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 (Manna 28)
As We Contemplate Life
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As We Contemplate Life

Chen Heng Tao, Taichung, Taiwan (Translated from Chinese)

Life is the time that a person exists on earth, beginning with birth and ending in death. This journey varies in length from person to person; comprising sorrow and joy, tears and laughter.

This life-long journey is like a ride on the train. Whoever gets on board has to alight at some point. Some board before others but alight later; there are also those who board late and yet alight early. Regardless of the length of the journey, its duration is the length of life. Some people busy themselves once they get on the train, working hard all the way until they arrive at their destination. Some indulge in eating and drinking, ignoring the beautiful scenery outside and wasting their lives in a drunken state. Yet others sleep through their entire journey, sunk in their day­dreaming until the end...

Life manifests itself in as many patterns as there are people. Some lives are ordinary, some are wasted, some are abundant. Some people live long lives but accomplish nothing, while others, in their brief lifespan, achieve a great variety of goals, earning themselves peer approval and admiration. What is your life like? Satisfying? Or do you sigh in vain?  Here are my personal reflections on the Book of Ecclesiastes which I duly share with you for encouragement.


Solomon said, “I applied my mind to seek and to search out and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven; it is an unhappy business that God has given to the sons of men to be busy with” (Eccl 1:13). “I have seen the burden God has laid on men” (Eccl 3:10). Such a burden lasts throughout each man’s lifetime. Life begins with crying and ends in tears. All the burdens and sorrows of human life are summed up in this saying. Men and women from birth to death, during a lifespan punctuated with illness and aging — have to labor, some with their physical strength, some with their minds and hearts, in agriculture, industry or commerce. None is spared from such a burden.


Solomon said, “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (Eccl 1:2). “Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had spent doing it, and behold, all was vanity and striving after wind; there was nothing to be gained under the sun” (Eccl 2:11). In his view, the more wisdom, the more sorrow and sadness, and this too was vanity (Eccl l:16-17). He wanted to pursue enjoyment, merry-making and indulgence in wine, had grand mansions built and vineyards cultivated for himself; fruit trees were planted, reservoirs made, slaves and servants purchased for him, solely for his enjoyment, yet in the end he found that these were meaningless as well (Eccl 2:1-11). He had amassed great wealth and accumulated innumerable talents of silver and gold, but when he died all these were in vain (Eccl 2:18-25; 5:10-17). Death is the end for everyone; no one can avoid this strife during their life time (Eccl 7:1-2; 8:8).


Solomon said, “Behold, what I have seen to be good and to be fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life which God has given him, for this is his lot. Every man also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and find enjoyment in his toil— this is the gift of God” (Eccl 5:18-19). Through their belief in God, Christians can enjoy good health and happiness, a harmonious family life and stable livelihood, plus a regular pace of life — these are luxuries which make life good. Christians have light in their hearts and shun evil doings, uttering no evil words and harboring no evil thoughts. By God’s grace they are generous and giving, active in preaching the Gospel and saving souls, living valuable lives (Eccl 3:12; 11:2,6).

Solomon said, “Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun” (Eccl 9:9). Beauty is to cherish love from within; the most beautiful person is a loving one. In the brief decades that make up a person’s life, matrimony is God’s gracious providence. Husband and wife should love, respect and care for each other. This is the most beautiful life. God is love, and without love nobody can know God. By God’s love, Christians love others, their families and themselves. This love makes life beautiful. A good and beautiful life comes from God. God is the source of all good, and He is the ultimate in love and beauty.

Solomon thus concluded in his book, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep His commandments; for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl 12:13). God is the God who made heaven and earth; He is also the Maker of all men. He is in charge of the whole universe and the fate of all men. He is the Starter and the Finisher (Eccl 12:1). The current chaotic state of human affairs has its roots in man’s deviance from God and the lack of fear for God. If we all sincerely worship this Master of the universe, obey His commandments and teachings, lead a life of respect for Him and love for men, in our brief, burdened and meaningless lifetimes, we will find lives that are true, good and beautiful.

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Author: Chen Heng Tao