“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.”
If we listen to the world, it teaches us it’s idea of youth: youth means freedom. It means listening to your heart, to your feelings, doing whatever you want. No regrets, fun and yourself are all that matters. Do whatever you can to be happy, because #YOLO (you only live once).
This is exactly the opposite of what the Word of God teaches! Sure, we should be happy. One recurring theme of Ecclesiastes is that we should be happy with our situation. And yes, we should roam free and do what our heart desires. We should discover things. However, this shall not be without consequences. And that is the crux of the matter. The world tries to make us forget that our behaviour has consequences. Satan tries to teach this. He wants us to sin as much as possible, without thinking of consequences. The problem is, this is not the way it works. The second most recurring theme after the vanity of the world is the fear of the Lord. Because the Lord will judge, and he will judge righteously, and everything will be made public. Sin will be punished, because God is just. That is, if we are not saved through our faith in Jesus Christ, of course. And even then, we are “only” spared death – the consequences of sin remain. If a man sleeps with the wrong kind of person in college, gets AIDS, comes to know the Lord, and is saved, he still has AIDS, and he still no longer is a virgin. This holds for everything, and Satan would love us to forget it.
Though we don’t know who the author of Ecclesiastes is, I found Solomons Proverbs very useful to understand the Kohelet. Let’s let the Word of God speak for a moment. Here is a selection of Proverbs that teach us about this topic:
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Proverbs 9:10)
“Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray.” (Proverbs 10:17)
“The fear of the Lord prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be short.” (Proverbs 10:27)
“Whoever keeps the commandment keeps his life; he who despises his ways will die.” (Proverbs 19:16)
“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.” (Proverbs 21:2)
“Apply your heart to instruction and your ear to words of knowledge. Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.” (Proverbs 23:12-14)
“If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?” (Proverbs 24:12)
“Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.” (Proverbs 28:14)
Do you see? Freedom doesn’t mean we get carte blanche to do everything stupid we want, and when we turn 18, everything is forgotten! I know this is the way the law woks in many countries, but God doesn’t work that way!
We need to turn to the Word (not the world, scripture) and live our life by that. Being young may be an excuse to try (some!) things, and to do what we want instead of serving in our families and churches (after all, isn’t that maturity?), but it isn’t and shall never be an excuse to not fear the Lord who created the world and is just and righteous and hates evil.
You Only Live Once. After this one attempt, you will be judged if you don’t fear the Lord. Make something of your life!