ScriptureWhatever task comes your way to do, do it with all your strength; because in Sh’ol, where you will go, there is neither working nor planning, neither knowledge nor wisdom.
Kohelet (Ecc) 9:10 CJB
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol (the nether world, the place of the dead) where you are going.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 AMP
One Context & InterpretationI can take from an excerpt of this message this truth, that, God doesn’t like laziness or mediocrity, so His Word encourages me to always do my best in both small and large efforts. If I give my best then I can always be confident that I strove for excellence and have nothing to be ashamed of—so lazy and mediocre can’t be my labels—while hard-working and determined can!
What’s Overlooked & MisinterpretedThis verse has a second part that many may overlook. As you saw, the part that was initially forwarded to me eight years ago didn’t include the second part. It also didn’t include the parts that led up to it. So I will provide context. The second part addresses another level of existence where working, planning, knowledge and wisdom are irrelevant and won’t be utilized—and therefore, King Solomon, was expressing the urgency of the people giving their all then because later they wouldn’t have the opportunity. But it wasn’t that clean cut.
It’s All In God’s HandsFrom the earlier passages, Solomon was attesting to the fact and his belief that people and their words and deeds are in the hands of God, so even those who were seen as righteous and wise could not say with certainty their fate. Everything was left up to God. Solomon said that the righteous and the wicked could have the same fate. It was God’s decision.
Solomon was throwing down heavy weights at the feet of anyone who read his autobiography. He called out humans for the vileness and hypocrisy they lived and tried to keep hidden. So he told people to keep doing what they were doing, even if outwardly it appeared noble and righteous yet the opposite were true. He explained that God would decide their fate no matter what. They could be overt or covert, it didn’t matter. God has the last say.
That is why Solomon said to work their hardest at whatever task came their way, because that would be the reward they could see and receive in real-time while alive in the present—because when they were sent to Sh’ol (Sheol) they wouldn’t have these opportunities. They would merely exist and rot.
What in the World or Other World is Sheol?In the Hebrew Bible, She’ol is said to be a dark place where spirits of the dead go. Other texts say it’s a place of punishment meant for the wicked who are now dead. In the Talmud a similar place is called Gehenna. As you can see, that’s where King Solomon was writing about and telling people they would end up there after they died— and could no longer masquerade their treachery, hypocrisy, and in some cases, their pseudo righteousness. People can pimp themselves and other people using religion but you can’t pimp God. What was the purpose of rebuilding a Temple to worship God if the people are going to continue sinning and acting like fools and idiots?
Historical ContextKnowing the historical context of this writing, if we assume it was king Solomon who wrote this autobiography, then by that time, according to the book of Kings, he had spent the first seven years of his reign as king, rebuilding the Temple that had been destroyed. He spent 13 years, approximately, building his palace that would serve as the location of his kingdom. His servanthood blessed him above and beyond any king before or after him, because he did it all for God and to fulfill God’s plans. God blessed him with more wisdom and money than any king ever. Now, after close to 30 years of reigning, Solomon was taking the time to ponder, reflect, and use the wisdom God gave him to write his autobiography.
Ecclesiastes is Solomon’s words of reflection, opinions, foresight, and admonitions. At the end, after all that he had done and received, he realized that nothing stops the inevitable, and all things rest in God’s hands.
You Can’t Earn Your PlaceToday, I share this passage with the full context and understanding that there is absolutely nothing you can do to earn a place in God’s “safe zone”, whether you call it heaven or someplace else. In all the things that you do and say that appear good and right to you, maybe they are and maybe they aren’t. God is concerned with our hearts. Just because you practice the religion you have chosen doesn’t mean you’re living as God desires, nor does it mean you’re granted special privileges.
God can choose to grant clemency and show grace to the blatant sinner, placing the two of you side-by-side, or not. Solomon and others before and after him wrote it, and Jesus is quoted as saying it.
That’s the choice of the Creator.
So rather than thinking you have daily earned your “spot” on the team, or that you need to daily earn a spot, you need to pour yourself into everything and every opportunity God presents to you, and do so for Him, not for you—not because you think it will get you somewhere or keep you from going someplace else. We’re simply to serve and trust that God already has things worked out.
If You Don’t Know, ResearchI also share this Bible passage as a reminder that historical, cultural, and other relevant context is always important to have when reading the Bible. If you don’t truly know something, then utilize the modern luxuries called books and the Internet. The latter is faster, but you can’t just run with the first result from your inquiry. Research and find out what was going on in the land when Solomon (or whomever) wrote or said something. Who are they speaking to and why?
Don’t just repeat, recite, and regurgitate words and information that you haven’t studied, researched, and found answers and context about. Don’t assume to know. Don’t go based on what a religious leader said. Don’t just assume because it’s in writing that it’s accurate.
Be wise and act accordingly.
Who Solomon Was Speaking AboutIn this context, if this was indeed Solomon, then he was speaking to and about the people who, once again, were backsliding, whether overtly or covertly, and he was frustrated with why they couldn’t see and realize how ignorant they truly were. That’s why he called their lives meaningless (v. 9) because what were they really doing all of this for, since it wasn’t for and directed by God?
I leave you with that to ponder.
Father-Mother God, thank You for Your hand of blessing on my life. I choose today to serve You with my whole heart and do everything to the best of my ability. I understand that my fate rests solely in Your capable Hands, and what You seek is my heart and what comes from it, so I strive to pour into my work and into others what You pour into me—not to get to a specific place, but just out of gratitude for Your gifts, and to glorify You for all that You are and all that You share. Thank You for Your faithfulness to me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.