Qu’est-ce que c’est le point?
What is the point of it all? Why bother? Is it really worth it? What is the meaning of this?
Life can be a little bit (or a lot a bit) dreary depending on your circumstance. Sometimes its easy to sit back and question the purpose of our motives. Does it matter if I go to work? Why should I finish off this degree? Is it worth getting married? Should I buy a house? Why bother?
I’ve been captivated by Ecclesiastes lately. And like many before me, I’ve been wondering if the Bible screening committee missed that one when they filtered out the books that deserved to be part of the canon.
We’re taken through a vast history of God’s people starting in Genesis, leading into powerful, beautiful books of wisdom like Psalms and Proverbs. Then, we hit a little bump. Before the beautiful woman of Proverbs 31 even leaves our mind, we are smacked in the face with a very Squidward-esque and seemly grumpy author of Ecclesiastes.
He, who is referred to as Teacher, opens up stating that everything is meaningless. Everything is pointless. I think the HCSB says it best: everything is futile.
Futile: incapable of producing any useful result
Go ahead and say it. “Absolutely futile! Everything is futile.” (On a personal note, I prefer the UK pronunciation of fyoo-tai-el to the US fyoo-tul when exclaiming this, but was called a “word nerd” for feeling as such.) Again, I picture Squidward (yes, the Nickelodeon character.. no condemnation!) throwing his tentacles in the air and exclaiming such a phrase as he watches “commoners” such as Spongebob and Patrick enjoying their day.
Could that be so? Would our loving, purposeful God ordain such a statement to be made about the life He created for humanity? Yes. As a matter of fact, I think it is in that realization that we can truly understand and come alongside Christ in His calling to us in Luke 9:23-25:
Then He said to them all, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. What is a man benefited if he gains the whole world, yet loses or forfeits himself?
To better understand this, we need to unmask the Teacher. Most Biblical scholars would argue that this is none other than the wise King Solomon speaking. But who is Solomon to make such pessimistic and forward claims? What authority does he have? In 1 Kings 3:5-12 we meet Solomon and see how he receives God’s favor. When God appears in a dream and asks him what he would like, Solomon responds, “give Your servant an obedient heart to judge Your people and to discern between good and evil.” I can see God’s face. Nothing surprises Him- but I’m sure He was nonetheless impressed. After all, Solomon was merely a youth with a powerful dad who held the world in his hands. He didn’t ask for money. He didn’t ask for a girlfriend. He didn’t ask for better abs. This pleased God. So God rewarded Solomon with wisdom- so that there will never be anyone like [him] before and never will be again (v 12).
Back to Ecclesiastes… So Solomon is given this undeniable wisdom beyond that of anyone around him. As he surveys the world and the toilsome efforts of his peers, he exasperates “Absolutely futile!”
This stumped me until I thought of it in the context of a message I heard this weekend. It was on Luke 14, a scripture I’ve studied many times before, but never in this way. Jesus was getting pretty popular. He had started to attract crowds of people following Him, some for different intentions than others. I can best understand this when I think of my Facebook friends. Of the 558 people I can call my “friend”, maybe 100 are people I’d say truly know me, 50 are people I’d invite to a party, 20 are friends I will text on their birthday, and 10 are people I could call in tears. And those numbers might be generous.
So likewise, Jesus had to “de-friend” a few of his followers by laying down some truth and letting them know just what they were getting into. Jesus says in Luke 14: 26:
If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, and even his own life—he cannot be My disciple.
Hate. Whoah. Jesus wants us to hate people? No. I am lead to believe that Jesus uses the term hate to exemplify how vividly we need to love Him, that the amount of love we have for other things pales so much in comparison, that it looks like hate. Then Jesus goes on to say in verse 27:
Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
That takes us back to Luke 9. I believe that King Solomon was attune to this wisdom and understanding as he spoke in Ecclesiastes. In comparison to our purpose and commission in Christ, life is meaningless, purposeless, futile. I think of the popular song by Steven Curtis Chapman “Do Everything”. Our purpose in this life is to glorify God in everything we do and in doing so we both intentionally and unintentionally further the Gospel. That is the key. That is the purpose. That is why its worthwhile. And outside of Christ, everything is futile.
Give us your heart for the world, that as we go about our daily lives we are reminded that everything is worthless outside of your purpose. It is in You that we live and move and have our being. Help us to focus on what is eternal- our eternal purpose- and to have wisdom and discernment like our brother Solomon to see the brevity of life and the insignificance of worldly pleasures. Amen.