Can Ecclesiastes, written by the Teacher who said "Everything is meaningless!" tell us anything about Jesus? See Dr. Paul Williams's answer in this excerpt from How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens.
It is difficult at times to understand the direction our lives are going, or the direction they should be going. It's as if we're driving in the fog on a curvy road...
The Teacher [who wrote Ecclesiastes] concluded that life "under the sun" is without meaning... [What kind of meaning?] Usually, when we or others talk about meaning in life, we mean personal security and significance — something that makes us feel valued, worthwhile, and fulfilled. We want to know that it would have made a difference if we had not been born...
The Teacher of Ecclesiastes shows us that on our own we can't figure out the meaning of life. That meaning does not lie in our pleasures or conveniences, in our wisdom or in our foolishness, in our work or in our possessions. The Teacher discovers that life does indeed have meaning, but a meaning that is frequently beyond our ability to grasp when we limit our perspective to the created realm.
The author of Ecclesiastes, "the Teacher," imagined by Gustave Doré (1832-1883).
To find meaning and purpose in life, we are forced to turn our perspective from the realm "under the sun" to the realm that exists beyond the sun, beyond creation, where God dwells. We must turn to God in humility, acknowledging our creaturely limitations — and, with reverence, acknowledging that he has no such limitations — and submitting ourselves to his care and guidance. Ultimately, the meaning of life does not reside in things that we think will bring us satisfaction, but in things that bring God glory. Our goal in life is to make these the same thing. And there was one human being who has showed us just what that looks like.
The Jesus Lens
As we saw in the book of Job, our circumstances can change in a moment. If we look for contentment, significance, security, or meaning in those circumstances, we're going to have a hard time rebooting when our programs crash. It has taken the Teacher a while to arrive at the same conclusion as the book of Psalms: meaning in life is not found "under the sun" — in the human experiences and trappings that are subject to changes beyond our comprehension. Rather, meaning in life is found "above the sun" — in our relationship with our Creator.
'Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life."' -John 14:6
It makes sense. Only by reconnecting with the source of life can we expect to know life in its fullest. That is what Jesus tells his disciples as they struggle to understand the suffering and death he would experience. As painful as those things are ... they cannot affect our true life if that life is connected to the source of life, who never changes and who always satisfies the deepest cravings of our hearts.
In Christ alone is found meaning, purpose, and direction in life. When we, like the Teacher, try to find meaning for our lives in anything else, we also will be forced to conclude, "Meaningless! Meaningless! ... Everything is meaningless!" (1:2; 12:8). Only by being reconciled to God through Jesus Christ ("the way") can we finally find what it is we've been looking for ("the life")
[What this Means for Us Today]
The Teacher was rummaging around "under the sun," looking under every stone for anything that would supply some explanation for what makes human life worthwhile. He found lots of things that made great promises, but ultimately failed to deliver. He was full of human wisdom and knowledge (1:16), but that wisdom and knowledge couldn't provide answers to the basic questions of life. That wisdom and knowledge are available only through Jesus Christ. That is why the apostle Paul worked so hard to make sure everyone had access to the answer to the meaning of life.
My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. -Colossians 2:2–3
We may know in our Bible-trained heads how we're supposed to answer questions about life, but do we really believe those answers? We spend hours, days, even years of our lives chasing after things that we believe will make our lives significant, when we could have that significance any time we chose. There is an old joke about someone who is outside, looking in the grass for his lost ring. His friends show up and offer to help. They ask him where he lost it. He tells them he lost it in the house. When they ask him why he is looking for it outside, he tells them, "The light is better out here." How [useless] to look for something where it can't be found! Let's stop looking for the meaning of life where it can't be found. Let's look for life's purpose in the eternal truths that God has revealed to us in Christ.
How would you rate the meaningfulness of your life right now? ...
The Teacher tried just about everything to find meaning in life without any reference to God. Perhaps you have, too. But there isn't any. Only when we return to our Creator in reverence and acknowledge our need for him will the fog start lifting and our path into the future come into focus. We will have life — full, meaningful, energizing life.
Watch the "Jesus Lens" Web Event
Want to know more about reading the Bible through the Jesus lens? Watch the discussion with author Michael Williams.
Learn more about Dr. Williams's book, How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens.
More Posts You May Like
Esther, Mordecai & Jesus via Michael Williams
- Adam Forrest, Zondervan
(Images & some styling above are web-exclusive features not included in the text of How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens. Image attribution: Gustave Doré [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons. This post does not represent the views of Zondervan or any of its representatives. The writer's personal opinions are shared only for information purposes. To receive new Zondervan Blog posts in your reader or email inbox, subscribe to Zondervan Blog.)