1There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven--
2A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
3A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
4A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
5A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
6A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
8A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.
In the span of life, we will find ourselves doing a variety of tasks and experiencing a variety of emotions. God is over all circumstances, and we will inevitably see and/or experience birth and death, planting and harvesting, killing and healing, tearing down and building up, weeping and laughing, mourning and dancing, throwing stones and gathering stones, embracing and refraining from embracing, searching and giving up as lost, saving and throwing away, tearing apart and sowing together, being silent and speaking, loving and hating, and warring and enjoying peace. The world is a place of difficulty and enjoyments, and we will have our share of both. Our emotions will go up and down, and as times change, the purposes of things will change while other things must go. New things will come, things will pass on, challenges will arise, and times of peace may be found. Such is the transient and changeable nature and reality of life on earth. Life in eternity won’t have such ups and downs.
9What profit is there to the worker from that in which he toils?
10I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves.
There is no ultimate soul satisfaction to be found in work in and of itself. Work must be done with all of our hearts in the name of Christ and for the glory of God in order for it to have meaning and allow us to experience the joy of the Lord (Colossians 3:17, 23).
11He has made everything appropriate in its time He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.
12I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one's lifetime;
13moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor--it is the gift of God.
God is in control of all things, and certain things are appropriate at certain times while other things are inappropriate. Living life according to God’s standards give meaning to life, and recognizing God’s moral authority over all things makes everything fit in its proper place. Eternity is set in the heart of man in that something within us knows that this temporal life is not all there is (Romans 1:18-20, 32). What we are able to observe and understand in this life shows us how much we don’t understand and how much more the God Who made all of these things must know. He must be eternal, and if joy is found in knowing Him, man must be made to live eternally as well. The best thing for man to do while he is on the earth is to rejoice in Christ (Philippians 4:4) and to do good, honoring God at all times and in all things. Evil, as Solomon found, does not satisfy. Work and achievements and sensual pleasures cannot bring what God can and what doing all things in the proper way can. However, there is a proper view of work. Work is not bad or evil, for Solomon says that work is actually a gift from God. There is satisfaction in a job well done for Christ. He has given us work to do on this earth of one kind or another, and when we see the results, we can have joy as we rest from our labors. Eating and drinking and the normal activities of life are a lot more enjoyable when work has been done and laziness has not been allowed to prevail. Man must be able to see good in his work, which is only possible if he does that which is morally right and to the glory of God.
14I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him.
15That which is has been already and that which will be has already been, for God seeks what has passed by.
God is going to do what God is going to do, and man is helpless to stop Him. Man should bow in reverence, awe, and fear of the majesty and power of God. God knows all things, and there is nothing that man can add to His knowledge or understanding. God has made all things in the natural world, and man merely discovers the wisdom of God. We have nothing that we can add to what God has done. We can only harvest, cultivate, and use the resources in the universe. God has ordained things this way so that we would see our finiteness and His infinite wonder. Everything that He does will endure forever because it transcends time and space where moth and rust destroy. In God’s mind, there is nothing new, for everything that is has already been. Everything that will be will also have been in the past. God sees all, and He exists outside of time. Thus, nothing will surprise God or take Him off guard. In God’s mind, even the future has already been done, and He will judge all mankind on what He has seen. Rather than get carried away with lies that man will save himself or create some future paradise, man should remember that God wants us to remember His truth and live in a way pleasing to Him. We are to stay true to the past in this respect, for this is the basis on which we will be judged and/or rewarded.
16Furthermore, I have seen under the sun that in the place of justice there is wickedness and in the place of righteousness there is wickedness.
17I said to myself, "God will judge both the righteous man and the wicked man," for a time for every matter and for every deed is there.
Life on this side of eternity is unfair, and injustice happens. The righteous experience wrongs, and the evil prosper. Furthermore, those who act righteous can actually be very wicked, and those who one might think would be prone to choose wickedness might actually find salvation. Things don’t operate always as they should and the neat dividing lines between good and evil people are not always clear to our eyes. But God sees all, and He will hold all to account for their deeds. There will be a time of reckoning for every matter. This realization of eternal judgment and accountability gives meaning and direction in life.
18I said to myself concerning the sons of men, "God has surely tested them in order for them to see that they are but beasts."
19For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same. As one dies so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath and there is no advantage for man over beast, for all is vanity.
20All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust.
21Who knows that the breath of man ascends upward and the breath of the beast descends downward to the earth?
Difficulty is part of life on earth, and Solomon believes that God has allowed this as a test to show man that he has no more power to outwit pain, suffering, and death than an animal. All animals will die, and all people will die. All were made from dust, and all will return to dust. Thus, in terms of trying to live without God and eternal meaning, man has no more hope, worth, or purpose than an animal. The only difference is that man will be judged while the beast will just cease existing.
22I have seen that nothing is better than that man should be happy in his activities, for that is his lot For who will bring him to see what will occur after him?
Solomon believes that the best thing man can do is to simply rejoice in his life, which is only possible if he recognizes life as under God rather than under the sun. The activities that seem vain are not vain if they are understood as allotted to us by God to do to His glory. God is what gives life purpose. It makes no sense to put all of our hope and worth in this life. Some people live so that those who come after them will marvel at them. Yet the dead person cannot see this or glory in this, so this is futile. What is better is to enjoy what we do before God and to do it for God, knowing that once we die, eternity will be what counts, not what comes after us on the earth that brings glory to us.