Ecclesiastes 1:2 (NIV)
says the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless.”
Ecclesiastes 8:15 (KJV)
“So I commended enjoyment, because a man has nothing better under the sun than
to eat, drink, and be merry; for this will remain with him in his labor
all the days of his life which God gives him under the sun.”
No one knows for sure, but many scholars believe that Ecclesiastes was written by King Solomon—son of King David. I’m inclined to agree with them, for all it’s worth. And Solomon was the wisest person who ever lived (1 Kings 3:5-15). And yet, despite all of his wisdom, I would argue that he came to the wrong conclusions: first, that all is meaningless (Ecclesiastes 1:2); and second, that we should just eat, drink, and be merry (Ecclesiastes 8:15). I believe there are a couple of reasons why he arrived at these erroneous conclusions.
First, his perspective was off. On the one hand, he spoke of the eternity that God had set in the hearts of men, and man’s limited capacity to comprehend God’s completed and infinite works. On the other hand, though, he evaluated his own accomplishments through a finite lens—not seeing the eternal value of his own contributions. Think about it. He built an elaborate temple to God, and one that in many ways foreshadowed the relationship that God desires with His people. He wrote the Song of Solomon, which continues to inspire couples and strengthen marriages to this day. Who else’s wedding vows have so stood the test of time? Then, he wrote the book of Proverbs, which is chock full of practical wisdom for everyday living. Many a snare has likely been avoided through diligent application of his advice. These, and many other of Solomon’s achievements were far from meaningless. But they do point to another reason for his errant conclusions.
Solomon’s motives sometimes went awry. The examples above demonstrate that, when Solomon’s motives were focused on God, his efforts were NOT in vain. In contrast, when his motives were self-centered and pleasure-seeking, they resulted in heartache and disappointment. But because he couldn’t see past his present circumstances, he decided that the best course of action would be to continue on as he had been—pursuing the pleasures of the flesh. But, as Einstein said, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” is not the definition of wisdom—it is the definition of insanity. Instead, I propose that we work as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23) and trust that He will bring to completion the good work that He has begun in us (Philippians 1:6). In short, all is NOT meaningless.