Ecclesiastes has been heralded by many, Christian and not Christian, as one of the greatest literary works of all time. Many a man and woman have found inspiration, life advice and consolation in its verses.
But Ecclesiastes is also a very difficult book. It has many different layers of meaning and some very deep conversation takes place in its pages. Conversation about life and work, about love and relationships, about God and his purpose for humanity.
Many believe that the book was written by Solomon, near the end of his life; after his wives, many possessions and multitude of successes had lead him away from following after God with his whole heart. With the clarity of 20/20 hindsight, Solomon spends some of his last days reflecting on all that he has chased after with such fervency. In that reflection, we find a man deeply repentant for wasting his time chasing after things that, like all things, will either pass away with him, or outlive him to be enjoyed by another. Solomon’s list of accomplishments is impressive even by today’s standards, and yet in this book we find him deeply convinced that all of those accomplishments are empty.
Some might read Ecclesiastes and protest that it is depressing, like the book of Job. But I would argue that Ecclesiastes is sobering. It reminds us that the things of this life are only ours for a season. Money, possessions, accomplishments, they may all seem like a good thing to chase after, but in the end they pass away as surely as we will.
In that light, Solomon’s conclusions are completely accurate: enjoy life. Enjoy what you have while you have it. What is the point of killing yourself toiling for what someone else will get to enjoy? It actually ties in quite nicely to what Jesus teaches about storing up treasures in heaven instead of treasure on earth; and it ties into what Paul teaches us about being conscious that our citizenship is in heaven. We are strangers here, aliens in a foreign land.
In a society that tells us repeatedly that more is better, to have that bigger car, nicer house and higher salary, the message of Ecclesiastes is very pertinent and one that we should read carefully.
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
- Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
Tomorrow’s Reading: Ecclesiastes 7-12