#52 The Wise Understand God’s Process in Working Through Us

Eccl. 2:17.  So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me; for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.

That is, whatever was being done under the sun was completely displeasing to me, because it was nothing but vain labor and a source of useless trouble. This does not imply that Solomon wishes for death, but that he regards it as a misery and a calamity to deal with these matters. He intends to say: “I became sick and tired of it.” For who can bear having nothing but labor in establishing something and nothing but contempt once it has been established or done? In Scriptural phraseology, “to live” or “life” means to live well, to live in plenty. Ps. 22:29 says: “And they did not keep their soul alive,” that is, their soul did not live well, they lived a difficult and grinding life like paupers, like those who have been oppressed and who are otherwise miserable and destined for death. Such people are called in Scripture “not living.” Therefore he is not saying that he yearns for death, but he is displeased with the way of life that wearies and afflicts a man with human counsels. Therefore Solomon means that we should stand ready for death or for life, and he recalls us to the use of things in the present. We should be content with these things, without anxiety about the future, and should commit everything to God, who does indeed want to work through us but in such a way as though we were ignorant of the process. As an ox that threshes and eats does not know what he is doing and has no anxiety about food or about the success of his labor, so we also ought to do what the Lord has assigned and carry out what He has willed. Yet all these things ought to be like a crust of bread that we have on earth, so that we do not strive for the cultivation of this life by our own efforts; for that way lies perpetual disquiet, as now follows: (Luther’s Works, v.15 p.44-45)

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