“Summaries, Ecclesiastes 1-5”Categories: Bulletin Articles
Ecclesiastes 1 begins with Solomon reflecting on the meaninglessness of life. “All is vanity,” he says. It’s pointless. Meaningless. People are born; people die. Weather patterns shift around. Nobody does anything new, and nothing changes.
Solomon decided to use his wisdom to try to find meaning in this meaningless landscape. However, he failed. The work of mankind is irredeemably flawed. Nor is there any consolation even in the use of wisdom. All wisdom does is to increase frustration and unhappiness.
Ecclesiastes 2 recounts Solomon’s systematic examination of everything that people do to try to find happiness. However, he found that all the pleasures of humankind are ultimately pointless too. His possessions became so great that he was wealthier than any of the kings who had come before him. It didn’t matter. All of it was still meaningless.
After this, Solomon examined wisdom. Generally, it’s better to have understanding about life. However, whether we are wise or foolish, we’re all going to die anyway. Wisdom provides no lasting earthly benefit.
Additionally, there’s no point to accumulating riches for your heirs. They may well be idiots who will waste everything you worked for, leaving your labor meaningless. Instead, Solomon says it’s better to enjoy what you have now and accept it as the gift of God.
Ecclesiastes 3 begins with the famous “For everything there is a season” section, which The Byrds turned into a Vietnam-War protest song. Contextually, though, this poem is disappointing rather than reassuring. Back and forth, back and forth it goes, without any real change or resolution.
We all have our work to do under the sun, but understanding it is beyond us. God gives us things to enjoy, but we should never think that we can comprehend his will. However, it is reassuring to remember the work of God when we see earthly injustice. He will punish the wicked eventually. Conversely, as far as we can tell, we are no better off than animals when we die.
Ecclesiastes 4 begins with another examination of injustice. Solomon says it’s better not to live at all than to see the oppression that exists on earth. For those who are alive, though, they ought to be aware both of the perils of laziness and the perils of working too hard, whether to impress others or for some reason they can’t even define. However, there are two things that make life better: trusty companions to share it with, and a willingness to listen to advice. In the end, though, even great success is not enough to make life meaningful.
Ecclesiastes 5 first admonishes us to be reverent when we come before God. We need to listen a lot, talk little, and honor the promises that we have made to Him. Social injustice should not be our concern. Similarly, we shouldn’t get caught up in striving for more money, which won’t make us happy. However, the lives of those who have been made poor by circumstance aren’t pleasant either. What is best is for us to work, to savor the fruits of our labor, and to recognize that these things are the gift of God.