What is life all about? What should matter most to us? How do we know what things are good and what are not good? These questions run through the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes just as they run through our minds from time to time. During October, I will preach from this enigmatic book of wisdom to help us discover what matters most in life.
Ecclesiastes is best known for one word, repeated 33 times in its 12 chapters: meaningless (or vanity, depending on which English translation you prefer).
says the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless.” (Ecc. 1:2)
Ultimately, Solomon tells his readers that knowing and obeying God is the only meaningful pursuit in life (Ecc. 12:13), but along the way, he helps us see that many of the things people believe to be worthwhile in life actually have no eternal value. What a timely message for our world today, as people struggle bitterly to find ways to inoculate themselves against the fear and stress of this broken, hurting world.
Many people these days have turned the election, now with a Supreme Court nomination hanging in the balance, into their source of hope and salvation. Politics often functions as a sort of civil religion, a battle-ground in which people fight for their view of good against the evils of the opposition party. It’s tempting to believe that your favorite candidate will deliver miraculous results, saving lives and transforming culture into a utopia of social bliss. But of course, politicians, even highly successful ones, never truly change the world, and to put our hope in them is meaningless and will lead finally, like all worldly pursuits, to disappointment.
The same can be said of the economy. Markets go up and down. Jobs get created and then vanish just as quickly. People rejoice when accounts swell and mourn when they shrink. We have learned from the pan-demic, along with many other painful lessons, that the national economy and our own personal fortunes offer no safe haven in an unpredictable world. Putting your trust in bank accounts, stock markets or the advice of a respected financial planner can’t guarantee economic security and is, therefore, meaningless.
Or what about the pursuit of happiness, that all-American value enshrined in the Declaration of Inde-pendence and seemingly emblazoned on our hearts? Our Creator may have endowed us with the right to seek happiness, but does that mean we can find ultimate meaning in things that bring us delight? People search for happiness down many different roads. For some, it’s delicious culinary creations that satisfy their bellies for a few fleeting moments. For others, it’s cheering for their favorite team. Some even find moments of pleasure in keeping up with the made-for-TV dramas of the rich and famous. Many people think they will find lasting hap-piness on their social media feed or in the latest online trend. But in the end, happiness fades and becomes meaningless too.
So, what does matter in life? In the midst of the pandemic and the election season and the ordinary ups and downs of our personal lives, what can we pursue that has real lasting value? First, you can nurture your relationship with God, trusting that you will know and love Him for all ages to come. Second, you can worship God in Jesus’ name, believing that the praise you lift up today will echo through all eternity. Third, you can share the love and message of Jesus, knowing that the lives you touch today can be changed forever.