Ecclesiastes is one of the most difficult books in the Bible to read and to understand. Its subject is the meaning of life. It investigates the validity of the common quest to find meaning in life “under the sun” or, as we would say, “in this life.” The answer is that each path pursued (wisdom, wealth, pleasure, power, legacy) has several potential drawbacks:
* It proves an unworthy pursuit.
* It is unachievable (i.e., no matter how much of it you get, there is always more to get).
* In the end you die anyway, so what is the point?
The author therefore adopts the radical conclusion that there is no sense of self-fulfillment that can bring meaning to life, so the best choice is to stop pursuing self-fulfillment. The alternative he offers in the pursuit of a God-centered life. Even though pursuits under the sun may not be capable of providing self-fulfillment or giving meaning to life, much in life can be enjoyed when understood as the gift of God.
The book recognizes that there are many things in life that cannot be enjoyed and would not be called gifts. Eccl. 3:1-8 lays out some of these as contrasts in our experiences that can often result in frustration. Whether our frustrations in life are great or small, the book establishes that we dare not entertain the idea that life without frustrations is possible. We must adjust our expectations accordingly. Both prosperity and adversity come from the hand of God (Eccl. 7:14). No one’s life is problem free. Ecclesiastes teaches that, without being fatalistic, we ought to adjust our thinking to absorb or even embrace the difficult trials that life brings our way.
To summarize the message of Ecclesiastes:
1. Find enjoyment in the gifts of God.
2. It will not suffice to think that “normal” is when everything is going well in life.
3. Both prosperity and adversity are normal and come from his hand; both can shape us in different ways.
4. It is normal that we have times of difficulty because it is a broken world and, ultimately, death is the final result.
5. Life is not under our control.
6. If we lower our expectations, we can increase our contentment.
7. There is no sure path to self-fulfillment.
8. Since self-fulfillment cannot be obtained, it should not be pursued.
So many folks want the bottom-line. What is the bottom-line of Ecclesiastes? Here it is- 12:13 “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” If you want to do life where the rubber meets the road, this verse is it. Your whole duty? Love God with all your heart.
Have a great day. Pastor Mark.
(Again, the good help of The Essential Bible Companion.)