Ecclesiastes 1:2-3, 8, 10, 11, 13
2 “Futile! Futile!” laments the Teacher, “Absolutely futile! Everything is futile!” 3 What benefit do people get from all the effort which they expend on earth? 8 All this monotony is tiresome; no one can bear to describe it: The eye is never satisfied with seeing, nor is the ear ever content with hearing. 10 Is there anything about which someone can say, “Look at this! It is new!”? It was already done long ago, before our time. 11 No one remembers the former events, nor will anyone remember the events that are yet to happen; they will not be remembered by the future generations. 13 I decided to carefully and thoroughly examine all that has been accomplished on earth. I concluded: God has given people a burdensome task that keeps them occupied.
Ecclesiastes 2: 1, 2, 10a
2:1 I thought to myself, “Come now, I will try self-indulgent pleasure to see if it is worthwhile.” But I found that it also is futile. 2 I said of partying, “It is folly,” and of self-indulgent pleasure, “It accomplishes nothing!” 10 I did not restrain myself from getting whatever I wanted; I did not deny myself anything that would bring me pleasure.
On Thoughtful Thursdays over the coming weeks I will be going through the book of Ecclesiastes. It should be thought provoking to explore Solomon’s examination and exploration of the purpose of life. Come on in . . .
Day in, day out. Wake up, shower, school, work, prepare meals and clean up. We can complain about the daily grind, and yet when we are thrown off schedule, we feel disoriented. We are trapped within this never-ending repeated cycle like hamsters on a wheel, and yet the very mundanity of it all has a purpose. Somehow we want to escape this confinement, but that urgent desire to escape the futility of life is ultimately what can lead to our captivity or freedom. The poverty of our soul can be met by worldly prescriptions which do not solve our dilemma and enslave us more, or drive us to find our joy and satisfaction completely in Jesus.
Blessed with the highest wisdom in the world and riches beyond belief, Solomon was surprised to see within himself this yearning, boredom, even, with life. He had everything and yet felt it was without meaning. He saw that any accomplishment in this world was futile. In his search to find meaning to life, he began with indulging himself and pursuing materialism. His focus on a self-gratifying pursuit is evidenced by his referencing repeatedly, the phrase, “for myself” six times in chapter two, among many other references to self. Everything he did was motivated by what his flesh desired – and it never fully satisfied him.
Solomon was right – today we still do the same thing. We have this vacuum within our souls and we try to fill it – with busyness, indulging ourselves, purchasing things that will somehow make us happy. When those efforts do not return what is promised through the smiling faces on various advertisements, calling us to indulge, we grow disillusioned, frustrated. Why? Because we were designed for a specific purpose and when we are not doing that purpose, we cannot be fully satisfied. The things of this earth were never meant to satisfy us like the things of Heaven.
A secret that Solomon uncovered – serving ourselves will not bring us lasting joy. It is temporary and unsatisfying. The wise heed this and recognize that the greatest fulfillment in life is in serving and giving to others. That is how we were designed and what Christ modeled. Christ, the King over all, chose, for the joy set before Him, to serve others.
So, is it ok to do things for ourselves? Of course, but not if we hope for those things to be our Savior. Perhaps instead of complaining about the seemingly futile aspects of our daily lives, we can see the benefit of the mundane tasks set before us. They make us yearn for God. They become a holy calling when they are done for God’s glory. Even changing a diaper, preparing food, cleaning the toilet – all these things can be done for an eternal reward – when they are done with hearts that delight in serving others and God with a humble heart of gratitude.
Lord, help us to glorify You in our routine. Nothing is insignificant to You and the efforts made here will last forever.