I recently began studying the book of Ecclesiastes. It’s a book of the Bible that’s always intrigued me. Outside of Revelation, I think I’ve heard more takes on interpretation with Ecclesiastes than any other book. So I thought I’d try my newly graduated A.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies mind at it.
The first chapter threw me through a loop. It breaks down a hopeful viewpoint by noting how cyclical and monotonous life is. Not even wisdom is immune to being humbled in that chapter, which was a blow to me as I place a high value on wisdom (perhaps too high a value?). So by the end of my week-long study, I found that life itself was, practically, meaningless.
Solomon expounds on his point in chapter 2. There he gives some first-hand experience. He had it all: wealth, success, women, houses,entertainment,livestock…in short, greatness. And yet none of these things satisfied. Solomon then clarifies his attitude on wisdom and notes that is does have it’s advantages, but ultimately the wise man dies just the same as the foolish one. Finally the king breaks down and despairs over all the labor he’s done and how it ultimately does not profit him and will probably be squandered by the next generation. But he comes to a strange conclusion in vs. 24-26. He notes that despite all this, a “man can do nothing better than to eat, drink, and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God.”
So here’s what I had to wrestle with: Life is seemingly monotonous and pointless. I certainly see this at Wendy’s when I go in every week, work my tail off, and then come back the following week and do it all over again. The question boils down to “why is it worth it? why go on with life when it seems so fruitless?”
Stop reading for a moment and breathe. Breathe in. Breathe in deeply. Now exhale. Did you feel that breath? That is life in you. We can sit around, look at how absurd life is, and then squabble about it or we can follow Solomon to the same conclusion and see that the point is we have life and so we must do something with it. But what? Solomon gives a good starting point: “eat,drink, and find satisfaction” in our work. The point of life is life itself. We can wish away our days pining for something meaningful, or we can do something with the time given to us now. If you follow Christ, time is given even greater significance.
So if you’re wrestling with what the point of life is, remember that life is about life itself and what you do with that life while it still fills your body.