February 6, 2014.
“Vanity of Vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity!”
Is life worthless? Is there any point to all we do under the sun?
This is the question that Solomon is addressing basically in the entire book of Ecclesiastes. This book is often credited with a dismal outlook on life by the wise King Solomon lamenting over the fact that everything is ultimately pointless. Granted, the book can easily be taken that way. I, however, view the book in an optimistic light.
Now, before you write me off as crazy (as I may well be), let me explain. Solomon was probably the most intelligent and wise person to ever walk the earth. He was also probably the richest man to ever live. Using his wisdom and resources, he set out to find the true meaning of life. He tried everything. And I mean everything. He amassed gold, had hired singers and dancing, searched for knowledge, played the fool, married 700 wives, had 300 concubines, met with many world leaders… you name it, he probably did it. And this was all in search of true happiness and satisfaction.
What did he find? You guessed it– everything was ultimately worthless. No matter what he tried, or how much he had, he was never satisfied. The more he learned, it seemed the more depressed he got. It got so bad, that it came to a point in chapter 3 of what I would argue as Solomon’s questioning of God, who directly gave him his wisdom and riches.
“Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?”
I believe Solomon is hitting the bottom of his depression in this chapter. So where’s the good news? Where’s the optimism? Well, I think this comes from what Solomon did find.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.”
Time and again, we see throughout the preacher’s message that Solomon encourages all men to find pleasure in the work we do. Here he says it is the gift of God. I think this is a good principle that even those who do not believe the bible put into practice. We say you should choose your career based on what you love to do. At the very least, Solomon is saying that in whatever we do, we should find joy in it. We were made to be workers. A life of ease where one does not have to work is a lie that society whispers sweetly in our ears.
“He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.”
There is so much I could write about this book, because I love it so much. This is only the beginning of why I think this is a positive book, when viewed in the right light. I think I will stop here for the day and continue tomorrow. Stay tuned for the meaning of life!
Suggested Daily Reading: Ecclesiastes 1-6
The Lord grant you wisdom.