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Eat, drink, and be merry

Updated: Nov 21, 2018

Question: "Is ‘eat, drink, and be merry’ a biblical concept?"

Answer: The phrase eat, drink, and be merry or eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die has been used for centuries throughout literature. Usually this phrase is understood as “enjoy life as much as possible because we won’t live forever.” While the phrase’s wording is an amalgamation of several verses in the Bible (including Isaiah 22:13, Ecclesiastes 8:15, 1 Corinthians 15:32, and Luke 12:19), the underlying principle is quite opposite from biblical teaching.

In Isaiah 22, the prophet warns the people of Jerusalem that their hypocritical nature will be their downfall. When the Lord had called for weeping and mourning over impending invasion, instead the people said flippantly, “Let us eat and drink . . . for tomorrow we die” (verse 13). God’s response to their disobedience was to proclaim, “Till your dying day this sin will not be atoned for” (verse 14).

Some suppose that Ecclesiastes 8 supports the concept of “eat, drink, and be merry.” Verse 15 says, “I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad.” Is Solomon, the author, advocating a hedonistic lifestyle here? No, it’s important to keep the verse in context. Just a few sentences earlier, Solomon had promoted righteousness and warned against wickedness: “I know that it will go better with those who fear God, who are reverent before him. Yet because the wicked do not fear God, it will not go well with them” (verses 12–13). So, reverence of God is better than pursuing sin. Then, in verse 14, Solomon notices that in this world the righteous are often mistreated and punished as if they were wicked. This is a “vanity” (ESV), and Solomon’s response is basically to say, “We should be thankful for our lot in life, whatever it is. We should eat our food, drink our wine, and be happy.” In no way does this verse promote gluttony, drunkenness, or the party life. Rather, Solomon is advocating the same principle Paul lays down in 1 Timothy 6:8: “If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”

Jesus shares the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:13–21, wherein a successful man has more crops than he knows what to do with. The man decides to tear down his barns and build larger ones, telling himself, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry” (verse 19, ESV). The rich fool seems to be quoting Ecclesiastes 8:15, but he twists it into a cover for his recklessly blithe attitude. God disapproves of the rich man’s shortsightedness, and the man dies that very night, leaving all his riches behind. Jesus explains that the one who lays up treasure for himself is not rich in God’s eyes (verse 20–21; also see Matthew 6:19–21.)

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