Utterly Meaningful | Ecclesiastes

Welcome to Real Life. What makes life meaningful?
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
Ecclesiastes 1:2
If this was my teacher, I’d probably drop the class! Who is this jaded educator? He is generally accepted to be Solomon, son of David, King of Israel.[1] He is considered the wisest man who ever lived. In his latter years, Solomon ponders a lifetime of seeking fulfillment in power, projects, and pleasure. His vast wealth[2] enabled him to chase every dream, scratch every itch, and indulge every desire. What does he find at the end of his rainbow? Everything is meaningless.


Some wonder how Ecclesiastes found its way into the holy writ. Had Solomon lost his faith? The key is recognizing his perspective. Most of the Bible is written from God’s eternal perspective. In Ecclesiastes, however, Solomon focuses primarily on our cradle-to-grave experience. Chasing every dream, scratching every itch, and indulging every desire is thrilling and fulfilling—for a season. But in the end, it becomes utterly meaningless.

“No need to try it. I’ve been there, done it all. Don’t waste your life on empty pursuits,” the Teacher advises. “Instead, look around. Be satisfied with the blessings God has given. More will not make you happy.”

I find the Teacher’s words meaningful. For I tend to be a perfectionist, a striver, a person unable to rest until everything is right. The problem is everything is never right. Repeatedly, the Teacher gives me permission to relax and to be content with life's simple blessings.
  • A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? (2:24-26)
  • I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. (3:12-13)
  • This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart. (5:18-20)
  • So 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. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun. (8:15)
Work. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. “Is this all there is?” I remember thinking before I knew the Lord. But add God to the equation and add enjoyment, satisfaction, and gladness of heart. The joy of the Lord is our strength! More importantly, add God and add purpose. What we do today—work, eat, sleep, pray, love, serve—matters for eternity. God changed my meaningless into meaningful. He transforms black-and-white into living color.



Although the Teacher opens with the utterly meaningless, he concludes with the utterly meaningful. For cradle-to-grave isn’t all there is.

The last and final word is this:
Fear God.
Do what he tells you.
And that’s it.
Eventually God will bring everything that we do
out into the open and judge it according to its hidden intent,
whether it’s good or evil.
(Ecclesiastes 12:13–14 The Message)


Dear Lord God,
You are the giver of every good gift—love, joy, purpose.
Help us recognize the blessings that surround us
And be grateful.
Lord, empower us to do good and be good.
May our lives reflect your heart of goodness and love.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.



Take it Further...

Fear God? How can I love and draw near to God if I am afraid of him? In the book of Proverbs, Solomon writes, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10). My fear of God was the beginning of my faith. I feared God’s judgment. I feared hell. So, I turned away from my selfish, sinful behavior and turned to God. I asked Jesus to forgive my sins, save my soul, and be my Savior. (Learn more by calling 888-NEED-HIM or visit Chat About Jesus.) The more I grow in my relationship with Christ and experience his love, his perfect love casts out my fear.

There is no fear in love.
But perfect love drives out fear,
because fear has to do with punishment.
The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
(1 John 4:18 NIV)

Today, I fear God in the sense that I deeply respect him. Because I love him, I don’t want to offend or displease him. But I am not afraid to get close to my God. Though I still mess up and sin, I do not fear his judgment because I've placed my faith in Jesus Christ. God loved us so much, he sent his Son to take our place, our punishment, our judgment on the cross. Jesus Christ shed his blood to pay for our pardon. I pray you, too, will place your faith in Jesus Christ. So that, you will come to know and experience God’s love and his perfect love will cast out your fear. 

_____

Image of Solomon: Colorized version of King Solomon in Old Age by Gustave Doré (1866); a depiction of the purported author of Ecclesiastes, according to rabbinic tradition; By Yitzilitt - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=107310586
[1] Ecclesiastes 1:1
[2] In today’s dollars, Solomon’s net worth would be $2.2 trillion, or the combined total of the forty richest people in the world today.

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