedly and with alarming regularity. Add to this the current crises facing our country and the world, and it is easy to get caught up in worry. Youth may be past, but we human beings at any age still experience the same desires to “follow the ways of their heart and whatever their eyes see.” Having lived many years is no guarantee of having attained wisdom. We must continue to seek it, strive to cultivate it, actively pursue it. The best way I know how to do this is by staying grounded in scripture. To put it simply, God is the wisest “person” I know. Listening to his advice is a good idea, whatever our age or stage of life, whether in sunshine or in shadow.
We admit freely that is hard to banish anxiety from our heart, and our joy is sometimes hard to find. Fill us with Your great peace and joy as we walk through these days.