Yesterday I turned 60 and later today I’m doing a funeral. What do these two facts have in common? Answer: Ecclesiastes 7:2

It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart.
(Ecclesiastes 7:2 ESV)

If ever there were a counter intuitive saying  then Ecclesiastes 7:2 has to be it.

Let’s see, given the choice between a great wedding reception with lots food (at someone else’s expense) and a funeral home which would you choose?

Bring on the entre and let’s get this party started would be the choice of just about everyone unless they are of the depressed sort who dig funerals.

Yet Solomon says that’s all fine and good to want to feast but it’s really better to visit the house of mourning. Why? Well, the funeral home is the end of all mankind. Everyone dies, no exceptions. The house of mourning is the place for the thoughtful to ponder the meaning of life and the meaning of death.

King Solomon, Russian icon from first quarter of 18th cen.

King Solomon, Russian icon from first quarter of 18th cen.

And because I just turned 60 I’ve come to realize that all things being equal my life is probably more than 2/3 over with. A lot of men die around 75 and if that’s true then I’m around 80% done.

The “old” generally speaking are more thoughtful about death than the young. When I was 20 I didn’t give it a second thought, mostly because I was relatively healthy and could do my factory job with a minimum of pain to my body. Not so, at 60 with plenty of reminders the body is not what it used to me. Let’s face it, everything breaks down, whether its our bodies, our homes, our lawn mowers. Creation breaks down. The reality of that is everywhere.

Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes deals with that in Ecc. 12:1-8. He reminds the old of their increasing frailty, sign posts really to the end of the line.

The young do not escape his wisdom either.

He tells them in symbolic language that a lot can go wrong even when you are young. Consider accidents of all sorts and risky behaviors. Youth is not a guarantee of a longer life.We like to say oh, so and so, they died early.” Not so, the Scripture says all of our days are numbered and only God knows when our number is up.

It is a bit ironic that Americans spend billions of dollars a year trying to fend off looking old. Solomon might say that’s a good example of chasing after the wind and I’d agree. I say this because it seems we intuitively know time is passing by quickly and so it’s a kind of a denial to “fight for youth.”

Solomon handles those kind of thoughts by  telling the folks to remember their Creator (Ecc. 12:1). He says that’s a real good idea when you are in the house of mourning. The thoughtful will consider their Creator. Mockers and cynics, the cocky and arrogant, atheists and agnostics probably not and many nominal Christians will choose to ignore Solomon’s wise words.

Solomon tells folks to remember their Creator because the Creator is who we are likely to forget. Perhaps we are forgetful because we don’t remember that we are created beings and that implies accountability to the Creator.

The house of mourning is a good place to ponder that forgetfulness and remember that you are dust that the Creator breathed life into.

So, what of it? Well, Romans 1:18-32 says that mankind  has turned it’s back on the Creator, the God of the Bible is how I see it. Paul the apostle puts it like this:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
(Romans 1:18-23 ESV)

This is not good news. Forgetting the Creator apparently has consequences.  Paul goes on:

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:24-32 ESV)

Solomon brings the above into sharp focus when he ends his sermon in Ecclesiastes . He says:

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 ESV)

It’s better to be in a house of mourning than a house of feasting because it is of the utmost importance to contemplate these things. A person who seriously considers their life and considers the reality of life after death is not left by the Creator without recourse.

The Creator sent His son and his name is Jesus. In Jesus there is hope, not hope in the sense of “gee whiz, I hope everything turns out right” but hope in the assured sense that the repentant sinner is forgiven because Jesus paid the penalty we sinners owed. Jesus put it this way at a cave of mourning when his dear friend Lazarus died:

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 ESV)

The question demands an answer. Eternal destiny depends upon that answer. In the house of mourning the best question to ponder is what will you do with Jesus?

The Raising of Lazarus, 1857, Léon Joseph Florentin Bonnat

The Raising of Lazarus, 1857, Léon Joseph Florentin Bonnat

(A special word of thanks to a young seminarian who preached at my church this past Sunday on Ecclesiastes.)