Saturday, October 30, 2010

Consuming, Imbibing, and Engaging In Amusement

First off, it's Rally to Restore Sanity Day. It's going on right now, in fact. Go, be fruitful and propagate the mindset.

But I would advise you to be careful before you eat, drink and be merry. Surely, you have heard of the phrase. I'm not so sure you know its origin or, more importantly, its context. So, today, let's take care of that.

The phrase 'eat, drink and be merry' comes from the Bible, first off. Bible-wise, that doesn't say much all by itself. There are a lot of different anecdotes that eating, drinking and being merry could be plugged into. The Last Supper. The Garden of Eden. Samson living it up.

In actuality, "Eat, drink and be merry" pops up twice. The first comes in Ecclesiastes 8:15. As the King James version puts it, "Then I commended mirth, because 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 the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun." Sounds pretty close to what everyone imagines it to be, right?

Let's fill in the surrounding verses, 11-17. This we'll use New International for, even though it changes the key phrase, because it's much, much easier to make out; King James is a tad on the archaic side.

When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong. Although a wicked man commits a hundred crimes and still lives a long time, I know that it will go better with God-fearing men, who are reverent before God. Yet because the wicked do not fear God, it will not go well with them, and their days will not lengthen like a shadow.

There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: righteous men who get what the wicked deserve, and wicked men who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless. So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun.

When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe man's labor on earth—his eyes not seeing sleep day or night- then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it.

What you see here, in the entire chapter, is King Solomon recognizing the limits of wisdom. Sometimes life just doesn't make any sense, sometimes the bad guys win and you don't know why, and sometimes you're just not going to understand it. And if you spend too much time trying, you're going to drive yourself nuts, so you might as well lighten up once in a while.

Again, pretty much by the book.

I said there was a second place it popped up, though. Luke 12:19. The King James original: "And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry."

Still about how one would imagine it. This time, though, context hits like a ton of bricks. It's part of Jesus' Parable of the Rich Fool. Switching back to New International, which this time keeps the key phrase, for verses 13-21.

Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me." Jesus replied, "Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?" Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'

"Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."'

"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'

"This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."

Jesus is railing against fuigmism. The message: Eat, drink, be merry... but make sure you let those around you join in. You can really only get a certain amount of merry from having a lot of stuff, and you can really only eat and drink so much. Be nice. Spread it around. Others would like to be merry too.

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