By Brandon Lemons
We have now completed our sermon series on Ecclesiastes. I hope this study has been as meaningful for you as it has for me. I’ve come to believe that Ecclesiastes is the most relevant book in the Bible when it comes to relating to our society. Even non-Christians easily agree with many of its themes and teachings, and it opens doors to the Gospel. On a personal level, I’ve found Ecclesiastes to be helpful in identifying potential idols in my life and in pointing me back to what really matters.
This past Sunday’s sermon summarized Ecclesiastes. Throughout Ecclesiastes, it’s clear that ultimate and lasting meaning and satisfaction are not found in money, possessions, accomplishments, experiences, popularity, or pleasure. Even non-Christians frequently recognize this reality. For instance, award-winning author David Foster Wallace (who was an atheist) said: “Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god…to worship is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. Look, the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they are evil or sinful; it is that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.”
Thankfully, Ecclesiastes provides answers for finding meaning in life. I identify three sources where Qohelet (the author) seems to experience satisfaction without qualification. They are:
Revere God by glorifying and enjoying Him. (Ecc. 5:1-7; 12:13-14)
Care for others. (Ecc. 4:1-12)
Treat the good things in life as gifts from God to be enjoyed and shared, but never worshiped. (Ecc. 5:18-20; 9:7-10)
These are not equal; devotion to God must always come first, or else we fall into idolatry. But these provide a great foundation for experiencing a meaning in life that lasts. The first two mirror Jesus’ Greatest Commandments of “Love God” and “Love Others” (Matthew 22:37-40). The third encourages us to enjoy the journey of life – appreciating and giving God thanks for the little things – as a way to experience “morsels of meaning” that, while temporary, give a source of joy and gratitude that help make life meaningful.
I encourage you to take a few minutes to reflect on some questions based on this summary of Ecclesiastes. As you reflect on these questions, you might find it helpful to write out your thoughts and responses. It’s important to take your time and be honest. Also, it would be good to talk with God about your responses.
What has been my biggest take-away point from the book of Ecclesiastes? What difference does it make in my life?
Worship literally means “worth-ship.” Wherever we are looking for our ultimate sense of meaning is what we worship, because we are attributing supreme worth to that thing. What comes to mind as I read the above quote from David Foster Wallace? Are there things besides God that I’ve been worshiping?
If the foundation of meaning in life is loving God and loving others, is there anything that should change in my life to help me better prioritize these sources of meaning? If so, what might this look like?
If the topics and questions during the Ecclesiastes series are troubling for you, you’re not alone! We have been diving into some difficult emotional and spiritual territory. If at any time you feel overwhelmed or depressed over these topics, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or another staff member.