Ecclesiastes Chapter 3. A Time for Everything.
There is nothing new under the sun. To everything there is a season. A time to weep. A time to laugh. Consider this: the author of Ecclesiastes offers us wisdom about life, about balance, about how to live life to the fullest and understand the meaning of life. ~ Solomon ***
Everything Has It’s Place
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:”
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. How do you look at time? Do you live in the moment? Carpe Diem? Do you live in the past? Remembering better times? That special day when Dad bought you your first bicycle? Or tragedies? When Grandma was gone, and Christmas just wasn’t the same anymore? Do you live in the future? A land of hopes and dreams? Looking forward to expectations? A new baby? A new car? Empty nesting? Retiring and taking that trip to Alaska? New Zealand? How you view time has a dramatic impact on how you view life. Time can be a collection of unrelated moments like a pocket of loose change, or a united stream of minutes like a fine pearl necklace. Is time a race for you? Through rush hour traffic? Getting the kids to school on time? Meeting yet another improbable, or impossible deadline?
“There is a time for everything.” That sounds like a greater implication of balance. Those great questions of man, “Who am I?”, “Why am I here?” “What’s it all about?” Are they all influenced by time? Wise men and philosophers have spent their lives trying to understand good and evil. Ying and Yang. God and Satan. How about you? Have you figured it out? What is “a season for every activity under heaven?” Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter, the four seasons immediately come to mind. What about seasons of life: Birth, Childhood, Adolescence, Parenting, Late Middle Age, Death? Or seasons of carefree play, school, work and a career, then retirement? Have you ever considered a Season of Friendship? As a small child you may have spent a lot of time with your best friend. Then you moved. Or they moved. Or you spent more time with other kids, and the friendship changed. The season changed.
Solomon *** has been called the wisest man who ever lived. In fact, the wisest who would ever live. He saw the changing, and the recurring seasons of life. He studied them, and described his thoughts. In Ecclesiastes he talked about life, work, time, and God. If the wisest man in the world thought these questions were important … well, maybe they are worth considering. Journey with Solomon on his adventure. Hear what he has to say about time, and balance, and more, in the pages ahead.
Birth and Death
“a time to be born and a time to die”
Wow! What is more wonderful and exciting than the birth of a baby? New life enters a family, a time of joy and celebration. And what about death. Inevitable. Often a time of sorrow rather than joy. To everything there is a season, a time to be born and a time to die. Yet, this is widely, completely, and universally understood. Everyone, everywhere, regardless of nation, race, color, or sex begins life with their birth: their “time to be born”. From a very early age, children learn that other children are born into the world. Small children often love seeing, hearing, touching, and maybe even smelling, a newborn. Most children grow up celebrating their birthday, with joy and laughter. Year after year.
Birth is also sometimes used to describe new endeavors. When Henry Ford began making horseless carriages, it was the birth of a company, and along with others, the birth of an industry. Most countries can quote the time they were born. The birth of the nation. 1776 for the United States of America.
Solomon observed the birth of each person. We all come into the world the same way. While you, and me, and everyone who ever lived, or will ever live, is unique. We share the same birth process.
Solomon observed the inevitable death that follows every life too. Death takes many forms. Accidents. Sickness. Battle or conflict. Innocent victim. Or quietly in sleep after a long, fruitful life. Like birth, death is universal. No one escapes death. Like birth, death can be used to describe circumstances, not just people. The death of the factory. The death of a town. Is there a time to die for a civilization, or can a civilization live forever? Solomon is not just describing the joy of birth, nor the agony of death. He notes there is both a time to be born, and a time to die.
Balance. Is birth a doorway from eternity past? Is death a doorway to eternity future? How do they both fit into the ultimate truth of man? Understanding the origin of death comes from Genesis chapters 2, 3, and 5. And understanding God’s love is described in Romans 6:23.
Planting and Uprooting
“a time to plant and a time to uproot”
Whether farmer or city-dweller, most people realize there is a certain time of the year to plant crops and vegetables. Planting comes in the spring. That’s why it’s called “planting season”. The ground is plowed, tilled, and weeded. Seeds are planted, watered, and fertilized. Planting is the beginning, the start of new life. The process begins with the basics. Dirt. And a single seed. And the seed must die. And seem to decay. This life process become visible when the seed begins to sprout. As it rises above the ground and is joined by other seeds, a glimpse of the potential plant emerges. A small bean seed can become a tall and strong stalk, dwarfing the original seed many times over. The balance in life, and in nature, includes harvesting time.
