One of the key interpretive points of the nearby American Civil War Antietam Battlefield is the contrast in personalities between the two generals: Robert E. Lee for the Confederacy and George B. McClellan for the Union. Though McClellan’s shortcomings are often over-emphasized and lacking in nuance, it is true that his proclivity was to only offer battle and attack when everything was just right. Lee, on the other hand, was one who looked for opportunity to exploit at every moment. More often than not, his aggressiveness worked out well for him (though an unwise attack at Gettysburg was his major undoing).
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Paralysis by analysis. Solomon would say that you can’t live that way, always fearful to act in the face of some fraction of unknowns. There will always be things that are unknown. If you waited until you were perfectly, financially secure before getting married, you’ll die single. If you wait until the perfect time to begin a family, you’ll never have kids. If you wait for the perfect moment to invest, you’ll never move your cash out of your checking account or from under your pillow. Or, if you’re like me and never can find the perfect time to take a vacation, you’ll never leave Downsville!
Here’s the problem: nothing is perfect in an imperfect world. The only guarantee is that there are no guarantees. Solomon says that trees fall down – maybe this way, maybe that way – but once it falls, there it lays. Employing a farming illustration, he says that the farmer who is always looking at the sky and fretting over the weather in hopes of the perfect day for planting … well, he’ll never get his seed into the ground. And even a gardening dope like me knows that you can’t have a harvest without having a planting.
Essentially, the advice in today’s chapter 11 of Ecclesiastes is to “go for it” in life. Live! Invest! Be active, yet also be wise and trusting God; and in this fashion one may find some success of reward and happiness in this life that is but a breath – a poof!
A way of being wise is to diversify one’s energies and resources. Investing in multiple ventures brings the best prospect of a reward, while mitigating the real possibilities of loss. This timeless principle underlies investing to this day.
But again, things can go wrong. Disasters can happen. Though we can grow to know more about God and His ways, we can never fully know all that God is involved in doing, or when those events will happen.
But there is no future or life worth living in sitting back and cowering in uncertainties. We should move out boldly in life, doing so early in life and enjoying the vigor of earlier years … all the while being mindful that there is a judgment to come. So grasp life, live boldly, be wise, honor God and His truth, and serve in such a way as to be a blessing to others.
Ecclesiastes 11:1 – Ship your grain across the sea; after many days you may receive a return.
2 Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight; you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.
3 If clouds are full of water, they pour rain on the earth. Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there it will lie.
4 Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.
5 As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.
6 Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.
7 Light is sweet, and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.
8 However many years anyone may live, let them enjoy them all. But let them remember the days of darkness, for there will be many. Everything to come is meaningless.
9 You who are young, be happy while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.
10 So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor are meaningless.