This weekly topic is an effort to recap the Wednesday night Bible study I teach at Sola5, my youth group. I hope it serves to help us all in contemplating the ceaseless riches of God’s grace as revealed through the Scriptures.
Well, it feels like ten years short of forever since I’ve given a Wednesday update. Last night, we continued our trek through Ecclesiastes, covering chapter four. Over the past month and a half, we’ve looked at the book, seeing Solomon over and over emphasize the meaninglessness of life unless lived unto the Lord. He has torn down all the idols that we chase, all the things in life that we think will bring us ultimate fulfillment, both good and bad, and encouraged us to live life to the glory of God. In chapter four, we asked the question, “What does that sort of life look like?” In answering the question, we looked at the implications that truth has on our lives. For example, if it were true that your house were burning down, the logical response would be for you to get out of your house. So, we looked at four truths that Solomon presents us with in the chapter, and discussed what impact they should have on the life of a Godly person.
The first truth that we see, in verses 1-3, is that the world is an evil place. Solomon laments the oppression that is done to people under the sun, and their powerlessness to resist their oppressors. This is not news to us. Turn on the news, pick up a newspaper, and you’ll see countless stories of people being murdered, taken advantage of, used, etc. Look throughout history and you’ll find the echoes of Hitler’s holocaust, Stalin’s death camps, and countless other massacres great and small. Look in your own backyard, here in the land of the free, and you’ll find 50 million innocent human lives taken with the full approval of the law in the last 35 years. We dress it up and call it “abortion” instead of murder, but the end result is the same. The world is an evil place. How, then should the Godly respond? By comforting the oppressed. Part of Solomon’s lament is that the oppressed have no one to comfort them – this should be the compassionate response of those who are living lives unto the Lord. This can take many different forms – from reaching out to those who are social outcasts at school or work to taking a stand for the rights of those who are abused and neglected. Jesus demonstrated a heart for the helpless, and we should do the same if we claim to follow him.
The second truth, in verses 4-6, is that you can’t beat life. There is no magical winning formula to follow for a good life. I enjoy video games, and you play through a video game attempting to “beat” it, to finish the game. One of the most frustrating things is arriving at a point in a game when I can’t figure out for the life of me what I’m supposed to do next. It’s maddening, because I know that there is a solution (the game, after all, was designed to be beaten) and I just can’t figure it out. In life, no such solution exists. There is no plug-and-play way to find success and happiness. Solomon speaks here of the vanity of toiling your whole life to get more things, and also the failure of sitting back and doing nothing. You can’t win for losing. How does the Godly respond, then? By finding joy in the journey. Realize the God has given us this life and this world as a gift, and find joy in his day-to-day blessings. Enjoy the quiet moments he gives. Don’t spend life chasing empty dreams or sitting back in laziness, but seek God’s face and enjoy the path down which he leads you.
The third truth, in verses 7-12, is that stuff never satisfies. Solomon speaks of the futility of amassing a fortune and an empire only to have no one to share it with. How often do we think that some thing will make us happy, only to find that the thrill fades with time? Look at the stories of many people who win the lottery, only to find that the money actually destroyed their lives. How should the Godly respond to this reality? By investing in people, not things. God has made us for community. This is true on both a social level and a spiritual one. My students last night had a lot to say about the way that they have grown in their faith because of other people in their lives. I think we realize this truth, but we don’t pay nearly as much attention to it. How drastically would our churches be changed if we recognized the fact that God has given us a tremendous gift in each other? How much would our spiritual walks be strengthened if we sought out those who have walked the path before us and asked for their advice? Never lose sight of the relationships that God has blessed you with, and see that they are far more valuable than anything money can buy. It’s cliché, sure, but it’s true.
The final truth that we looked at, from verses 13-16, is that circumstances change. Solomon tells the story of a wise but poor young man and an old foolish king. He says that the young man is better than the old king, despite the fact that the king has everything he could ever want and the young man has nothing. How is this so? Because the young man may one day stand in the king’s place, and the king will one day die, and take nothing with him. We never know where God will take us over the course of our lives. The story of Joseph immediately springs to mind. So, how should the Godly respond? By seeking wisdom, not wealth. God will take care of us in all circumstances. Nothing is outside his sovereign control. We need to get to the point where our priority is seeking his wisdom, his truth, and saying with Paul that we have learned to be content with both a little and a lot. Seek God’s face, and we will be ready to respond in a Godly way to whatever circumstances we’re in.
Truths have consequences. Reality demands a response. Look at the faith you claim. What response does it demand from your life? Perhaps the things we discussed are a good starting point, perhaps God’s pointing to an entirely different area in which you need to change. Be obedient to follow, and you’ll be on the path to avoiding a meaningless life, and find the fulfillment that Solomon says evades so many.
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