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  • Writer's pictureMaria Whittaker

E C C L E S I A S T E S 4

For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool!


Hello everyone and thank you so much for reading this next, long overdue installment of my Ecclesiastes series. I apologize for its lateness in coming -- life happened and I haven't been able to blog in a long time. But prior to starting a new series, I really wanted to wrap this one up because everything I have been uncovering from this very interesting book of the Bible does lead to an ultimate, highly practical application. I feel that I owe it to anyone who was following along and trying to study this book to finish up.

First of all, a recap. In the past 3 Ecclesiastes posts, we covered some really important ideas that I would like to cursorily look over. I will not go into any in-depth explanations, and some of my statements may need defending so I challenge you to give them a read or a review if you have any further questions.

E C C L E S I A S T E S 1:

Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.


In the first Ecclesiastes post, we talked about how Solomon observed the cyclical nature of reality. Everything seems to go in circles, from the water cycle to seasons even to the circle of life. This cyclical nature of reality creates a sense of ennui in us. We were built for something different, apparently, and so we find it "tiresome." We have a God-given desire that when we travel, we get somewhere, from Point A to Point B. We want a journey, not a complicated circle that leads to the same place. I also mentioned that the New Jerusalem is composed of lines and angles -- no circles because though circles symbolize infinity, they symbolize a captive infinity. Straight lines can also be infinite, with no start or end point. The conclusion is that the cyclical nature of our reality seems to be part of the curse of the Fall.

E C C L E S I A S T E S 2 :

What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted.


In the second Ecclesiastes post, we talked about the futility of work. Solomon makes a claim that God has essentially given us "miserable work" to do while we are on earth. The reason our work is so miserable is that everything we accomplish seems to undo itself due to the law of entropy. We also talked about the deceptiveness of success, especially on a national or international level. As humanity, we are constantly "solving" one problem only to realize that it has moved elsewhere, kind of like a maddening game of Whac-A-Mole.

Solomon also seems to imply that this futile work is simply given to us for the purpose of "exercise." We're kind of in a cosmic gym, running on a treadmill, getting nowhere in terms of what we are accomplishing. Nothing we do here (office job, landscaping, etc.) really has eternal significance or lasting impact. We can't seem to accumulate any sort of "work" on our environment since it undoes itself. However, just like at a gym, even though there is no "work" being done in pushing weights around, the true work is being done on us. The purpose of the exercise is to build US.

E C C L E S I A S T E S 3:

I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil.


In the third Ecclesiastes post, we talked about 3 different things.

Firstly, we looked at the utilitarian aspect of Solomon's search. His ultimate question was "What does work accomplish?" What long-term, eternal benefit do we gain from the work we do? We partially answered that in the post above, because work is being done on us. However there's a deeper answer we will cover soon.

Secondly, we mentioned that Solomon's search was one of extremities. He took things to the furthest that they can be taken. I believe God gave him the wisdom, money, resources, energy, time, position, and opportunity to do this so that he can be our representative researcher. We can never do what he did, but he did it for all of us, and we can trust his conclusions.

Thirdly, we saw the dual nature of pleasure. We can get pleasure in working at something we are passionate about. We also can get pleasure from the end goal, whatever it is we have built or accomplished, though this pleasure is always poisoned as the work undoes itself. The takeaway for us is that work is good, and that we have to be careful to do good (worthwhile) work.

Whew! Got all that? I'm now diving into the second half of Chapter 2 in Ecclesiastes (vs. 12-26). This will be the penultimate post in this series, so make sure to read the last one with our (Solomon's grand conclusion) in all this. Trust me, it is a conclusion that can have a huge impact in how you live and see the world --- you won't want to miss it!

E C C L E S I A S T E S 4:

I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool?


I think on any spiritual journey when you are looking for answers to deep questions about life and God, there comes a low point. A point of darkness and despair. Some theologians have called it the "dark night of the soul." In the second half of Ecclesiastes 2, Solomon is having his "dark night o the soul." He finally comes face to face with the crux of the problem, the real reason both work and existence are futile. Death.

20 So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21 because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it.

Death is the culprit of futility. It creates the tension of living and working -- knowing everything that we do will disintegrate back into death until we ourselves are conquered by it. Solomon faces the universal truth that all thinkers and philosophers have encountered and wrestled with. Ultimately, the fact of death renders all existence seemingly meaningless.

But even beyond that, should there be an afterlife, Solomon realizes that he can take nothing from this life into that next life. Should he decide to lead a brilliant life, toiling with "wisdom and knowledge and skill," when he dies, he leaves it all behind with no control over what happens to it. A financial empire, for example, that a genius businessman may have built through his acuity, may end up in the hands of someone useless and foolish who will drive it into the ground. Not only this, but the person who has actually accomplished anything in this life has done it through a lot of sacrifice, deferred gratification, blood, sweat, and tears. All to leave it behind him when he dies.

In the face of this, Solomon returns back to the only bright point in his journey so far. Though he had come to the conclusion that all work is futile, he had experienced true enjoyment/pleasure from good work. He's in despair and about ready to give up his research experiment. It seems the only "good" in all this is the temporary pleasure of doing good work and enjoying it before it disintegrates.

24 There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment from his toil.

This, so far, is Solomon's conclusion. It's his "best answer." Essentially, Solomon is advocating a form of hedonism. We can't create lasting impact. Worms will eat us anyways. Might as well enjoy the journey and die having led a good life.

Interesting conclusion, rather godless. Sounds a lot to me like the philosophy of most unchristian people I have spoken to. But never fear, Solomon may think he's done, but God's not done with him. In my next, last post in these series, we'll see the REAL answer to the burning questions of Solomon's heart and the huge repercussions it can have in our daily lives -- even more so, in our eternity.

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