The phrase “eat, drink, and be merry” has found its way into popular culture, often used to justify a hedonistic lifestyle or to simply encourage others to enjoy life. But does this concept have its roots in Scripture? And if so, is it an invitation to indulge in our desires, or is it a call to something deeper? In this blog post, we will explore the origins of this phrase in the Bible, particularly in the New King James Version (NKJV), and determine whether it is indeed scriptural.
We will examine the contexts in which the phrase appears in the Bible, discuss its implications for our lives, and consider whether the saying is consistent with the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. To do this, we will delve into both the Old and New Testaments, drawing from a variety of passages to better understand the full scope of this phrase’s meaning.
The Old Testament Context
The phrase “eat, drink, and be merry” appears in a few different forms throughout the Old Testament. One of the most well-known instances is in Ecclesiastes 8:15:
So I commended enjoyment, because a man has nothing better under the sun than to eat, drink, and be merry; for this will remain with him in his labor all the days of his life which God gives him under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 8:15, NKJV)
In this context, King Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes, is discussing the futility of human endeavors in the grand scheme of things. He observes that life is short and full of uncertainties, and therefore, people should find joy in the simple pleasures of life, such as eating, drinking, and being merry. It is important to note that Solomon is not advocating for reckless indulgence but rather an enjoyment of the blessings God has given us.
Another instance of this phrase can be found in Isaiah 22:13:
But instead, joy and gladness, Slaying oxen and killing sheep, Eating meat and drinking wine: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” (Isaiah 22:13, NKJV)
This passage portrays a different context, as the people of Jerusalem are celebrating in the face of impending doom. They have chosen to indulge in feasting and revelry, adopting a fatalistic attitude. While the phrase itself may sound similar to that in Ecclesiastes, it is used here to criticize the people’s actions, which are far removed from the heart of God.
The New Testament Context
In the New Testament, the phrase appears in a parable told by Jesus in Luke 12:16-21:
Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21, NKJV)
The rich man in the parable is so focused on his own wealth and comfort that he neglects to consider his relationship with God. The phrase “eat, drink, and be merry” is used here to emphasize the man’s self-centeredness and shortsightedness. Jesus uses this story as a warning against greed and a reminder that our true treasure should be our relationship with God, not material possessions.
In 1 Corinthians 15:32, the Apostle Paul also references the phrase, but with a different purpose:
If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me? If the dead do not rise, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” (1 Corinthians 15:32, NKJV)
Paul quotes the phrase from Isaiah to argue that, without the hope of the resurrection, life would be meaningless, and hedonism would be the only logical response. However, he goes on to assert the truth of Christ’s resurrection, which gives our lives eternal significance and calls us to live according to God’s purposes.
A Deeper Understanding
While the phrase “eat, drink, and be merry” is indeed found in Scripture, it is clear that it does not promote a lifestyle of hedonistic indulgence. Instead, the Bible encourages us to find joy and contentment in the simple blessings that God provides and to keep our focus on our relationship with Him.
In the Old Testament, Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes remind us that life is fleeting and uncertain, and that we should appreciate the gifts God has given us. However, this appreciation should not lead us to indulge in excess, but rather to live in gratitude and be mindful of our dependence on God.
In the New Testament, Jesus’ parable warns us against placing our trust in material wealth and encourages us to seek treasure in our relationship with God. Paul’s use of the phrase in 1 Corinthians emphasizes the importance of the resurrection and the eternal significance of our lives in Christ.
So, is “eat, drink, and be merry” scriptural? Yes, but not as an endorsement of hedonistic living. Instead, the Bible teaches us to find joy in the everyday blessings that God provides, while keeping our focus on our eternal relationship with Him.
As Christians, we must be careful not to misuse this phrase as a justification for self-indulgence or reckless living. Rather, we should embrace the deeper message found within the contexts of Scripture – that true fulfillment and joy come from a life centered on God and His purposes.
In conclusion, the phrase “eat, drink, and be merry” may have roots in Scripture, but it is not a call to hedonism. Instead, it serves as a reminder to enjoy the gifts of God, while remaining focused on our relationship with Him and our eternal destiny. By understanding the context and meaning of this phrase, we can live lives that are rich in gratitude, joy, and purpose, ultimately glorifying God in all that we do.