A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of one’s birth; better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. (Ecclesiastes 7:1-4)
The Meaning Of Life
At first glance this passage would seem to be a sad view of life. How can we look at death as a better thing than a birthday? We celebrate birthdays with cake and candles but we do not have a party on the remembrance day of one’s death. It is easier to remember the birthdays rather than the ‘deathdays’. Joy is found in the announcement of pregnancy and the day of birth with pictures, flowers and happy smiles. Sadness shrouds the days of death and fills the heart with sorrow.
The Holy Spirit does not suggest there should not be joy at birth and sadness at death. Our Creator made us to feel sorrow at the death of loved ones. Grief is a natural part of our separation of those we love. Babies are such a joy as life begins. What Solomon reminds us is that in the big picture of life the meaning of our existence is eternal. He points out two important lessons:
1 – Life is not about our stuff and seeing how much we can have before we die. Riches and wealth do not matter. Being famous is fleeting. Power is lost in death. A GOOD NAME will live on long after the riches, fame and power are diminished. Our spiritual 401K should be the golden sheen of a name held in honor because of our honesty, kindness, love, compassion and devotion to God.
2 – Death is better than birth because in death we go home to our Father. The conundrum of birth is the reality that now an eternal creature must face the onslaught of evil and face judgment. The blessing and joy of death is we are promised eternal life and we leave a world of toil and suffering for a place in the presence of God. There should be more joy in death than birth.
We learn these lessons from the house of mourning because that is when the lesson is brought home. Hopes and dreams are not filled in this life; they are received in life eternal. It is a difficult lesson to learn because we are so attached to this life. The wise man will see the joy in death because that is the real meaning of life.
There is nothing morbid about getting ready to die. For a Christian, it is preparation for life’s greatest adventure. (Vance Havner)