KNOW [O men] that the life of this world is but a play and a passing delight, and a beautiful show, and [the cause of] your boastful vying with one another, and [of your] greed for more and more riches and children.29
Its parable is that of30
[life-giving] rain: the herbage which it causes to grow delights the tillers of the soil;31
but then it withers, and thou canst see it turn yellow; and in the end it crumbles into dust. But [the abiding truth of man's condition will become fully apparent] in the life to come: [either] suffering severe, or32
God's forgiveness and His goodly acceptance: for the life of this world is nothing but an enjoyment of self-delusion.
Commenting at length on this passage, Razi makes it clear that life as such is not to be despised, inasmuch as it has been created by God: cf. 38:27 - "We have not created heaven and earth and all that is between them without meaning and purpose"; and 23:115 - "Did you think that We have created you in mere idle play?" But whereas life in itself is a positive gift of God and - as Razi points out - the potential source of all blessings, it loses this positive quality if it is indulged in recklessly, blindly and with disregard of spiritual values and considerations: in brief, if it is indulged in without any thought of the hereafter.
Lit., "[It is] like the parable of...", etc.
This is the sole instance in the Qur'an where the participial noun kafir (in its plural form kuffar) has its original meaning of "tiller of the soil". For the etymology of this meaning, see note  on 74:10 , where the term kafir (in the sense of "denier of the truth") appears for the first time in the sequence of Qur'anic revelation.
According to Tabari, the conjunction wa has here the meaning of aw ("or").