“Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.” Ecclesiastes 11:9
The book of Ecclesiastes really helps me get the right perspective on life. Solomon wrote it because he was searching for meaning in this life “under the sun.” In the end, he had to conclude that “all was vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2, 14; 2:1, 11) and that we exist for only one purpose: to “fear God and keep His commandments” (12:13).
Yet even though he found that ultimately everything in this life is meaningless without God, Solomon did acknowledge that there is joy in this life. God has given us a lot of good things to enjoy in our lives (2:24; 3:12-13), yet enjoying this earthly blessings to the fullest extent is difficult when we make wrong decisions. I wish I had realized this when I was younger; I’m sure many of you agree. How many of us have wasted years running after things which did not satisfy or help in the end? How much true joy in life did we miss because of these mistakes? Towards the end of Ecclesiastes, God inspired Solomon to give some great advice to the young to help them avoid some of these mistakes.
Many believe God is a party pooper, but that’s not true. God does want us to have a good time (11:9a). He wants us to have joy and do things which please us (9:7-10). That’s why youth should take advantage of their youthful capacity to enjoy life. Yet God also wants us to never lose sight of the fact that we will be judged (11:9b) and will give an account of what we do (3:17; 12:14). That’s why we must be selective in what we choose to do to have fun...something I wish I had realized when I was younger.
Additionally, the young should remove sorrow and evil from their youth (11:10). Enough sorrow comes in this life without our help. Let’s not add to it by “sowing our wild oats” through the common youthful indiscretions that come when we allow ourselves to be involved in evil. Solomon warned against the wrong kind of companions (Proverbs 1:10-19), the friends who want to go out drinking, partying, hazing. They end up bringing us sorrow in the form of fines, jail time on our record, a ruined reputation, etc. He also warned us to not succumb to the enticements of the wicked (Proverbs 5:1-14), the lustful temptations of the immodest and promiscuous which lead so many young people to sexual immorality that results in ruined reputations, venereal diseases, pregnancies which lead to hardships for which youth are unprepared and cause them to miss out on a lot of the fun and lack of responsibility that comes with youth, marriages which in many cases start out on a shaky foundation, and the like. Childhood and youth are fleeting, which is why God is telling us we should not waste them on mistakes which bring only much grief and sorrow to our lives.
Instead, we must remember God in our youth (Ecclesiastes 12:1). God doesn’t want only old folks to serve Him (see Luke 2:41-52; 2 Timothy 3:15; 1 Timothy 4:12). In fact, serving God while young helps to avoid many things in life which bring sorrow. It also prepares one for the dark days that come later in life (Ecclesiastes 11:8). Young people should reflect on what lies ahead (12:1-7), the difficult days that come with age, the days which might bring loss of jobs and health insurance, theft of possessions, the passing of loved ones, the worries and stresses that come with raising children, and then finally the time of old age when our bodies begin to fail before death ends it all. God is not telling us this to depress us, but rather to let us know how to best be prepared for it.
I wish I had thought of these things when I was younger. Parents, train your children along these lines. If you’re young and reading this, take it to heart.