Futility of Death
I also observed under the sun: there is wickedness at the place of judgment and there is wickedness at the place of righteousness. I said to myself, “God will judge the righteous and the wicked, since there is a time for every activity and every work.” I said to myself, “This happens concerning people, so that God may test them and they may see for themselves that they are like animals.” For the fate of people and the fate of animals is the same. As one dies, so dies the other; they all have the same breath. People have no advantage over animals, for everything is futile. All are going to the same place; all come from dust, and all return to dust. Who knows if the spirit of people rises upward and the spirit of animals goes downward to the earth? I have seen that there is nothing better than for a person to enjoy his activities, because that is his reward. For who can enable him to see what will happen after he dies? Eccl 3:16-22 (HCSB)
The question at the end of this passage reveals the difference of those who know God and those facing death alone. Outside of faith, is it possible for anyone to factually know for certain what happens after death. Certainly there is a lot of speculation and there’s been much research since Socrates poisoned himself in the pursuit of the truth about death.
Are we unlike the animals, who we believe are born and eventually die in some simplistic, beneficial cycle of life on earth? Can we dismiss their death so casually as if God does not care about the animals he created? How can we truly know what happens to animals after death? As the Teacher in the passage above proclaims, mankind shares the same breath of life, and death arrives to man and beast when that same shared breath ceases to sustain life in either man or beast.
The Teacher reveals the futility of understanding death beyond this life. He, like so many today, reckons what he does not know for certain does not affect him. Life now is all that matters. There is no understanding beyond this life.
However, if that were so, what would be the purpose of living rightly in this life?
When we choose to live life guided solely by our own limited understanding and wisdom, we espouse the philosophy of hedonism, the pursuit of self-serving pleasure as life’s main motivation.
However, if that was true, then why don’t the animals reflect the same motivation in their lives, if there really is no difference between man and beast? Animals are instinctive in their life choices.They will defend themselves to preserve their life and they will even put their own lives at risk to protect the lives of their offspring, but what they fight to preserve is their present right to life. Man however is more than an instinctive, reactive thinker as he or she makes choices in this life. Man is endowed with a conscience revealing what are good or bad choices. As a result, there are times when our life choices reveal our life motivation transcends mere survival instincts like the animals. Man recognizes their connection to God and this temporal life maybe finite, but the life that God created for us is eternal and mortal death merely is the divide between the two.
On the other hand, what happens for certain to animals beyond death, only God knows that answer? We have no gained no insight from God on the matter. Yet, we have received plenty of firsthand assurances from God about the prospects of our future beyond death. Even long before the days of the biblical testimony man believed a time of judgment between the wicked and the righteous awaited all of mankind. But, throughout history the struggle has been in defining what about our life makes us righteous before God. Is it our heritage or bloodline? Is it our deemed righteousness or wickedness a personal, a family, or a communal accountability before God? The biblical testimony declares that we all will stand individually before God, accountable for our own life choices. Those who live in denial that there will be such an accounting for our righteous and wicked choices by God seem to prefer to believe there exists no difference between man and the animals beyond the grave. Sadly, there is a difference. Animals made their instinctive choices in life because that’s how God made them, but man was created with a conscience by God to rationalize and dream to direct his or her life choices.
Therefore, I believe when we seek God’s will, ways, and wisdom, not selectively seeking what appeals and dismissing the rest, then little doubt should remain as to how we should strive to live this life, impacting our life choices that are rooted in the belief God awaits beyond the grave.
Thank you Lord God for the heritage of your word entrenched in the biblical testimony, because it clearly guides us in the making right life choices in this lifetime to realize your blessing on that day when all of us will humbly stand before you.
Words of Wisdom #225-9EC