Lots of people live and die for the rewards that life brings them. They have set their hope on getting the next promotion, making the next million, or just getting a better job.
The Preacher of Ecclesiastes lived in a world where there were no guarantees of success, even if one does what is right. Rewards for righteous living are “in the hand of God” which means that they are out of our hands. Strike hope #1.
Some people seem to live for death. They have given up on any substantial reward in living, and just hope to make it to the pearly gates after they die.
The Preacher said that we cannot expect reward at death, because the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and have no more reward. There is no work or thought in Sheol, where the dead go. Strike hope #2.
These are unpleasant truths, and many religious people refuse to believe them. But they are the truth.
They are just not the whole truth. The whole truth came with the Truth, Jesus Christ (John 14:6), who promised a resurrection (John 6:39,40,44,54). Without him, life has no meaning, and the righteous have no reward. The Christian obeys out of faith in Christ, knowing that a relationship with him is crucial. Jesus, not prosperity or death, will make it all worth while.
Really, we should not be satisfied with rewards other than Christ. Our work, our study, our relationships – none of these should become ends in themselves. Otherwise, we risk these good things becoming idols for us. Jesus should be the reason we get up in the morning, and go to bed at night. In between, all of the things we think and do should be Christ-focused, Christocentric. That way, it won’t matter if we succeed at this plan or that, because our reward is Jesus, not our success.
LORD, give us faith in Christ, not faith in success or faith in death. May he become our only reward.