Benevolent Jailer?

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”  NRSV

This is the most familiar passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes. It is probably one of the most familaiar texts in the Bible, at least verse one would be.

There is a sobering truth to these eight verses. It does, however, raise what I believe is an important question. Is the author speaking to the way God designed the world to work or is the author reporting on how he observes humankind particpating in the world God created? Is there really a time to love, and a time to hate? Or, is he reporting that, based in his observation, there are times humankind loves and times humankind hates and it is pattern that repeats itself over and over again? Based on his observations, this author would conclude that there is a time for everything under the sun. It is part of the human fabric that God brought into being.

In my mind, the author of Eccleasiastes has reduced God to nothing more than explanation for that which he observes in his life.  God is nothing more than a kind of benevolent jailer. The author urges his readers to recognize there is no escape from the jail of life they are in. So, do well the work (toil) they are assigned, i.e., make the best of it (eat, drink, and be merry).

I can’t speak for you, but that is not the God I love and serve. You will need to decide how closely, if at all, this author’s interpretation of God is consistent with you own.

From time to time we will use this “prison” lens as a way of looking at other parts of Eccleiastes.

Be a blessing to someone today!

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