I read through the book of Ecclesiastes this morning. I picture Solomon writing this book as an old man, looking back at his life, and pondering its meaning. Like all of us should do occasionally, he is contemplating the value of life.
On a surface read, you might conclude he is slightly depressed. He sees death coming for him, the fate of all of God’s creatures alike, both men and beasts. We get a glimpse into his mind as he wonders if he’s accomplished anything and will leave anything behind that makes a difference.
Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived, and you can tell he has an incredibly analytical mind, which is probably why I came away with a slightly negative view of life after reading it. There really is nothing new under the sun. We all are going to die. We can build great things, amass lots of possessions, and work hard all our lives, but when we pass away, what do we have? What does it all mean, if life has no greater purpose than its face value of day-to-day living?
Here are a few things we can learn from this book inspired by the Spirit of God.
#1 – We need a proper view of ourselves.
The rhythm of life will continue on regardless, so we should not think so highly of ourselves as to believe our actions will interrupt God’s sovereign plan for the world. We stress over decisions and fret over mistakes as though the world will stop turning. Instead, we ought to take a deep breath and trust that God is in charge, and we can’t bring the world to a halt. On the flip side, we can do away with the assumption that everything depends on us to keep it going. If we miss something or fail to achieve all our goals, the world will still go on. Step back, reassess, and move forward.
#2 – We need a proper view of pleasure and possessions.
Solomon was the perfect person to teach us this lesson. He was the richest man in the world at the time, and he denied himself no pleasure. For real. The man had 300 wives and 600 concubines. He deliberately set out to test the meaning of life through pleasure and possessions. In the end, he concluded it’s all vanity. It all passes away. The best thing to do is enjoy what God gives you – enough to eat and drink, a few good relationships, and profitable labor that fills our days and provides for our needs and allows us to be generous to others. We should enjoy the blessings of the world we live in but hold them loosely, as they are quickly gone.
#3 – We need a proper view of God.
The last chapter begins with the words, 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.’ In other words, the older you get the harder it is to humble your heart before God. The better choice is to surrender your life early and live that life with the perspective that all things center on Him. He created, He sustains, and He redeems our soul and spirit by the blood of Jesus Christ. Without the perspective of God as the center, our lives truly are meaningless.
We must read Ecclesiastes in light of all scripture. The rest of the Bible tells us the story of Jesus, who came to give us abundant, eternal life, not just seventy or eighty years of trying to balance our sorrows and pain with brief, temporary pleasures. Solomon concludes his pondering with a warning.
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. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)
Life has meaning beyond the grave because of Jesus. If you know Him, the best is yet to come, but if you don’t, this world is the best you will ever know. I choose Jesus. He is the meaning of life.