I also said to myself, ‘As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: as one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?’
So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them?(Eccl. 3:18-22 NIV)
These verses have puzzled believers for years. On the face of it the preacher appears to be denying life after death. We need to explore.
Just like the animals, humans are mere mortals. When it comes to dying and death, we face the same end as the animals. From dust we were created and to dust we will return. The Preacher is really reasserting his major point that we ought to be cognisant of the reality that death lies ahead of each one of us. We need to remember our humble origin, like the animals we were created from the dust of the earth, and like the animals we will return to the dust of the earth. So if you have your heart and mind set on what you might achieve in the body through time then remember the common lot you have with the animals. Our dignity is not in what we make of ourselves, or in the projects we complete, or the legacy that we leave behind. From the very beginning of creation our dignity is that God breathed into us the breath of life and we became a living soul. Like no other, we were created by God in the image of God.
Yet in life we breathe as the animals breathe and in death we return to dust as the animals, we have no advantage there. Yet that is the part of our existence where we seek to make the greatest investment. Such is our commitment to this earthbound stage, the Preacher repeatedly uses shock tactics to awaken us to the reality of what God has done.
God tests us to show us how we are like the animals, but the test also examines how different we are from the animals.
Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?”(Eccl. 3:21 NIV)
Who knows? The answer is, we do of course, because:
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.(Eccl. 3:11 NIV)
Left to ourselves of course, we would never know about eternity. God has written eternity into our design, so we cannot credit our intellect with the thought of eternity. This is God’s gift.
There may be many who would wish they are entirely like the animals and when we descend to the dust that that is the end. But humanity is incurably religious. God has designed the sense of eternity into our being. We can see from life itself the compulsion to believe that there must be a day of reckoning.
Because of the certainty of life after death, how then should we live?
So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them?(Eccl. 3:22 NIV)
The preacher has shown us our similarity with the animals but this is not the whole teaching of the OT. If we are more than the animals, then why do we seek to live like them as if this life was the only thing that there is?
We should live life enjoying every moment that God has given us knowing that God will bring everything into judgement.
Lord we have lived so many days like the animal as if this is all there is. Lord help us to live enjoying our blessings and living righteously in Christ because You will call us to account. Lord whether it is sorrow or joy for us at the moment, help us to be content with the lot in life You have graciously given us because we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.