A time to uproot. The moment when a plant matures, and is ripe for the picking. Uprooting a vegetable for harvest is good. It has been a time of celebration for peoples and cultures across the globe, and across the centuries. The time to uproot may include removing weeds from your yard, or a field of crops. The good plant may be choked and hurt if the weeds are not uprooted. Can the good in your life, your times of planting, be upset? Can the weeds in your relationships with others create problems? Are there important times of uprooting in your life that may be good? And how does planting and uprooting fit with the rest of your life?
Kill and Heal
“a time to kill and a time to heal”
To everything there is a season, a time to kill? Wow! How can that be? Why would that be? Is it ever good, or right, to kill? Or is this just a statement, a reflection, or reality in the world?A time to kill. It’s harsh. It’s direct. It’s difficult to fathom, to fully understand. People do kill people. A sad reality. To kill locust, ants, grasshoppers, even by the thousands, that’s a different situation.
To everything there is a season, a time to heal. “To heal”, this is in contrast to, “to kill”. The balance in life. A time to heal can be seen daily as the need is great. For victims of earthquakes, floods, and the tornado, healing is most welcome. Healing is good. Are healing and killing The Ying and the Yang? We see the world through the eyes of emotion. And this can be a very good thing at times. Consider Solomon’s words. A time to kill. A time to heal. One happens. The other responds.
Tear and Build
“a time to tear down and a time to build”
Rot. Filth. Disease. Decay. When is the right time to tear down something? A time to tear down. To level. To raze. Have you ever watched a building implode? It’s amazing how dynamite and explosive charges can be used so effectively. Placed carefully, they allow the controlled demolition of a building or bridge. Tearing down implies removing the old. The obsolete. The has-been, The what-was. To tear down whispers that the original is no longer needed. It has outlived it’s useful life.
And then it is time to build. Building raises feelings of newness. New life. New Beginnings. New hope and expectations for the future. Are you building? A new house? Building a new deck? Building relationships in a new job? A new church? A new town? How about building a family? Getting married? Welcoming a new baby into your family? There’s something very positive about building. Have you ever watched a young child building with Lego’s? They explore, fit them together one way, then another. Their creativity knows no bounds as they build their building, car, castle, ship, or fort. What are you building? What new, exciting, project are you starting today?
Weep and Laugh
“a time to weep and a time to laugh”
To weep is good at times, but not continually. The loss of a close friend, or family member, can naturally bring weeping. And to laugh is welcome, but not always appropriate. What comes to mind when you hear the word weeping? Quiet sobs? A weeping wife in a failing marriage? A weeping mother or father at the lingering loss of a child? Shattering of hopes, dreams, expectations? “Jesus Wept.” He wept at the loss of his good friend, Lazarus. ~John 11:35~ A time to weep. A release of emotion, in response to agony, despair, or a sense of loss.
But this is only one side of the balance . . . A Time to Laugh. There is also a time to laugh! To giggle. To smile. To chuckle. And even to guffaw if it suites your nature. Lighthearted laughter raises the mental state, and releases endorphins, natural chemicals, that can raise your spirits. Have you ever watched a laughing baby? As it continues to laugh, do you find yourself starting to smile? As it continues laughing more, does a little laugh escape your own lips? Do you find their laughter contagious and irresistible? “Laughter is the best medicine” was a regular feature a Readers Digest magazine for many, many years. Maybe they were on to something. Seek balance in your life. Every day. And include laughter in that balance!
Mourn and Dance
“a time to mourn and a time to dance”
A time to mourn. What does it mean “to mourn”? Words and semantics can carry differing minute and subtle messages. To weep, to cry, to shed a tear, to mourn. The strength of the word “mourn” indicates deep, deep sorrow. Crying at the funeral of your mother, father, grandmother, or friend is natural. Mourning is a more lengthy process. And it is truly a process, rather than a moment. “A period of mourning” tells the tale, a prolonged event. Ancient peoples had professional mourners. They were very visible, and mourned publicly for the departed love one. Mourning for a love one may take much longer to work through than the initial days of the funeral period. But this too must pass . . .
