Having more wealth and assets would improve one’s standing in this age. If one is wealthy then one would have more joy because there are more things and distractions to keep someone from experiencing the pain of living life under the sun. So, is this true? Is it safe to affirm that we can find more joy and contentment just by acquiring and having more?
The book of Ecclesiastes is not a book that opens with the most optimist outlook on life. Our argument has been that the way to find life is to look above the sun rather than only under the sun. So, how do we know that the preacher really wants us to look above the sun? Is there a way that we can have life or joy in this life? How do we have joy in this life or is just a series of disappointment culminating in death revealing dark humor of a very mean God?
It is easy for us as Christians to think that the people outside the church are really bad people while we are the good or moral people. The preacher in Ecclesiastes wants us to be careful of such a position because within the community we might worship the Lord, but we might not really be worshipping the Lord. What is the problem of living this way? How does making such a show of piety without true heart conviction present a problem? How can this be a functional atheism when we are worshipping the Lord?
The world tells us that ambition is something that is necessary to get ahead in life. We certainly affirm that the one who does not work does not eat. So, having work and ambition is not something that is necessarily sinful. So, we have no problem with being ambitious or working hard. It seems that the preacher is warning us of an ambition that gets in the way of godliness. So, when does ambition become foolish? Where is the line for being appropriately aggressive or ambitious and not being ambitious? You would think that we need to launch a huge survey, but in reality Solomon’s wisdom applied to us by the preacher helps us with this issue.
This world is a place where you do not have to look far to see people doing very bad things and getting away with it. Sometimes we can use the modern day proverb, “If you can’t beat them join them.” What does that mean? It means play their game and try to beat them at their own game. The problem with this thinking is that as a human being we are still trying to exalt ourselves rather than live by a principle of justice. So, how do we go about our days in this world knowing that there are people who are beating the system and getting away with it? Will they stand and be okay or will the Lord deal with them? How do we find contentment in the midst of this frustration?
The preacher in Ecclesiastes claims that all is vanity. If this is true then why continue with life? If this life is so meaningless then why get up every morning? If this is really true does that mean that God has forsaken His creation? If God has not forsaken this creation what does it mean? How do we account for non Christians actually enjoying their work or seeing it as fruitful? So, is everything really vanity under the sun or is the preacher just overstating his case?
You do not have to look very far today to have someone tell you that the way you enjoy life is to pursue things that will give you pleasure and avoid pain. This is something that sounds very wise and we might even say that it is common sense to enjoy life in a mindset of pursuing only pleasure. It might seem like common sense, but can a pursuit of pleasure take away the emptiness and vanity of this age? If this too leaves you empty then what will take away that emptiness and vanity of this age?
The reality of the Christian life is that the life is a struggle. We do not simply believe and then everything in life falls into place easily without much effort. That would be nice, but it is not the reality of life under the sun. In the midst of this struggle we can have a bit of a crises in our faith. We can begin to question, doubt, and be tempted to walk away. Where do we turn to be refreshed in the life and wisdom of God? Where do we find our comfort? How does the preacher in Ecclesiastes teach us and encourage us to persevere in the midst of this faith crises?
The book of Ecclesiastes does not start with the greatest encouragement by telling us that life is all vanity. This really does sound like some sort of skeptic who has given up on life. However, this book is in our Bible, and I believe it should be in our Bible so it is doubtful that the author is a hopeless cynic. What are we missing if we think that this is just a hopeless book? Why would we want to follow along with the preacher on his quest for wisdom? What does this introduction to this sermon tell us about the preacher’s quest for wisdom?