One day in high school study hall, I decided to read Ecclesiastes. I ended up reading almost the entire book in that one class period! I couldn’t wait for the writer to tell me the answer to his repetitive question: What is the meaning of life?
The author, referred to as the Teacher, discusses his search to find the meaning of life, but repeatedly ends each mini-quests concluding, “This too is meaningless!”
As I was thinking about this in my Algebra class later that day, I doodled “Life is Meaningless…” in big bubble letters across the top of my homework. My teacher grew concerned when she saw what I’d wrote and asked if I was okay. I laughed to myself, assuring her there was nothing to worry about – that it was from the Bible.
I recently re-read this book and was again compelled by the Teacher’s search for meaning in life. He searches for meaning in pleasure, riches, wisdom, work, political power – and he concludes it’s all meaningless. While this book of poetry is somewhat depressing and decidedly cynical, it has a way of shifting one’s priorities and perspective on life.
Despite the negative vibe the book gives off throughout, the Teacher does give us some of his conclusions:
So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him? Ecclesiastes 2:24-25, NLT.
“But I did find this: God created people to be virtuous, but they have each turned to follow their own downward path.” Ecclesiastes 7:29.
Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave, there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom. Ecclesiastes 9:10.
Young people, it’s wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do. Ecclesiastes 11:9.
That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. Ecclesiastes 12:13.
Ultimately, an eternal perspective is the only one that enables us to properly and effectively enjoy life in a truly fulfilling way.
Maintaining a clear understanding of what really matters (that which lasts into eternity) versus what is merely temporary is not only key to living a meaningful life, but is also so very freeing. This eternal perspective answers the questions of which hills are worth dying on. It helps us choose our battles wisely. It allows us to get satisfaction from work and simple pleasures. It shifts our priorities into line more easily.
This eternal perspective enables us to embrace a life full of meaning – a life fulfilled by God – a life that serves its sole purpose: to glorify God and delight in Him.
Best depressing book ever.