There comes another time. A time to dance! Dancing. Joyful. Playfulness. Jumping about with a lighthearted spirit, the sound perhaps broken by laughter. And certainly punctuated with smiles. Consider the many ways dance is expressed: Ballet. Ballroom. Tango. Liturgical. Polka. Country Line Dancing. An Irish Jig. Swing. You get the idea. Dancing is an outward expression of inner joy and drives, and comes in many forms. It is a celebration. An expression of joy, of exuberance. What gives you a reason to dance? Who gives you a reason to dance?
Scatter and Gather
“a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them”
When you were a kid, did you like scattering stones? Or was it more fun to gather them up, to collect them? You are 8 years old. You’re walking along the edge of the creek, you know, the one your mom always tells you to stay away from. You and your best friend Tommy are enjoying a beautiful summer morning. School has only been out for a week and a half. You are walking through the trees and brush, along the left bank, as you come upon the big right bend in the creek. This is the spot! The creek is only narrow enough to jump across or follow the rocks across in a few places. And this is where the creek widens out, there is no way to cross here unless you want to get wet!
This is also where the small gravel bar formed. It’s got some great flat, skipping stones, but you have to look a bit to find them. There’s a smooth grey and white one! Just the right size for your hand. And a smaller red one, must have some clay or iron in it. As so the morning passes. You and Tommy have some great throws. He skipped one 7 times, wow! Not to be outdone, you searched again for that really light weight, pancake thin, smooth flat one. You knew when you found it you had what you needed. 8 skips! Doesn’t get much better than that! Scattering stones. It sure was fun as a kid, wasn’t it?
Of course, no one stays a kid forever. It’s been 31 years since that beautiful summer day, and skipping stones by the old creek. You’ve grown up, settled down, gotten married, and even have a couple of boys of your own. You’re youngest just turned 8 this year as a matter of fact. And today is a big day for him. You make your living as a builder. Stone faced homes in the country are your specialty. And today is National Bring Your Child to Work Day. He’ll be with you all day on the job site. It takes you back to that day by Each one must complement the others. The sizes, shapes, textures, colors, must all work together in unity. The finished home displays strength and character through the careful placement of these stones. Like the building, how do you spend your time? Scattering stones, or gathering them together?the creek. Searching, finding, selecting just the right stone to skip across the creek. There’s more method now, but you’ve built a reputation for superior workmanship, because you take care to choose just the right stones for the homes you build.
Embrace and Refrain
“a time to embrace and a time to refrain”
“Embrace me?” Do you know when to embrace someone, and when to refrain from embracing them? A time to embrace. Embrace to show support. Embrace to show love. Embrace a child. Embrace romantically. Embrace Change. What does it mean to embrace? To clasp in the arms, to hug. To surround or enclose. To receive eagerly. To welcome. To adopt an idea, faith, lifestyle. Remember when you were a small child, and you and your parents visited your grandparents on the farm. Each summer they had that big “family reunion”. Grandma would grab hold of you and squeeze you so hard. Her embrace was firm and her arms surrounded you. Then she’d pinch your tummy and say you had to put some meat on those bones!And then there was aunt Martha. She wasn’t the embracing kind. Instead, she’d reach out and pinch both of your cheeks. Uncle Bob had his own brand of embracing. Actually it was much more of a headlock.
Embracing. The day you left home, for college, for the military, or to strike out on your own – was it a memorable day? With hugs? And warm embraces? Or a day less memorable? Alone. With quiet? Or anger? Or just another day, without embracing? Are moments of embracing pleasant, happy, memories? Does a smile come to your lips, or your heart, when you think back on them? Or look forward to them?
Refrain from Embracing? If there is a time to embrace, what about a time to refrain from embracing? The image is one of contrast: being together with other people, and being alone. Sometimes refraining from an embrace could be a situation where it isn’t appropriate or practical. Sitting in a classroom, or the office, would usually result in people staring at you it you hugged someone. Embracing while driving a car is just a bad idea, it’s impractical.What about when “to refrain from embracing” does mean to be alone? Is it ever good to be alone? Solitude. Yes. Solitude can be a time to reflect. To regroup. To work through processes in your mind. To meditate on the awesome power and love of God. To pray. Solitude can add necessary balance to the rest of your life.
