Ecclesiastes: Defeating Meaninglessness (Series #1)
Has there ever been a time in your life when you seemed to lack purpose? When life felt meaningless... when work, and calling, seemed to lose all sense of significance, and when you questioned your worth; your contribution; your value?
Ecclesiastes reminds us that these feelings are common... and such feelings are NOT necessarily bad! The meaninglessness of life has a purpose... and that purpose is to draw us closer to God.
Of course, without God, life is ultimately meaningless... because that’s how God created life to work. There’s a “God shaped void” within all of us, that can only be filled by God himself. And, as followers of Christ, you and I know that Jesus’ finished work on the cross, and his victory over death itself, gives us hope that’s beyond hope! It gives us assurance for the future, and a purpose for our lives... now...
Have you ever watched the movie “Groundhog Day” - with Bill Murray? Murray plays a weatherman named Phil Connors... who gets trapped reliving the same day, over and over again. It would have to be a special kinda torment for a reporter of any designation to be trapped in a vicious cycle of reporting on Groundhog Day! That’s about a mundane as you can get!
So, to deal with his predicament, the reporter looks for happiness and fulfillment in different experiences. He tries all kinds of things in his quest for some semblance of meaning.
He indulges in pleasures, and short-term solutions… like food, money, relationships, violence. He even tries to find meaning in things like music and poetry and learning, but nothing ever truly satisfies.
In many ways, it’s the kind of dissatisfaction that the author of Ecclesiastes faced: how to find meaning in a seemingly meaningless life? Instead of finding true satisfaction in any earthly pleasure or pursuits, in Ecclesiastes (the Teacher, or Preacher) points us to the only true source of satisfaction…
Right off the bat, the Teacher deals with the meaninglessness of a life apart from God. He uses the phrase “under the sun” – which is significant. It’s a phrase that’s repeated throughout the book, reminding us time and again of the perspective of the Teacher. He’s under the sun, he’s separated from God. “Everything is meaningless”, “All things are worrisome”, “there’s nothing new”, “what is crooked cannot be straightened” - which is all true from the perspective of a life lived without God.
It’s like the Teacher is living inside a world where God is absent - and this temporal life is all there is... And he discovers over and over and over again, that regardless to how hard he tries... nothing in this life brings the peace and satisfaction he needs.
Of course, the Teacher’s leading us to the logical conclusion that life without God, life without our Creator, is a life devoid of meaning. He’s exposing how impossible it is to truly find significance and value without an eternally valuable foundation.
It’s kind of easy to dismiss much of Ecclesiastes, because those of us who believe in God, and the reality of God… those of us who strive to follow Christ… know & profess that He is actively working in our world today, and we find meaning and hope in God. We see God working in our world.
But that doesn’t mean any of us are immune to doubts and fears. And it also doesn’t mean that we always have our priorities and faith centered in the right things.
Some times, even we Christians are prone to worship the gifts we receive in this life, instead of the Giver. We tend to worship the blessings as opposed to the Bless-er, at least times.
We may know that God gives us meaning and direction purpose in life, but we can very easily find ourselves (if we’re not careful and intentional about it) seeking significance and pleasure in other things, like the temporal realities of this world, or the wisdom that this world offers, or even politics! We can make a God of just about anything.
Have you ever watched a young child open Christmas presents and birthday presents? They usually rip off the paper without giving a single thought to how much effort you spent wrapping it - don’t they? And the ribbon and bows - and hand written cards fare no better! It all gets chucked clean over their head into the pile of rubbish along with other unnecessary items.
Give a gift that they asked for... something that desperately wanted... and they may jump and scream and dance. They may seem thrilled with receiving that good and perfect gift.
But, young children aren’t always the best at expressing appreciation to the giver of the gift though… Many times they’re so excited to play with their new toy, or wear those new shoes, or play with that new game... that they forget to stop and say “thank you” to the parent or friend who gave them a gift. Even adults often keep our focus on the gifts we receive instead of the one who gives the gifts.
I think it’s interesting that both Job, and Ecclesiastes, are considered wisdom literature in the Bible, but they deal with contrasting problems to say the least. Job discovers that God is with him, even when all of his earthly pleasures, and all the things he loves, have been taken away from him.
While the author of Ecclesiastes on the other hand, despite having everything that he could possibly desire, finds nothing in this life that he loves, can compare to being with God.
It’s easy for us to identify more with Ecclesiastes! I mean, think about it: how many times have you and I said, “if our circumstances were only different, things would be better!” Or if I could only get that job... or, if I only had more money... or, if I were only smarter, more beautiful, or more this, or more that... then everything would be better... everything would be OK. While JOB reminds us that God is in control even when we don’t understand why he allows us to suffer... Ecclesiastes teaches us that there’s no abundance, no good circumstance, that will ever truly, permanently satisfy us in this life. Only God.
What about us? IN what (or whom) are we seeking fulfillment and purpose and meaning? It’s easy to point to others as being materialistic and narcissistic. But what about me, what about you?
Are we putting our complete trust and hope in God, and in God alone. Or are we spinning our wheels in the endless and worthless pursuit of trying to find satisfaction apart from our Creator?