But my perception of Ecclesiastes was adjusted recently while studying the book in the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) version. I usually use the ESV or NIV in my personal study, but in this case I was reading Ecclesiastes 11 in the HCSB on the BibleGateway site which provides free access to dozens of translations.
What particularly tweaked my interest was the title that the Holman Bible gave to this chapter. While chapter titles are not part of the inspired word, of course, they can sometimes help summarize what the text is saying. In this case, the HCSB titles Ecclesiastes 11 “Invest in Life” and I was almost surprised, when I thought about it, at the very positive theme of the chapter. I realized that my perceptions of Ecclesiastes itself had led me not to expect such a positive theme to run throughout a whole chapter of the book, but the HCSB translators are correct. Take a look at these verses from the chapter:
Ecclesiastes 11 - Invest in Life
“Send your bread on the surface of the waters,
for after many days you may find it.
Give a portion to seven or even to eight …
In the morning sow your seed,
and at evening do not let your hand rest,
because you don’t know which will succeed,
whether one or the other,
or if both of them will be equally good.
Light is sweet, and it is pleasing for the eyes to see the sun.
Indeed, if a man lives many years, let him rejoice in them all …”
Certainly the chapter concludes with a sober assessment, as does the whole book of Ecclesiastes, but looking at it from the perspective of the title “Invest in Life,” I could not fail to see the “carpe diem” aspect of the chapter and its stress on using life’s opportunities. It’s a physical principle, but it applies spiritually, of course. How are we investing in spiritual life? (See the "Parable of the Ten Minas" in Luke 19:11-27.)
For example, seeing something in Ecclesiastes that I had not expected to find there made me think how often we can find “investment returns” in unexpected places in God’s word. Often in our personal study we tend to gravitate to those books and chapters where we know we will find encouragement or a positive message. Ecclesiastes 11 reminded me that I need to diversify my investment in my study of God’s word - just as the chapter reminds us we should diversify our investments in life.
(For more information on Bible translations, see our articles: "Choosing a Bible Translation" and "Try a New Translation.")