What Did the Wise Man Mean?
Make Wise Use of the Strength of Youth
When one has the strength and vigor of youth, life can be delightful. Wise King Solomon wrote: “Rejoice, young man, in your youth, and let your heart do you good in the days of your young manhood, and walk in the ways of your heart and in the things seen by your eyes. But know that on account of all these the true God will bring you into judgment. So remove vexation from your heart, and ward off calamity from your flesh; for youth and the prime of life are vanity.”—Eccl. 11:9, 10.
The Creator wants youths to enjoy life and does not take a rigidly negative view of youthful interests and what appeals to the desires of young hearts and eyes. However, the young person needs to remember that he is still accountable to God for his actions. Though allowing youths freedom of choice, the Most High will not shield them from the bitter consequences of pursuing a wrong course. By avoiding a reckless, debauched way of life, youths can guard themselves against all kinds of frustrations and injury.
Solomon, by inspiration, writes that “youth and the prime of life are vanity.” Why so? For one thing, a person obviously does not remain young forever. Likewise, the joys and advantages of youthful strength and vigor are of uncertain duration. Even young people get sick and die. The youth who ignores this may fail to make wise use of what he has, dissipating his physical energies and capabilities in a way of life that can make his later adult years more difficult.
Most appropriately, therefore, King Solomon calls attention to the one whom youths should make the focal point of their lives. He states: “Remember, now, your Grand Creator in the days of your young manhood, before the calamitous days proceed to come, or the years have arrived when you will say: ‘I have no delight in them’; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds have returned, afterward the downpour.”—Eccl. 12:1, 2.
There is no better time to think seriously about the Creator than when a person is in his prime, when he can really give the very best in the service of the Most High. That ability wanes during the “calamitous days” of old age when the body is weak and ailing. Especially the person who has wasted his youth will “have no delight” in the declining years of his life. Solomon likens the time of youth to the Palestinian summer when sun, moon and stars shed their light from a cloudless sky. In old age that time is gone and the days are like the cold, rainy season of winter, with one downpour of trouble followed by another.
Describing the effects of old age on the human body, which he compares to a house, Solomon continues: “In the day when the keepers of the house [the hands and arms which take care of the body and supply its needs] tremble, and the men of vital energy [the legs] have bent themselves, and the grinding women [the teeth] have quit working because they have become few, and the ladies seeing at the windows [the eyes] have found it dark; and the doors [of the mouth, the lips] onto the street have been closed [for public expression is rarely made], when the sound of the grinding mill becomes low [as chewing with toothless gums becomes low and indistinct], and one gets up at the sound of a bird [because sleep is very light], and all the daughters of song sound low [since hearing is defective; furthermore, the voice is weak, making any singing of songs feeble].”—Eccl. 12:3, 4.
“Also, they have become afraid merely at what is high [recognizing the danger of a possible fall], and there are terrors in the way [public thoroughfares are now filled with dangers on account of poor eyesight and hearing as well as slowed reflexes]. And the almond tree carries blossoms [the hair turns white and falls out like the white petals of almond blossoms that drop to the ground], and the grasshopper [an old person, stiff and bent, with elbows thrust backward, might resemble a grasshopper] drags itself along, and the caper berry bursts [for it fails to stimulate desire for food in an old person whose appetite has weakened], because man is walking to his long-lasting house [the grave] and the wailers have marched around in the street; before the silver cord [the spinal cord] is removed, and the golden bowl [the bowllike cranium with its brain content] gets crushed, and the jar [the heart] at the spring is broken, and the water wheel for the cistern [the circulatory system] has been crushed. Then the dust returns to the earth just as it happened to be and the spirit [the life force] itself returns to the true God who gave it.” (Eccl. 12:5-7) This return of the spirit or life force to God signifies that control over the spirit now rests with the Most High. God alone can restore the dead person to life.
Truly wise is the youth who uses his time and energies well in serving the Creator. He will have no regrets about this in adult life and will be in a far better position to cope with loss of physical strength. Besides, by living in harmony with the Creator’s commands, he is safeguarded against losing his health and vigor prematurely.