Is That All There Is?

 

As a young man I wondered, as many young men do, about the meaning of life, is there a purpose, what should my goals be, how can a person know what path to take, and does it matter?

 

It’s not like I couldn’t find answers, I could. But the problem was too many answers and they didn’t always agree with each other. And many of them didn’t make sense or seem desirable. Then I discovered the Bible, the word of God, told a story about a man that had wondered about the same things I wondered about. Now here is the really cool thing about this man, he was very smart, very wise, very rich, very powerful, and he had investigated everything people talk about as being important. Here is what he discovered; nearly everything is not really all that important. Let the man speak for himself.

 

(Eccl 1:1-2 NIV)  The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem: {2} "Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless."

*   1892. hebel, heh'-bel; or (rarely in the abs.)  habel, hab-ale'; from H1891; emptiness or vanity; figuratively something transitory and unsatisfactory

*   1891. habal, haw-bal'; a primary root; to be vain in act, word, or expectation; specially, to lead astray

*   Vanity: Excessive pride in one's appearance or accomplishments; conceit. Lack of usefulness, worth, or effect. Something that is futile or temporary.

 

(Eccl 1:3 NIV)  What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun? {4} Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. {5} The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. {6} The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. {7} All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. {8} All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. {9} What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. {10} Is there anything of which one can say, "Look! This is something new"? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. {11} There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow. {12} I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. {13} I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. What a heavy burden God has laid on men! {14} I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind. {15} What is twisted cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted. {16} I thought to myself, "Look, I have grown and increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge." {17} Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind. {18} For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.

 

(Eccl 2 NIV)  I thought in my heart, "Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good." But that also proved to be meaningless. {2} "Laughter," I said, "is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish?" {3} I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly--my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was worthwhile for men to do under heaven during the few days of their lives. {4} I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. {5} I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. {6} I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. {7} I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. {8} I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well--the delights of the heart of man. {9} I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me. {10} I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. {11} Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. {12} Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom, and also madness and folly. What more can the king's successor do than what has already been done? {13} I saw that wisdom is better than folly, just as light is better than darkness. {14} The wise man has eyes in his head, while the fool walks in the darkness; but I came to realize that the same fate overtakes them both. {15} Then I thought in my heart, "The fate of the fool will overtake me also. What then do I gain by being wise?" I said in my heart, "This too is meaningless." {16} For the wise man, like the fool, will not be long remembered; in days to come both will be forgotten. Like the fool, the wise man too must die! {17} So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. {18} I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. {19} And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. {20} So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. {21} For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. {22} What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? {23} All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless. {24} A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, {25} for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? {26} To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

 

(Eccl 3 NIV)  There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: {2} a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, {3} a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, {4} a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, {5} a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, {6} a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, {7} a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, {8} a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. {9} What does the worker gain from his toil? {10} I have seen the burden God has laid on men. {11} He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. {12} I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. {13} That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil--this is the gift of God. {14} I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him. {15} Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account. {16} And I saw something else under the sun: In the place of judgment--wickedness was there, in the place of justice--wickedness was there. {17} I thought in my heart, "God will bring to judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time for every deed." {18} I also thought, "As for men, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. {19} Man's fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath ; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless. {20} All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. {21} Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?" {22} So I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?

 

*   (Eccl 4:4 NIV)  And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man's envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

*   (Eccl 4:7-8 NIV)  Again I saw something meaningless under the sun: {8} There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. "For whom am I toiling," he asked, "and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?" This too is meaningless-- a miserable business!

*   (Eccl 5:7 NIV)  Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God.

*   (Eccl 5:10 NIV)  Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.

*   (Eccl 5:18-19 NIV)  Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him--for this is his lot. {19} Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work--this is a gift of God.

*   (Eccl 6:2 NIV)  God gives a man wealth, possessions and honor, so that he lacks nothing his heart desires, but God does not enable him to enjoy them, and a stranger enjoys them instead. This is meaningless, a grievous evil.

*   (Eccl 6:11-12 NIV)  The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone? {12} For who knows what is good for a man in life, during the few and meaningless days he passes through like a shadow? Who can tell him what will happen under the sun after he is gone?

*   (Eccl 7:14 NIV)  When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future.

*   (Eccl 8:14 NIV)  There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: righteous men who get what the wicked deserve, and wicked men who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless.

*   (Eccl 9:9-10 NIV)  Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun-- all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. {10} Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.

*   (Eccl 11:8-10 NIV)  However many years a man may live, let him enjoy them all. But let him remember the days of darkness, for they will be many. Everything to come is meaningless. {9} Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment. {10} So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor are meaningless.

(Eccl 12:11-14 NIV)  The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails--given by one Shepherd. {12} Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them. Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. (Eccl 7:14 NIV)  When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future.

 

So the teacher taught me and changed my life. I never again struggled to find my head as they said in the sixties. I never again worried myself about the purpose of life. I never again asked myself, “Is that all there is” or “What’s it all about.” I came to realize that even the seemingly most important events were temporary, transitory, and in some ways unsatisfactory. Sometimes we gain perspective when we ask how important an event will seem in a year or some other point in the future. The answer is most often, not very important at all.

 

Happiness and success are not measured in dollars or fame, or self-realization. Happiness comes from realizing the value of family and friends and in enjoying their company. It comes from enjoying your work, your family, and your blessings. It comes from the simple things we tend to not notice although they are right in front of us. The love of a mother or father, the love of a spouse or a child, the smell after the rain, the beauty of a rainbow or sunset, weariness of a good day’s work, a restful sleep, a good meal, or knowing that we are so special to God that we can make it though this valley of tears and into our glorious future because He will not forsake us. Yes it is true; much of what we do is meaningless, futile, temporary, unsatisfactory, and often tends to lead others and us astray. So what? How important will most of it be when you enter eternity?

 

In conclusion the teacher says,

*    (Eccl 12:13-14 NIV)  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. {14} For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.


On the overhead

*   Meaningless

*   Emptiness

*   Vain

*   Transitory

*   Unsatisfactory

*   False expectation

*   To lead astray

*   Excessive pride

*   Conceit.

*   Lack of usefulness

*   Worthless

*   Ineffective

*   Futile

*   Temporary