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This is the Meaning of Life

May 20, 2011

This comment got me thinking about Ecclesiastes again – one of my favorite books of the Bible:

Tonight I read Ecclesiastes in the New Living Translation. That translation is my favorite, because it makes the Bible so readable and real. I appreciate the wisdom and seriousness of the writer of Ecclesiastes, but I couldn’t help giggle at his conclusion about women (7:27-28), his advice to the old (12:4), and his warning about the study of opinions (12:12). He was so human!

I like Ecclesiastes because it IS so human. Solomon was the “wisest man who ever lived” and this book seems to have been written as he was aging (so he could look back on his life and make pointed observations about the “meaninglessness” of everything). Solomon also turned away from God toward the end of his life by worshiping the idols that many of his hundreds of wives brought in to his kingdom.

This book definitely seems to be a critique of the Meaning of Life from a human perspective (as opposed to a theological perspective). The book seems a little hopeless at times, as “everything is meaningless” and “all share a common destiny at the end” (chp 9). But for many without a saving knowledge of Christ, life can feel quite hopeless at times, especially throughout life’s troubles, and toward the end of their lives when they may question “what comes next?”

Therefore, I think the best part of the book is the end – from the end of chapter 11, through all of chapter 12. After critiquing everything in all of creation, Solomon has come to the ultimate realization that his life is but a speck in the cosmos, and he realizes that God is the only eternal thing, and the only thing that truly matters.

So, he encourages his readers to “remember your Creator in the days of your youth” (12:1) and brings all his critique and wisdom and knowledge to conclusion in verse 13: “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.”

Ecclesiastes is one of my favorite books of the Bible. I like to read it whenever I face troubles in this world. It reminds me of the hopelessness of my life without God, and it reminds me where my priorities lie.

What is the Meaning of Life?

So, here is then, the Meaning of Life according to the wisdom of Solomon, summed up in two verses:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)

“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.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

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