‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’ Ecclesiastes 1:2 (NIV)
I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labour, and this was the reward for all my toil. 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 2:10-11 (NIV)
In the busyness of life it is easy to become engrossed in activities that capture our attention for a short time, yet do not lead to lasting satisfaction.
Ecclesiastes records one man’s search for meaning in life and how he looks for satisfaction and contentment in work and activities, possessions, knowledge and many other things.
Today we see this same search for meaning. Some people look for it in qualifications, career, family, sports, home or possessions. I’m sure you have come across the term ‘retail therapy’. Spending seems to be the modern way to make ourselves feel good. It’s a bit like eating chocolate; it gives a high which lasts a short time, but fails to provide any long-lasting satisfaction.
Have you wondered why these things don’t satisfy? The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us why:
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart … Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NIV)
If God has put eternity in our hearts, then it is little wonder that the things of the world don’t truly satisfy our longing to find meaning in life.
So where do we end up? Nothing we seek satisfaction and meaning from is inherently bad in itself. It is the fact that we try to use these things to satisfy a spiritual longing that is wrong. We are looking in the wrong direction!
The writer of Ecclesiastes comes to the conclusion:
Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. Ecclesiastes 12:13 (NIV)
The book of Ecclesiastes starts by assuming life is meaningless, yet arrives at finding meaning by recognising the spiritual dimension to life and the need to look in the right direction – to God.
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