The voice of Solomon is in places the voice of overcooked wisdom. He goes back and forth between indulgence and diligence, devotion and despair, idealism and realism. Fortunately there is an integrated perspective at the end: live is hard (and gets harder as your body starts to fall apart) and wisdom is limited (though talk of wisdom isn’t) so just keep focusing on what God actually wants you to do. That is what will count. So what should I do?
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. (14) For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.
Psalm 1 is an image I go back to over and over. Chaff (the flakey organic wrapper around grain) is what I will be like if I just follow the typical worldly pattern. No weightiness, just trivial excess in the world waiting to be blown away. The alternative is to get connected to a source which will cause me to grow in ways far beyond what would be expected, to actually be like a fruit bearing tree that is strong and fresh. That is a life rooted in God and his revelation of what I am to do.
Jesus models this in his baptism with John, showing that he believes in the rightness of God the father and his ways. His declaration is tested physically, relationally and spiritually in the desert. He then goes about stating clearly that we can change our thinking and actually live with trust that God is in charge of our very real lives right here, right now. He also shows it by caring for many and then explains it to apprentices he is showing how to do likewise.
The talk on the hill is a sit down and sort it out time. Hard realities are stated. There is a life that is good, but it is not easy or obvious. Ways of coping with the complexities of life have to be broken down to be replaced with a genuine reliance on God as the source of everything. Only then will there be enough to experience the confidence of actually doing the conclusion of Solomon’s pondering.
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.