Listen to the first two verses of Ecclesiastes, “The words of the teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem: ‘Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless’” (Ecclesiastes 1:1-2 NIV). Later, the teacher would say, “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14 NIV).
This is, I’m afraid, where most people in our modern society have found themselves. Adrift in the ocean of uncertainty, and not having any sense of meaning in their lives, they will strive with vain efforts to try and invent meaning for themselves. So they latch onto causes and enterprises that promise to offer them at least a semblance of meaning and purpose. At the end of the day, however, it still seems like a “chasing after the wind.”
The entire book of Ecclesiastes puts the spotlight on this very thing. From first chapter to last, the teacher explores the hunger in the heart of mankind to find meaning in life. This is what we are going to explore as well – taking a journey with “The Teacher” from the book of Ecclesiastes. The framework of our study is found in the last two verses:
Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 NIV).
The Summation of a Futile Life – “Now all has been heard…”
We begin by asking the question: where do people search for meaning?
Some of the examples from the book of Ecclesiastes:
1. Pleasure – “I thought in my heart, ‘Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good’” (Ecclesiastes 2:1)
2. Projects – “I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees” (Ecclesiastes 2:4-6).
3. Perception – “Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom, and also madness and folly” (Ecclesiastes 2:12).
In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 12 is the story of the rich fool who prospered and believed that his entire life was set. God comes to him with this statement, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” If all we have to sum up our lives is the treasures of this world, the prestige of momentary fame or the temporary sense of power, then life is futile… it has no meaning.
The Satisfaction of a Focused Life – “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”
There is one place to go to find true meaning and purpose to life – the Creator. Most people won’t look to the One who created them because it terrifies them that there is a greater authority in life than their own determinations. (We’ll see this in the final point.) However, I have found it refreshingly satisfying in knowing that my life is in focus because God has provided it with meaning.
Some statements from Ecclesiastes:
1. Revere – “I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing take from it. God does it so that men will revere him” (Ecclesiastes 3:14).
2. Respect – “Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God” (Ecclesiastes 5:7).
3. Remember – “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them’” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).
God has created us to be His masterpiece. We are the workmanship of His hands and, as such, are destined to have a life rich with meaning and value. Ephesians 2:10 states, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” If we don’t find the meaning of life in the person of Christ, we won’t find it at all.
The Sobriety of a Finished Life – “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”
It is sobering to think that the final judgment of the value and meaning of a person’s life belongs to God. Most people want to believe that they have some say in the matter, that they can determine their own value and meaning – but no. God alone is the final judge.
Some more thoughts from Ecclesiastes:
1. Reality – “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2).
2. Realization – “Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment” (Ecclesiastes 11:9).
3. Remember – “Remember him—before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:6).
There will come that day when all of humanity will stand before God to give an account of the life spent here. 2 Corinthians 5:10 tells us, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”
There is, ultimately, a “bottom-line” meaning to life: “Fear God, and keep his commandments.” It might sound confining, stringent, and rather oppressive—and it is for those who do not know the salvation of Jesus Christ. Yet, for the Christian, to fear God is the most liberating experience and to walk in the path of His commands is to walk out of darkness and into light. The fear of God and a life of obedience to His word is a life filled with meaning, purpose, value and destiny. All other objectives in this world are temporary – God is eternal. And then, when you stand before God—knowing that your life has found its deepest meaning in Christ—the judgment of God will be this: “Well done, good and faithful servant… Come and share your master’s happiness!” – Matthew 25:21.
(This was originally aired on Alive in Christ Radio 2/5/2013. To listen to the discussion with the pastors panel, click here:
Alive in Christ.)