“Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!”
- Ecclesiastes 1:2
Approaching the book of Ecclesiastes for the first time may be unsettling. The book begins by proclaiming that everything is meaningless. Yet, while it appears to be a depressing perspective, the book actually offers one of the most meaningful and insightful guidance towards living a meaningful life.
When the book of Ecclesiastes was translated into English, the word Hevel is often translated to be meaningless, vanity, or pointless. The essence of the word can be better defined as vapour, smoke, or fleeting. The teacher or prophet described in the book is attempting to challenge the audience's view that everything that we work hard for or hold dear, is actually quite meaningless or fleeting, when we live apart from God. In chapter 1, scripture continues to describe how we work hard in our lives for things that may not matter in the way we think. The truth is that "generations come and generations go", "nothing is truly new" and no matter how much we see or hear, we will never be satisfied. The rivers will still run and the wind will still blow - the earth will still be here long after we go. So how then do we live a meaningful life?
When we take a step back and look at the big picture, so much of what we worry about and what we toil is insignificant to the greater history. Upon reflecting this in my life, I realize there is a lot of truth to that. There have been many times in my life when I work hard on a project or towards a goal, only realizing that a few years after, I can barely remember that work or what I have achieved.
Yet, in reading the book of Ecclesiastes, I do not believe it is meant to be a book of discouragement. Instead, it highlights how death is a certainty for all individuals, so we should be present and live life fully with those around us. It sets our eyes on what is truly important by helping us understand how uncertain and fleeting life is.
The book, in the end, also cautions that the teacher or prophet is merely provoking us to think differently. Ultimately, God is aware of everything that we do. To live a meaningful life, we are to obey God's commandments, fear God, and be aware that we will judge for everything that we do. It is in living with God and living for God, that we may find meaning and contentment in the lives we live.
Reflection: Read the book of Ecclesiastes in its entirety this week. Consider what is really important in the life you are living right now. Are you misplacing your value and priorities in life?
The book of Ecclesiastes opens our eyes to how everything in life can be "hevel". Through studying this interesting book in the bible, it may help us better unlock the secret to a meaningful life. Calm Christian Music offers weekly devotional blogs along with worship music channels.