“Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless.”
The words of the wise are like cattle prods—painful but helpful. Their collected sayings are like a nail-studded stick with which a shepherd drives the sheep. But, my child, let me give you some further advice: Be careful, for writing books is endless, and much study wears you out. That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.
(Ecclesiastes 12:8, 11-14)
The book of Ecclesiastes cannot be interpreted correctly without reading the last part of the chapter: 12:13-14. No matter what the mysteries and apparent contradictions of life are, we must work toward the single purpose of knowing God. While we should search for purpose in life, purpose cannot be found through human endeavors alone.
Those who lack purpose and direction in life should fear God and keep his commandments. Those who think life is unfair can be encouraged to remember that all people will have to stand before God and be judged for what they did in this life. We will not be able to use life’s inconsistencies as an excuse for failing to live properly. To live properly, we need to (1) recognize that human effort apart from God is futile; (2) put God first—now; (3) receive everything good as a gift from God (Ecclesiastes 5:19); (4) realize that God will judge both evil and good; and (5) know that God will judge the quality of every person’s life.
We also can avoid the trap of branding everything in life as purely “meaningless” as Solomon proclaims. Instead, we can acknowledge the evil, foolishness, and injustice in life, yet maintain a positive attitude and strong faith in God.
Have you committed your life to God, both present and future? Does your life measure up to his standards? Take time to pray and commit yourself to the Lord. If you have a tendency to view life through a jaded lens, you might want to take time to talk with the Lord, asking him to provide a fresh perspective. Be willing to confess to any anger you might feel because of hard circumstances you’ve faced.