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. Ecclesiastes 11:9
Whether you are a Christian or a Jew, if you have accepted God as your King, you have committed to living your life according to God's will. This means taking the moral high-ground even when it might be easier to lower your standards. It means doing the right thing even when it is unpopular. It means being generous and kind even when you are tired and spent.
Today, I want to encourage us for the moments when serving God feels more like a burden than a privilege, even though deep down we know the opposite to be true.
In Ecclesiastes we read, "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 . . ." King Solomon is addressing the young person in us all the young man or woman who wants to have fun and do whatever he or she wants.
It's the teenager inside who never grew up and who values immediate gratification without a thought to the ramifications. To that part of us, Solomon said, "Go ahead. Do whatever you want. Follow your desires. No one is forcing you to accept the yoke of God's Kingdom."
However, the verse doesn't end there. It continues, "but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment." No one will force us to live a moral and ethical life, but as the verse warns, there will be consequences for our behavior. Though they may not be immediate, and while it may seem at times that the wicked flourish, there is judgment day for us all. At that time, righteousness will be rewarded while wickedness will endure harsh consequences.
The Jewish sages share the following parable in reference to this verse. A bird was confined to its cage. Another bird came and said, "You must be so happy to have all your food given to you without having to look for it!" The confined bird replied, "How pitiful! You see my food, but you cannot see the bars on my cage."
Among the lessons in this parable is that if we think living a life unbound by morality or God's will is better, we aren't seeing the full picture. If we look at a little slice of life, we might see non-believers having a grand old time. However, we don't see the cage. We don't see the unhappiness and unhealthy side of living a life without self-restraint. We also don't see the final judgment. Today, see the big picture and know that though serving God may be difficult at times, the reward is unimaginable and the benefits unfathomable.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President