Ecclesiastes is the Greek word for the Hebrew word Koheleth which means "preacher." In this case the preacher is King Solomon. It is the inspired record of his search for meaning and satisfaction toward the end of his life (possibly around 933 B.C.). Throughout this book, Solomon will cover ten pursuits that are empty apart from God: wisdom, work, possessions, status, companionship, fame, money, long life, feasting, and desire.
Solomon begins Ecclesiastes 1 by proclaiming "Everything is meaningless!" He will use the term meaningless throughout the whole book, and it refers to what is without real substance, value, permanence, or significance. He asserts that all human effort is futile. He supports this thesis by proclaiming that this futility is demonstrated in nature. All of nature's activity is monotonous and tiring without making any progress or reaching a fixed goal. He compares this to man's activity that produces weariness and no satisfaction.
In Ecclesiastes 2, he experiments with the value of pleasure and comes up wanting. Then he covers three empty pursuits apart from God: wisdom, work, and possessions. In wisdom (a more correct word would be "human knowledge"), he sees some advantage but concludes that there is no real advantage to being wise as opposed to living foolishly because both the wise man and fool die and are forgotten. Then he evaluates work and possessions and concludes that toils bring no lasting pleasure even if one accomplishes great things and is rewarded for them. Even if there is much fruit in a person's labor, he "can't take it with him" and must leave it to someone else. The results of a person's labor may be inherited by a fool who would squander it and all that labor would be in vain. In view of the fleeting value of the fruits of man's toil, he recommends that man enjoy the fruits but realize that true wisdom, knowledge, and enjoyment are not possible apart from being in right relationship with God and living to please Him.
Looking at Everything in Light of Eternity: A Total Life Makeover
As we meditate on Ecclesiastes, let's all gear up to put everything in our life out on the table and examine it all in light of God's eternal purposes. I already mentioned Dave Ramsey's "Total Money Makeover" in our reading of Proverbs. Well, let's do a "Total Life Makeover"! Let's examine our life in those ten areas that are mentioned throughout the book:
Wisdom/Human Knowledge (2:15-16)
Long Life (6:6)
The title of Warren Wiersbe's "Be Series" commentary on this book is entitled Be Satisfied. This is so appropriate because true satisfaction can only be attained when we know what is really important in life and adjust our lives and futures to God's purposes.
Frances Xavier, a 16th century missionary to Japan, wrote back to fellow students and said:
"Give up your small ambitions
and come East to proclaim the glorious gospel of Christ."
Do you have small ambitions in light of God's BIG purposes? It may not mean going East to Japan, but God has a specific and vital role that only you can play in His plan.
Ask God about your "small ambitions." In light of Ecclesiastes 2, evaluate the two empty pursuits apart from God that Solomon talked about: aquiring human knowledge and working to gain possessions.
Lord, reveal to us our small ambitions. Help us to live in light of eternity. For Your glory we pray, Amen.