Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, "I have no delight in them" . . .
The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.
(Ecc 12:1, 13-14)
I am amazed at the lengths to which some normally excellent commentators go to transform Solomon's (or his ghost writer's) worldly conclusions in 7:16-17 into spiritual advice. These are the Preacher's musings about the futility of life in this world. They should not be taken as divine directives. His views are limited to life "under the sun," and only occasionally does the thought of God's judgment and reward steal into his reasoning. There is edification in seeing the book as a whole and remembering the Preacher's conclusion in 12:1, 13-14. The big message is this: If we look at life in our fallen world from a temporal perspective, it is only emptiness and futility, not worth living. But when we look at our lives in light of the Creator's purpose for us, in light of eternal, spiritual values, our lives have purpose and satisfaction.