9:7 Go [get up and enjoy the good gifts God gives us to enjoy in this life], eat your food with gladness [enjoy your meals; cf. Prov. 15:17; 17:1], and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do [God approves of our enjoying and making the most of life].
The Roman poet Horace coined the Latin expression “Carpe diem!” which means “seize the day.” Robin Williams made this expression popular in the movie “Dead Poets Society.” Solomon would agree that we should seize or make the most of every day.
Because life is brief and death is unavoidable, Solomon urged that we get up and enjoy the good gifts God gives us to enjoy in this life. It is better to enjoy what may be enjoyed than to brood over what we cannot change. Therefore we should eat and drink with a cheerful heart. We should live each day with the assurance that God approves of our enjoying His daily provisions and blessings and our making the most of life (see Ps. 118:24).
9:8 [enjoy special occasions] Always [look for ways to make the everyday things special] be clothed in white [the color of joy and celebration], and always anoint your head with oil [perfume; cf. Prov. 27:9].
People tend to wear their best clothing or to use their best china only on special occasions. It was no different in Solomon’s day. Ordinary people wore ordinary garments and reserved their best garments for special and festive occasions such as weddings. Solomon advised people to wear white garments all the time and to always anoint themselves with oil or special perfume.
White was a symbol of cheerfulness, joy, and celebration. People wore white garments and perfumed or anointed themselves with oils only on important or festive occasions. Solomon was not suggesting that people literally wear white garments or anoint themselves with oil every day. Rather he was saying that people should delight in and make every occasion special, no matter how ordinary or routine.
9:9 Enjoy life with your wife [enjoy your marriage; cf. Prov. 18:22; 19:14], whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun.
I was fortunate to grow up in a home where my parents modeled love and commitment to each other. As a child I was surrounded by reminders of their love—photographs affectionately signed or old love letters tucked away in safe places. My parents never wavered in their love, admiration, and respect for each another.
Solomon believed that a wife is a gift from God (see Prov. 18:22; 19:14) and that marriage was meant to be enjoyed. For this, Solomon said, is your lot in life. God approves of marital happiness between a man and a woman. A couple who love each other and are faithful to their marriage vows can enjoy a lifetime of happiness, in spite of the difficulties they may face along the way.
9:10 Whatever your hand finds to do [enjoy your work; cf. 2 Thess. 3:10], do it with all your might [do your best; cf. Col. 3:17], for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.
Solomon was not an advocate of laziness, sloppy work habits, or merely drifting along in life. He noticed and admired the industrious work habits of ants and urged slackers to follow the example of these tiny and tireless workers (Prov. 6:6-11).
Paul also echoed Solomon’s sentiments about work when he wrote that those unwilling to work should not eat (see 2 Thess. 3:10). Solomon encouraged hard and honest labor and making the most of every opportunity to work while on this side of the grave. He was by no means advocating workaholism. Workaholics seldom enjoy the kind of happy marriages Solomon described in the previous verse. Instead, Solomon believed that we should enjoy our work and always do our best.
9:11 I have seen something else under the sun: [our abilities are no guarantee of success] The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance [means occurrence or event] happen to them all.
Success happens when preparation meets opportunity. Some might argue that success comes to those who are at the right place at the right time. The late Zig Ziglar said that it is our attitude, not our aptitude, that ultimately determines our altitude. When it comes to success most people would agree that there are certain assets or abilities that can increase the possibility of success.
Solomon listed five assets of those most likely to succeed in life—being swift, strong, wise, brilliant, and learned. However, Solomon said that having these human abilities does not necessarily guarantee success. The world is not fair. Those who appear to be the least likely to succeed sometimes come out on top. God may allow time and chance to frustrate the progress of the strong or to facilitate the progress of the weak.
9:12 Moreover, no man knows when his hour [evil or bad times; death] will come [note examples of how easily the opportunity to enjoy life can end]: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them [cf. admonition in Jas. 4:13-17].
No one is immune from experiencing disappointing or disastrous reverses in this life. Regardless of what measures we take to build hedges around our lives, we cannot keep all difficulties at bay. And, no one knows exactly when such times may come. Solomon said that such times often catch us by surprise. One minute we are freely and happily going about our business and the next we find ourselves like fish unexpectedly caught in a cruel net, or like birds caught in a trap.
James echoed this same concern in the New Testament when he reminded those confidently engaged in business ventures that they had no guarantee of tomorrow (see James 4:13-17). Regardless of our hard and diligent work, we may experience defeat, deprivation, or disfavor. However, even though at times we may act responsibly and experience disappointing or disastrous reverses, we are to continue living responsibly before God.