Is Life Really Meaningless?

Recently, while getting a cup of coffee at a local establishment, the barista, who knew I was a pastor, asked me what I was studying to preach in the fall?  “Ecclesiastes,” I said, curious as to her response.  “Oh.  That’s easy,” she said.  “Life is meaningless…Next!”  Her answer endeared her to me, because sarcasm is my second language.  But, more than that, everything in my heart wanted to say, but wait, there’s more!

Why would a person study Ecclesiastes, much less preach through it?  After all, the barista is right.  The writer of Ecclesiastes, identified as the “Preacher” or “Qohelet”, begins and ends this little book with that word, “Meaningless, Meaningless!  All is Meaningless!”  On top of that, one biblical scholar says of Ecclesiastes that it “may be the most difficult biblical book to interpret and preach.”[1]  At the same time, the reformer Martin Luther said of Ecclesiastes that Christians should read ‘this noble little book every day,’ because it is an abject rejection of sentimental religion!

In other words, the book of Ecclesiastes is an unapologetically honest look at life “under the sun” in a world that has been broken by the fall.  It is one writer’s journey on behalf of the church to discovery life’s meaning in all the ways that we ourselves seek to find meaning and purpose.  His journey is marked by common questions: “Will I find meaning in wealth?  Will I find meaning in relationships?  Will I find meaning in success?  Will I find meaning in knowledge and education?  Will I find meaning in leaving a legacy of which I can be proud?  Does any of this really matter, or is there something more?”

The reality is that this something more for which the writer searches, is the same something more for which we search.  That something more is not found in a rejection of our creatureliness – our humanity, but instead of rightly allowing our creatureliness – our humanity to point us upward outside of ourselves to the Creator who made us and this world and discover that true meaning is found only in a the restoration of what was lost in the fall of the first “creatures” made in His image.  Ecclesiastes gives us language for our futile search for meaning and reorients our minds, hearts, and bodies so that in our own quest for meaning – we might begin not with ourselves, but with the Creator who defines reality.

I invite you to join me in this three-month quest for meaning through the book of Ecclesiastes, where we will be confronted not only with the meaninglessness of a quest devoid of our Creator, but where we will be reminded that our quest, our journey would be futile if not for another journey – the journey of the Wisdom of God come down – of the Creator becoming as the creature, come to make all things new.

[1] Greidanus, Sidney. Preaching Christ From Ecclesiastes,” Eerdmans Publishing Company. Cedar Rapids, MI: 2010.