I'm not sure if those are the best or worst words to start a new year off. I will let you decide for yourself.
"Meaningless! Meaningless! says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!"
Those words come from Ecclesiastes 1:2. The author was most likely King Solomon, a man often given the honor as being the wisest man in the world. God himself gave Solomon his wisdom in 1 Kings 3:12. Solomon understood he couldn't rule a nation without it (wouldn't that be refreshing?!), so instead of asking for riches and the like, he asked God for wisdom. And you know what God did? He gave him wisdom AND untold riches. Pretty cool, huh?
But it is the words in Ecclesiastes that have me pondering this morning. A new year always does this to me. I wonder what the next twelve months hold for me and my family. I look back and wonder what I should have done differently in the year gone by. But more and more, the older I get, I find myself in total agreement with the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless.
To get the full meaning of the author's words, I encourage you to read all twelves chapters of Ecclesiastes. Not to be rendered hopeless, because he sees everything as meaningless, but to understand what he had discovered through all his years of living life. A life full of "great projects" that included building houses and reservoirs, planting vineyards and orchards, owning slaves and having servants, keeping huge flocks and herds, and amassing more silver and gold and kingly treasures than anyone on earth. He had singers and entertainers and more wives than one man needed (700 to be exact!). His was a life of ruling over people, studying nature and science, and enjoying the fruits of wealth. He was not idle or lazy. He tried a life of "folly" and found it lacking.
But still, at the end of the day, he found everything in life to be meaningless.
"What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?" (v.3)
"I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind." (v.14)
It would easy to become depressed if one took the Teacher's words to mean life as a whole had no meaning at all. That everything we accomplish, dream, attempt, fail at, strive for, hope for, is meaningless. But to me, that isn't what he is saying. To me, he's saying everything in life is meaningless without God.
"I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him. (3:14)
"Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God." (5:7)
"When God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work--this is a gift from God." (5:19)
And ultimately, his conclusion in chapter 12, verses 13 and 14:
"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."
My conclusion is this:
All the "stuff" we think is so important, the things that take up so much of our time -- jobs, relationships, money, material possessions, vacations, movies, clothes, cars, houses, books, pets, even dreams and ambitions -- are meaningless...without God. As the Teacher says, we all have the same destiny, which is death. God will judge every deed we do during our time on earth. I don't know about you, but I don't want to be standing there in the puddle of a meaningless life.
My NIV Bible sums it up like this: Life not centered on God is purposeless and meaningless. Without him, nothing else can satisfy. With him, all of life and his other good gifts are to be greatly received and used and enjoyed to the full. This book contains the philosophical and theological reflections of an old man, most of whose life was meaningless because he had not himself relied on God as he should have.
I am a wife, mother, sister, employee, friend, author and dreamer. None of those things are going to make a huge difference in the masses of this world. All of those things in the grand scheme of life truly are meaningless. But because I have declared God as LORD of my life, they take on an eternal meaning that is worth far more than any earthly praise or compensation could ever begin to satisfy.
So my New Year's resolution? To continue to live my meaningless life to the best of my ability, serving and loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and body.
How about you?
This week's Prayer Shout Out countries are:
USA, Poland, Germany, France, Singapore, Australia, United Kingdom, Malaysia, Philippines, India