Naked a man comes from his mother’s womb, and as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labor that he can carry in his hand. Ecclesiastes 5, verse 15.
Life is beautiful, you know, even though today’s verse seems to say otherwise. You’ve heard this in your life many times before (and read it here just the other day): when we leave this life, we take nothing with us that we earned here. The billionaire and the ‘slumdog’ both stand before God with only themselves. There are no Armani suits at that time, no Rolls Royce, no garbage scraps, no plasma TVs, no college degrees. It is only you and your life standing before God and all of His magnificent eternity. We all know this.
One thing I like about reading Scripture is that it’s very frank. Quite honestly, that’s one of the reasons why I fail to understand why other people are turned off by it. I like to have the news straightforward; please don’t dance around the facts or try to sugar-coat them. Scripture presents things plainly. I mean, ‘naked’ isn’t a word that wastes much time. ‘He takes nothing from his labor” pretty much says it all. I’m wordy, so I appreciate something brilliantly concise and well said. If I wrote for a hundred years, I couldn’t say it better than what is said in this verse.
I think that’s true because this is another one of those universal truths. Believers and atheists alike as well as the casually ignorant in our world can all understand this. An old friend of mine once displayed a sticker on her door that said “the one with the most toys wins.” This verse disproves and slam-dunks that saying, as well as so much of our lives that centers around accumulating stuff. My house, my (broken down) cars, my dog, my movie collection, my new clothes, my dishes in the drainer by the sink, my overused laptop: when I die they’ll still be here and it won’t matter whether they are or they aren’t.
Should we, therefore, be fatalistic? I mean, for God’s sake, what’s the point? We really can’t have it both ways. Either the best this life has to offer is living it up, or the best this life has to offer isn’t worth a hill of beans because it’s all meaningless. If we’re just growing worm food, what’s the stinkin’ point?
The point is that, even while this verse is oh so true, it indirectly points to real hope. The only thing that I carry with me into the next life is what spiritual meaning I lived in this life. If I reject the Savior in this life, I reject all He is and stands & stood for. That has eternal consequences. If I embrace the Savior in this life, then that too has eternal consequences and I know that He will embrace me as we journey into what comes after this place. I don’t carry that in my hand, though I demonstrate it with my hands here and now. I carry it in my heart and speak from it. No matter where you or I find ourselves in our pursuit of ‘stuff’, we get to live this out, model it for the people around us, and let it change lives (including our own).
Knowing that, keep this verse in perspective as it relates to the ones that came before it. If you’ll remember, verse 14 talked about hoarding and losing wealth, and verse 12 talked about how worry never seems to leave the wealthy. When I read today’s verse, my mind automatically says “why worry?” Quite seriously, why worry because this verse jumps to what happens at the end of all our worries. God provides whether I worry or not; here’s where I think of that verse in the book of Luke where Christ says “”Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” He meant that there is natural beauty we can’t create, and that it reflects God’s own natural beauty. Even more, I think, He meant that God provides splendor even for the least of things and they don’t worry about it yet He provides it anyway.
Personally, I think there’s nothing more beautiful than the knowledge that I get to share in the beauty of this life – love of my family and friends, those western sunsets, laughing and good times, the peace of being in concert with my God – but that there is so much more beauty on its way. I came into this world owning nothing worldly and that is how I will exit this world no matter what I do. And when I do exit, all that wasn’t beautiful in this world – all that happened or I brought on myself – will be left behind and shed off as worthless. Like refined gold, I will be blameless in my Savior and get to move on to a new phase of living in which His divine loving beauty will be the new standard.
Naked you and I came here and naked of the spirit we will depart. Without getting racy, I think there’s something beautiful in that. We came here unashamed and bare; when we live a life of faith, we get to depart the same way. That’s something to look forward to.