The Meaning of LIfe

meaning-of-life-37When you first see the word, you may wonder if you will remember how to spell it.  When you try to read it, you may think you will mispronounce it.  The word is Ecclesiastes, and it is one of the Wisdom books of the Old Testament.

Ecclesiastes is a record of Solomon’s attempt to find the meaning of life.  When you get to the last chapter of the book, Solomon makes a summary statement:  “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”

There are some places in this book where you will find a phrase is repeated several times.  The fourth chapter is a good example:

  • 4:1: “the oppression that is done under the sun”
  • 4:3: “the evil work that is done under the sun”
  • 4:7: “I saw vanity under the sun”

The three repeated words, “under the sun,” reveal the key to Solomon’s frustration.  His attempt to find meaning in life was difficult.  “Under the sun” places the emphasis on a horizontal perspective at the expense of the vertical dimension.

What Solomon initially failed to grasp, was firmly gripped by Paul.  Notice how he accentuates the vertical perspective of the Christian life: “Seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth  (Colossians 3).”

Paul’s use of the word “above” calls attention to the vertical perspective and contrasts it to the “things on earth,” or the horizontal realm.  Which one of these orientations guides you?

The answer to this question is found in what you wear:  What have you put off and what have you put on?

  • Paul said you should, “Put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds.
  • Once you have put off the horizontal, you are ready to put on the vertical: “Put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created you.”

There were times when I was a kid that I would frustrate my parents and they would ask:  “What in the world do you think you’re doing?”  That’s not a question you need to answer; however, you might think about this:  How are you living under the sun, and what have you put off and put on?

Empty-Handed

handIn his lifetime, John D. Rockefeller was one of the wealthiest men alive. When he died, his accountant was asked: “Just how much did John D. leave?” The accountant wisely answered: “All of it.”

The words of Solomon confirm this truth: “As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand (Ecclesiastes 5:15).”

This life’s goods will never make you good enough to get into heaven. This is a truth that Jesus shared with His disciples: “Be on your guard against covetousness in any shape or form. For a man’s real life in no way depends upon the number of his possessions (Luke 12:15).”

In light of this verse, ask yourself a couple of questions:
• Do my possessions possess me?
• Am I more focused on the here and now or on the there and then (heaven)?

You can stuff all the stuffing in the world into your Thanksgiving turkey, but he is still dead. Likewise, none of the stuff you’ve owned will be of any value to you once you are dead.

Now take a moment and read Ecclesiastes 5:15 again, and then compare it to what John says in the Revelation: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord . . . they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” It’s not the stuff of the world or your possessions that follow you—it is your deeds!

When you read Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, you can see that he has the “deeds” of life in mind: “The foundation is laid already, and no one can lay another, for it is Jesus Christ himself. But any man who builds on the foundation using as his material gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay or stubble, must know that each man’s work will one day be shown for what it is. The day will show it plainly enough, for the day will arise in a blaze of fire, and that fire will prove the nature of each man’s work. If the work that the man has built upon the foundation will stand this test, he will be rewarded. But if a man’s work be destroyed under the test, he loses it all. He personally will be safe, though rather like a man rescued from a fire (I Corinthians 3).”

If your heart is full of the world, you will stand before Jesus empty handed. If, however, your heart is full of Jesus, you will stand the test and be rewarded (2 Timothy 4:7-8).