Ecclesiastes 12: The Meaning of Life

Ecclesiastes 12 is the final chapter in the book of Ecclesiastes and summarizes Solomon's thoughts on the purpose of life. Solomon summarizes his message by concluding that our sole duty is to respect God and follow His commandments. When put into words, it sounds easy, but in action, it's a lot harder!


Ecclesiastes 12 is the final chapter in the book of Ecclesiastes and summarizes Solomon's thoughts on the purpose of life. Below, I highlight some of my favorite parts of this chapter.

Live Fast and Die Young?

There are so many songs that have lyrics with the phrase "live fast, die young." Today, it's basically glorified, with people surmising that you should "make the most" out of your youth by indulging in worldly behaviors. Solomon says the opposite, warning us that we should remember God while we are young, before evil comes.

When I first read Ecclesiastes 12:1, I thought of a very specific scenario that many of us fall prey to—luckily God is a God of mercy and forgiveness when we repent. A common thread I've seen is that during the prime years of our lives, we tend to drift away from God. Some people have even said something to the effect of "I'll get right with God when I'm older." However in many cases, it's simply a case of not having the spiritual wisdom to fight against the world.

As a society, we are aware that the teenage years are hard and a time of turmoil for growing minds. Teachers and parents spend a lot of time discussing the effects of peer pressure and trying to help teens find themselves. However, I've found that even in to our 20's, many of us are unsure of ourselves. In fact, it's these early years of adulthood in which we first break free of parental supervision that we are most vulnerable.

Focusing Your Engery

A friend of mine once asked if I regretted going to graduate school because we "missed out" on "normal" things. When I questioned him on what these things were, his immediate response was partying. In his mind, and many others, the mid 20s was meant to be spent "enjoying" your youth through alcohol, dancing, hooking-up, etc. This is what society tells us is normal. Society tells us to take advantage of our youth because we won't always be able to handle such adventures. As we age, our body won't recover from liquor and sleep deprivation the same way. We gain responsibilities. In essence, things change... The devil wants to sell you on lavishing in these pleasures that will not be options for you in the future.

However, while we are distracted with parties and dating, there is work to be done for the kingdom of God. As I approach the close of my 20s, I often look back on my high school and college days wondering how I managed to be involved with so much. It seems like I had endless time and energy back then. I was so passionate about everything I did and I made time for everything I wanted to do! It was nothing to stay up until 3 or 4am. I could run up and down 10 flights of stairs without feeling it. But I can't do those things now...

The devil isn't wrong that there's certain treasures and vitality in our youth that we shouldn't waste. What he is wrong about, however, is what it means to waste it. We often only return to God after we've spent our energy and time on ungodly things. However, if these are the best years of our lives, shouldn't we be giving them to Christ? Jesus was about 30 when He started His ministry—how old do you think the disciples were? Some may have been younger, some older (and yes, some probably did waste their early 20s on ungodly things, just like many of us).

Solomon tells us that we should remember God in our youth before evil comes. Part of what ages us is the stress and pain of life. As we experience hardships, they effect how we see the world, and God. We lose that passion and become worn down from failure. If we have not come to God before evil days visit us, we are likely to be driven further from God, as opposed to being driven toward God.

He could also be referencing the end of the world. There will come a time when evil will consume the Earth and people will have taken the mark of the beast, such that they can never repent.

Time Runs Out

As Solomon discusses the subject of taking delight in God while we are young and able to experience the joys and pleasures of carrying out God's will, he also leaves us with phrases that direct us to prophecy. Solomon tells us that we are to remember God before the sun, moon, or stars be darkened—this is a clear reference to judgment (e.g., Isaiah 13:10, Ezekiel 32:7, Amos 8:9, Matthew 24:29, Acts 2:20, Joel 2:31, Revelation 6:12). When judgment comes, it's a final verdict. At the end of time, there will be no more time to correct ourselves or repent.

God is a forgiving God, so whether you surrender you life to Him at 14 or 84, He will hear you and welcome you into His fold. The problem is we don't know when the end will come—note that our physical death might as well be the end of time. In this regard, "youth" is relative. Even in the languages used to compose the Bible, youth could refer to someone as old as 40![1]

Solomon's point isn't that you must surrender to God as a child; his point is that time will run out. We will lose abilities and senses (as described in Ecclesiastes 12:4-5), making it more difficult to carry out His work. Eventually, we will cease to live. I don't know when the sun and moon will darken for my life so the earlier I come to God, the better.

Knowledge and Wisdom

Photocredit: Spratt
There's a saying that more you learn the less you know... Solomon doesn't say that exactly, but he does tell say that learning is "weariness of the flesh." His point is that we can study for all our life and we will never know everything; there will always be more study. As such, we shouldn't pressure ourselves to solve every problem or understand ever observation.

The Meaning of Life

Solomon's basic premise of the entire book is to define the meaning of life. In the end he summarizes it in Ecclesiastes 12:13 as "fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man." Things are going to happen in life, but all we can do is follow God through the rollercoaster. In the end, God will judge us based on that decision.

Solomon's conclusion is such a simple statement, but we overlook it so often! It's easy to worry about worldly things, get stressed out, and completely forget the bottom line. I feel like this should be one of the most repeated quotes in the Bible. Considering the fact that Jesus tells us love for our neighbor is one of the most important commandments (i.e., don't kill, steal, commit adultery, envy, lie, or disrespect you parents), can you imagine how we would behave if we actually believed our whole duty was to keep the commandments?


  1. "Q&A". La Vista Church of Christ. 2016

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