If you're listening to King Solomon in Ecclesiastes, the guy who had it all, not as much as you might think. He opens the book with the famous words, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." Generation after generation, everything is fleeting, some things don't change, and there are seasons for everything. You can imagine a powerful statesman slumped at his desk, looking back at his life's work, and wondering what it was all for.
Most people get stuck here. But Solomon's search for meaning leads to the closing chapters, where he shifts to providing meaningful suggestions for living a life of impact, especially addressing the Next Generation at the very end. It's surprisingly insightful and relevant*:
1. Invest (Ecc. 11:1)
Learn how to invest. So many people are told about the value of saving. It is important, but people who are smart with money know that financial abundance doesn't come from savings, but investments. There are some really savvy businessmen who will go broke for a short period every year on purpose, investing the majority of what they own, only to see those investments multiply wealth.
2. Diversify (Ecc. 11:2)
Don't put all your investments in one basket. Invest in multiple types of businesses to safeguard your earning potential.
3. Strive for Progress, not Perfection (Ecc. 11:4)
Most of us are so afraid of failure that we procrastinate to avoid it and try to get all our ducks lined up in a row first. Nothing ever gets done this way. Strive to make tiny steps forward, fail a lot, learn faster.
4. Be OK with Uncertainty (Ecc 11:5)
It's ok to not have all the answers or be 100% sure of what's going to happen next. Roll with it!
5. Increase Your Opportunity (Ecc 11:6)
Hard work is the best way to live in this uncertain world where we don't know what will "click" and what won't. Intentional effort in producing multiple outputs creates more opportunities to hit on something that works, meets a need, and pushes your goals forward.
6. Enjoy Smelling the Roses (Ecc 11:7-8)
Life is short, death is certain - enjoy smelling the roses and experiencing life while you can!
7. Go Hard! (Ecc. 11:9)
Being young is scary. It feels like every decision either opens or closes a door at this stage of life. Solomon encourages young people to go hard and do what they desire and want to do while they are young and have the energy. The NASB says it this way: "Follow the impulses of your heart and the desires of your eyes." But there's a caveat. Whatever those impulses and desires are, good or bad, God has a scorecard at the end of the game and everything we do will end up being ranked on that scorecard. So balance impulsive youth with this truth and accountability.
8. Live Without Regrets/Avoid Stumbling Blocks (Ecc. 11:10)
Our youth and going hard after life is going to result in mistakes. Some mistakes are learning experiences, some will be major slip-ups and have consequences attached. But if we live in regret, we can't fully do numbers 1-7 on this list. The NASB puts it like this: "remove grief and anger from your heart and put away pain from your body, because childhood and and the prime of life are fleeting." The word "pain" reflects those things that are evil - put those things far away from you to avoid slip-ups down the road.
*(New American Standard and Expanded Bible used for this article)