Reprinted from When Thou Sittest In Thine House, by Abraham Kuyper, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1929. Used by permission of Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Home Happiness o thy way,” so says the Preacher (Eccl. 9:7), “eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.”
And this he says not once, but every time comes back to it again. “For a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat and to drink, and to be merry; for that shall abide with him of his labor all the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun” (Eccl. 8:15).
Many a pious man who is spiritually disposed takes offense at this utterance, among Moderns as well as among Orthodox, even though, from reverence for the Scriptures, many Orthodox people would not openly confess it.
What Jesus said: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you,” addresses the heart that seeks God; but not so this interpretation of life, which is sensual at heart, and which ends in eating and drinking.
And, of course, if this were the sense and the purport of what the Preacher says, every child of God would have to oppose the Preacher, and the whole book would have to be put out of Scripture.
But such is not the sense of the Preacher.
He has in view something altogether different, something that real Christians of all lands can so well understand.
He had a knowledge of men, and his look went deep into the human heart. He saw with others, and experienced with himself, that our heart does not incline to esteem properly what our portion in life is, the lot appointed to us, the talent entrusted to us, but continually stretches out the hand after what is more and higher and less ordinary.
He had observed what endless treasures of life’s happiness that had been given of God to the children of men were thereby lost. And against this willful destruction of one’s own happiness of life, he enters his protest, admonishing everyone that he should take pleasure in the ordinary, everyday life and have an eye for the treasure of life’s happiness that that ordinary life contains.
Always to be at home, never to have any change, just ordinary living is what every growing youth, and every young woman, oh so easily looks down upon from the heights.
There is nothing to it, it bores, it makes one dull and doting.
No, this tameness of existence must be ended. What we want must be sought outside. In what is uncommon. In what is extra. In what is not of everyday recurrence.
Such is the call that is abroad. Till the booty found in the uncommon disappoints more bitterly than the common. And in the end, weary of life, one has no more pleasure either in the everyday concerns nor in what is uncommon.
One had bread and wanted pastry. And the end is that both pastry and bread nauseate.
And against this altogether unhealthy interpretation of life the Preacher raises objection, and points out that the real nerve of our happiness in life must be sought in what is common, in the ordinary, in things of everyday recurrence, in home-life, and that it is against the ordinance of God, and misappreciation of His love in everyday life, when the bread-crumbs of domesticity vex us.
And therefore he says:
“Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works. Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment. Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which God has given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity; for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labor which thou takest under the sun. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.”
And to this, all who understand aright the tie of nature andgrace still respond with a wholehearted Amen.
. . . to be concluded.