About Life

Can I ask you a question?When you hear the name Percy Spencer, what comes to mind? Do you know who he is? Does his memory bring warm fuzzies to you? Save for his surviving family and technological trivia buffs, Mr. Spencer, the inventor of the microwave oven, is largely forgotten. We use his device everyday without so much as a thought or spark of gratitude to him personally. What happened to Mr. Spencer is what has happened and will happen to the vast majority of individuals--we live out our brief life, die, and slip into obscurity as the memory of us fades with time. What a nice, warm, encouraging thought, wouldn't you say?

"Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless." {The Bible book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 1, verse 2}

So begins the book of Ecclesiastes, an ancient treatise on the purpose and meaning of life. That is perhaps the most significant and recurring question humanity has asked of itself since the beginning. We all ask it of ourselves in some form or another: "Why am I here?" "What am I going to do with my life?" "What is life all about?" We all search for purpose, direction, significance, meaning at some point or another. So is there an answer? If so, what is it?

The author of Ecclesiastes (identified by most scholars as the ancient Israelite king Solomon) sets for himself an enormous task: "I wanted to see what was worthwhile for people to do under heaven during the few days of their lives." {Ecclesiastes 2:3}

I. Solomon's Qualifications:
King Solomon was arguably the best qualified, best equipped person of his day to address the question of meaning. He possessed legendary wisdom {Ecclesiastes 1:16; 1Kings 4:29-34; 10}. As king, he possessed power, prestige, and riches that provided him with the resources and ability explore all avenues to this question of meaning {Ecclesiastes 2:9-10}.

II. Places Where He Looked, But Didn't Find the Answer:
Ecclesiastes 1:3-9. The first place he considered was labor--the work we do. After looking for worth and identity in some occupation, he concluded that his work didn't amount to a hill of beans or change a thing in the big picture.

Ecclesiastes1:17-18. Solomon then looked to find intrinsic meaning in the pursuit of wisdom (learning) or folly--they had none.
Gaining wisdom is not what life is about ultimately. Nor is living with abandon.

Ecclesiastes 2:1-3. Next he then turned to "wine, women, and song" (life's various physical pleasures). But he saw that they, too, were ultimately unfulfilling, meaningless, transitory.

Ecclesiastes 2:4-8. As king, he embarked on massive building projects, monuments that would speak of his power and prestige--perhaps that is the purpose in life? At the same time he turned to the accumulation of wealth; perhaps riches are what life is about?

The results of his experiments? "Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun." {Ecclesiastes 2:11} Why?

Ecclesiastes 2:15-16 = because in the end the wise, rich, powerful king meets the same fate as the powerless, poor fool.

Ecclesiastes 2:17-20 = because we can't take it with us but have to leave it to others who didn't work for it, may not care for it, or who will blow it all. Think about it for a moment. What do you know or care about Qin Shihuangdi, Hatsepshut, Chandra-gupta, Mansa Musa, Mwene Mutapa, Jayavarman, Louis XIV? They were all wealthy, powerful, educated, among the most prominent leaders of their day. Yet they have all died, their monuments are largely in ruins, their wealth squandered by others, and most of their empires are a pitiful shadow of what they once were. So much for the rich and "famous." How much more so for us "regular" folk!

III. What Are We Left With?
If labor and wisdom and folly and wealth and pleasure ultimately mean nothing, how am I to regard them? First, it is beneficial to find satisfaction with those aspects of our lives {Ecclesiastes 2:24-25}. That doesn't mean live with abandon or indulge in sin. It means live responsibly, productively, wisely, healthily. Wherever we are, in what ever circumstances we find ourselves, we should seek to do good and find the good in our daily lives {Ecclesiastes 3:12-13}. But don't let those things become the goal, don't let them supplant the pursuit of life's true purpose. Solomon did ultimately find it, you know.

IV. Discovery of Meaning:
"Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. 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 12:12b-14}.

Everything we undertake should involve God. All our plans should include Him. He put us here to have a relationship with him, that we might reverence him and love him and obey him. For only when he is the object of our actions; only when God is the reason for our behavior; only when God is the purpose for our actions do they take on any lasting significance. A life lived in God's purposes is full and significant. A life without God is a hollow, meaningless existence. Choose God.


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