Everytime I read Ecclesiastes I feel a mixture of both confusion but also relief. I am relieved because whenever I am feeling anxious about life or I am worried about how my life is going in terms of worldy acomplishment, I remember Ecclesiastes and I get comfort knowing that all the things that I have been worrying about don’t really mean much. But I also come away from that text with confusion about what exactly my purpose as God’s creation is, or more exactly, what is the product of that purpose. But recently I have found the answer to that question in the Gospel.
“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”– Ecclesiastes 1:1
Now if you have ever read the book of Ecclesiastes ( if you haven’t you really should!), then you know that when the moral of the story is that the power and joy of life is swallowed up in death. And what I mean by that, is that life means nothing when everything that you do and create will mean nothing in the scale of time and human memory. But in the end of the book, the Author talks about how the best that humanity can do in their situation is to enjoy their vain work and vain pleasures, but also keep the commandments of God. I think that the Author saw clearly what was the situation of the time, but he couldn’t see into the future. That is where Jesus comes in.
“The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.”– Ecclesiastes 12:13
The author knew that it was right to follow the commandments of God, but he didn’t address why, and just following the commandments didn’t solve any of the problems that were spoken about in the book. But the Gospel is actually the perfect answer to all of the topics that he covered.
“A generation goes and a generation comes, But the earth remains forever. “– Ecclesiastes 1:4
Part of the sadness and dread of life is the everlooming presence of death and the knowledge of our own mortality. It can drain our souls, pushing people to take the most out of life and out of people, often going against the commandments of God, for the reward of short term pleasures. But you might as well right, if we know that life is meaningless in the face of death, and all we have is our lives. And this was true, until Christ came. He brought us the promise of everlasting life, but we had to sacrifice our life here on Earth, as a sign of faith to Him. And this is not to say that you literally have sacrificed your life for the cause of Christ ( though some have ), but that you lay down what you want and your fleshly desires at the feet of Christ and follow the example that He set for us instead. This is what it means to die in the flesh but live in the Spirit by living according to the commandments. Christ lived free of sin, and we should also strive after his example.
I said to myself concerning the sons of men, “God has surely tested them in order for them to see that they are but beasts.”– Ecclesiastes 3:18
The ultimate tragedy of man is that we suffer mortality, we long to live forever, yet we are doomed to die. But God gave us death for a reason, so that we would learn who is our master, and we would learn our place in creation.
So I hated life, for the work which had been done under the sun was grievous to me; because everything is futility and striving after wind.– Ecclesiastes 2:17
We as humans cannot escape death, and neither can our works. All things fade away and all things lead to nothing. Except God has given us our purpose, he has given us our destiny. Christ is our path and Christ is our goal. We are to live as he did and live in love. Which was our original purpose. That is how we ultimately connect with the Father and connect with the Holy Spirit, by living in love. Christ showed us the ultimate path, now we just have to follow him. Nothing matters before the cross, fight to overcome the weeds that grow in your life and that choke out the word of truth.
“More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,”– Philippians 3:8