Jesus understood this need for a time, to refrain from embracing. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” ~ Mark 1:35 NIV ~
Search and Give Up
“a time to search and a time to give up”
When was the last time you had to search for something? This morning? Your car keys? Your blue tie with the white and yellow speckled pattern? Your last pair of pantyhose that doesn’t have a run in them? Your history class bibliography? It was in the E:/History/Professor Winthrope folder on your jump drive last night! Searching is a periodic pastime for all of us at times. For some folks it can be a daily occurrence. Or even more frequent. To lose or misplace something is common place. Have you ever considered how the seconds and minutes of your life can add up on mundane tasks like this? Suppose you spend 7 and a half minutes – 450 seconds on average, each day of your life searching for something you need, or want? 450 Seconds doesn’t sound so bad.
- Times 365 days per year = 164,250 seconds
- Times life of 81 years = 13,304,250 seconds.
- Which translates back to 3,695+ Hours
- Or nearly 154 days of your life.
Wow! Imagine spending over 5 months of your life, just searching for something.
But what happens when you find it? What happens when you find your car keys in your old jacket pocket, left from your trip for lawnmower gas last night? It’s a Eureka moment. Sometimes with intense relief, sometimes just with gladness that the search is over. Searching can take may forms. For items, stuff. For information and research. Which HD TV is the best and most affordable? Which store has the best deal on kids clothes when the budget is strained? For truth or spiritual enlightenment? It can be fun, or frustrating. Nonetheless, our lives will continue to have a need, for a time to search.
There can also be a time to stop searching. A time to give up. That sounds like defeat. Remember what you heard as a kid, “no one likes a quitter”.
Perhaps it is not as clear as that. Have you ever been so intent searching for the TV remote, that you missed your son’s phone call to tell he was picked for the varsity team? Did you miss that moment when your daughter stepped out of the bathroom to show you her prom dress, because you were searching for the camera? Minor examples that can be reclaimed. What if your searching led to greater consequences? You are driving in your car, and can’t find that CD above the visor? Hmmmm, 70 mph in the middle lane, heavy commute traffic, that fellow tailgating you, and you can’t find the CD? Is this a time to search, or a time to give up and resume the search later? Are there ever searches that you should give up. For good? How about searches that lead down a path with destructive ends? Searches that discover past family secrets, long since forgotten, though resolved at the time, which would injure reputations today? Is there value pursuing this search? If not, it may be time to give up the search. To everything there is a season, a time to search and a time to give up.
Keep and Throw Away
“a time to keep and a time to throw away”
A time to keep. What do you keep? Are you a collector of coins? A collector of stamps? Do you keep Christmas ribbons and bows to use next year? Do you keep a scapbook or photo album with special memories? We keep people close to our hearts. We keep our favorite books, music, and movies nearby. We keep our favorite jeans, jacket, or dress at easy reach. We protect things in lock boxes, cases, and plastic covers from damage and the elements. We find time to keep something, to save, to protect, or to have it readily available. There is a sense of permanence, a sense of making something last for a lifetime. Traditional marriage vows included the phrase, “to have and to keep, until death do us part.” A vow of love and commitment for a lifetime is “to keep” without comparison. How do you know when it is time to throw away something? Many things in our modern world are designed to throw away after serving their purpose. Paper plates, plastic silverware, batteries, grocery bags all have a short life. After one, or several uses, they are used up, and thrown away
Other things are designed and rushed to market, with an expected short life expectancy. They become obsolete quickly, replaced with newer, faster, cheaper, products to meet the same end-user needs. Eight track tapes, cassettes, CDs, and MP3s. What’s next? The Commodore 64, DOS, 386, 486, Pentiums were common buzz words a few short years ago. Now they are already disappearing from the lexicon. Besides throwing away the “things” around us, do you throw away relationships at times? A friendship that breaks apart, or drifts apart slowly. Have you been on the receiving end of a broken relationship, leaving you feeling that you were thrown away? There is a time to throw away things and bad habits. Some are designed for the short term, some are detrimental. Distinguishing and valuing the “things to keep” from the “things to throw away”, that is the balancing act that takes practice and wisdom