“Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going” (Ecclesiastes 9:8-10, ESV).
What thoughts or emotions come to mind when hearing the words, “live life to the fullest?” Here are some possibilities: guilt, shame, despair, joy, panic, happiness, thrilling, spontaneous, adventurous, and ambivalent or decision paralysis (I made up that one). There are many more to add, but I think you get the point. All of those words represent honest responses to hearing the words, “live life to the fullest.” In my own life, I remember rejecting those words out of unbelief because of the consequences of others’ actions and my own. This faith journey with Christ requires that I face who I am in the light of his word and his Spirit.
On some level, I don’t know always recognize what hinders me from living life to the fullest. There are thinking and behavioral patterns, which spring up over time until they appear normal. There is no life apart from those set patterns. The radical call of the gospel is to surrender these established patterns of being and doing for Christ’s ways. Our Lord’s words in Matthew 11:29-30 ring true at this moment, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” When I come to Christ, I give him my burdens, whatever they may be, in exchange for his easy yoke and light burden. This results in my soul resting in Christ, which enables me to live life to the fullest.
Now, those words in Matthew 11 tie in nicely with God’s words to Solomon in the very first sentence to the above quoted passage: “Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head” (Ecclesiastes 9:8, ESV). Christ’s words in Matthew 11 demonstrate that he wants to take my all of my burdens. There’s no need to run around like a chicken with my head cut off in striving to earn my keep before him. This exchange sanctifies me. I’m becoming more like him. When Solomon writes, “let your garments be always white. let not oil be lacking on your head,” he’s alluding to sanctification in the believer’s life. Solomon didn’t exactly use the word sanctification, but the concept is clear.
Sanctification is a technical term, which speaks to the process of the believer growing in holiness. The only reason that sanctification even occurs in me is because of the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Back to God’s words through Solomon, the white garments speak to the purification of the believer’s daily actions. The oil on the head refers to the believer’s anointing in the Holy Spirit, who performs the sanctifying work. Put these words in Ecclesiastes together with Jesus’s words in Matthew 11:29-30, and it becomes clear that I have a tiny role to play in this process. The Spirit and the word show me the patterns of being and doing that turn my garments from white to gray or brown or black or any color other than white. Once the Spirit reveals these sinful patterns of being and doing, then I have a choice to exchange them for his easy yoke.
After I make this exchange, then rest comes to my soul. There is deep peace, and I’m able to live life to the fullest. Christ lightens my burden in order to run faster, longer, and freer for him. It’s easier to climb trees, to swim, or simply to do anything without carrying a heavy load all the time. This is why Solomon writes for husbands to love their wives with everything in them (Ecclesiastes 9:9, ESV). Don’t hold back. If something does hold me back, then deal with it. Life is short, and one day it will end. This is also Solomon’s reason for exhorting his audience to pursue endeavors with everything they’ve got (Ecclesiastes 9:10, ESV). The word is Go for it. Do you have a desire to write fiction? Go for it. Do you want to build a home with someone? Go for it, give it all you have in Christ. To use a sports metaphor, leave it all on the field. Live life to the fullest in Christ by the power of the Spirit.