At one time or another, most adults question the meaning of life. In Ecclesiastes, one wise man reflects on whether or not life has meaning, and he finds his answer. Qoheleth, the main character, has some pretty gloomy things to say about life: “Futility of futilities! All is futile.
There is nothing new under the sun. ” (1:2, 1:8) But Qoheleth perseveres in his effort to find meaning in life. Through Qoheleth’s struggle to find life meaningful, readers might come to better understand – and accept – their own search for meaning.
After noting that life goes through cycles and that there is a “time to every purpose under heaven,” Qoheleth begins his experiment in lifestyles. He is trying to find the answer to this question: “What kind of life will make me content and give fulfillment and purpose to my life? ” To find the answer, Qoheleth sets off to try a series of experimental lifestyles, but in each he finds these pursuits wanting, no matter the outcome of his pursuits. In the end, he finds that we all die, that “all is futile. ” His discouragement increases; despair is near.He continues to search for a purposeful, meaningful life. He is determined to find the meaning of life. That determination comes from a faith that life does have meaning.
Qoheleth must wait till the end of his journey to find out what life adds up to, and his answer is a return to faith in God: “The sum of the matter, when all has been considered, is to revere God and keep God’s commandments. ” (12:14) Qoheleth’s conclusion offers encouragement to those who travel life’s journey, in search of a meaningful and fulfilling life.Death is a problem for Qoheleth because it is a finite situation in his understanding. “Sheol” is the abode of the dead, neither Heaven nor Hell, but more similar to the underworld of the ancient Greeks. There is no escaping it; everyone will go there. In his views, Qoheleth determines that humanity’s fate is no better than that of the animals on Earth, all will return to dust in the end. This view on death must have greatly contributed to Qoheleth’s views that “all is futile.
In my own regard, I do not have this similar problem that he had; I believe in an afterlife in which there is a Heaven and a Hell, an afterlife where we own to some degree where we will end up, an afterlife where Jesus Christ has saved humans from their sins. This outlook has allowed me to pursue my own specific meaning in life, to try to find joy in certain pleasures here on Earth. However, I find in my own journey through my existence that I believe that living an enjoyable and fulfilling life here on Earth does not exactly translate to procuring a righteous position in the afterlife.Invariably, I find that even though death is not a limiter in my own views on this topic, or that all is not futile; I do end up agreeing with Qoheleth in his view that a return to a faith in God is implicit also in my view of the meaning of life. The book of Ecclesiastes conveys a clear message that life without a proper relationship with God leads to an unfulfilled life. The wisdom contained in the book of Ecclesiastes could easily be overlooked or discounted by modern Christians.Without a deeper study of the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes you would not gain the wisdom for life that is being imparted, it would merely seem an angry and depressed writing.
Because of this course study I have found some important insights to shape and strengthen my Christian values and ethical framework. Through the reading I have found that my values and ethical framework need a stable and unchanging foundation that is only found in and through the work of God. Satan would seek to convince you that you are in control and can make the right decisions regarding your values and ethical framework.If you follow this path, the author of Ecclesiastes clearly states that you will find yourself in conflict with God, and subject to God’s judgment. Therefore, your focus must be on God and His will for your life. This requires an ongoing relationship with God. Another insight grasped is that I need to make decisions and choices that create lasting value.
We live in a world that is focused on the immediate, the pleasurable and the most self-serving. Often there is little concern about how the decisions and choices we make impact or influence others.In many cases, I have failed to put God in the “little things” thinking that I could “handle it. ” Later, I find myself right where I should have gone in the beginning and that is to God for guidance. My goal is to seek to please God in all that I do. By living by this principle, I will be able to put my values and ethical framework into action, every day. In the area of decision-making I also need to insure that I maintain a proper perspective about work that will create a lasting value.
Another implication of Ecclesiastes’ message is that I need to develop the trait of patience because God’s timing may not always line up the way I want. We live in a world that expects instant gratification and patience is not appreciated but scorned. I am not surprised that this book is included in the Bible. While it does show off a different style of writing, one with notes of despair and hopelessness, it also is written in a more relatable way to the “layperson” who is reading it, and provides questions as to which they should be asking of themselves.While the book of Ecclesiastes clearly points out that a life of fulfillment and satisfaction only come from a proper relationship with God, it also clearly states that dying without that relationship results in eternal judgment by the very God that was rejected. Our goal should be focused on building toward that time when we face judgment and want God as our advocate. My study of the themes and messages of the book of Ecclesiastes have truly had a positive impact on my values and ethical framework.
It has helped me to re-affirm the importance of my relationship to God and to more fully understand that following the ways of the world will put me in conflict with God and His plan for my life. It also strengthened my belief that I am accountable for my decisions. There was a lot more wisdom in the book of Ecclesiastes than I had realized. Peter Kreeft, in his analysis on the Book of Ecclesiastes, provides us with some deeper insight into the content matter of Qoheleth’s writings. Kreeft makes many observations on how the book is written.He states, “The book’s rambling is deliberate, for this form perfectly expresses its content, its message: that life rambles to nowhere. [ .
. . ] Its form is one with its content: the test of great poetry” (24). This is one connection that I did not make personally, but Kreeft sees this writing style as an allegory for the message of Qoheleth, and I agree with Kreeft in this observation. Another observation that stood out to me was that Kreeft says, “there is nothing more meaningless than an answer without its question” (Kreeft 19).I like this because even after Qoheleth searches for meaning in life via various avenues, he does not ignore the problem like so many of us would, he continues and perseveres in his quest for knowledge, and realizes that if he were to give up in his search for a meaning to his life, and just mask this problem with his experimental lifestyles, nothing would have been accomplished. I believe this is a great observation, as it applies to present-day situations as well.
I also agree with the statement that the author makes in that he sees a need for God.He distinctly sees God by seeing the “stark outline of the darkness that the face of Jesus fills” (Kreeft 51). For me, God is who I turn to in order to provide meaning for my life, and I believe that Kreeft states that while Ecclesiastes asks the poignant questions, putting one’s faith in Jesus Christ is the answer to these questions.Literature Cited The New Oxford Annotated Bible: New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. Print Kreeft, Peter. Three Philosophies of Life.
San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989. 13-58. Print.