Throughout this year of preaching and teaching about the new life that God provides through Jesus’ death and resurrection and our faith in him, I have pointed out the contrast between that new life and our old lives. Through each message, I have invited people to make an exchange of their old life for new life. One of the greatest contrasts between the old life without Christ and new life in Christ is the difference between a meaningless life and a meaningful life. This is the contrast that Solomon emphasizes throughout the book of Ecclesiastes.
As you read through the book, Solomon uses a phrase repetitively throughout, “Meaningless! Meaningless!” which he explained clearly Ecclesiastes 1:14: “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” The idea of life “under the sun” seems to refer to some kind of separation from God, possibly absentmindedly, just focused on the here and now without actively considering God, but also intentionally, in conscious opposition to or rebellion against God. Living life “under the sun” gives the impression of simply waking up with the sun, going about everyday life doing whatever it is that has to be done, and then going to bed with the sun without a thought about God. That’s the kind of life that Solomon describes as meaningless, and that’s the kind of life that many people live, whether they know or acknowledge God or not.
Unfortunately, this kind of meaningless life is common. Obviously, people who don’t believe in God won’t acknowledge God and will live however they deem appropriate. Even those who believe in God can find themselves living in the same way. Many people, believers and not, look for meaning in the things they have and the things they do from day to day, and they might find some satisfaction and meaning in them, but it’s temporary and meaningless. That’s the harsh reality Solomon discovered in his own pursuit of meaning under the sun, which he describes in Ecclesiastes 2:22, 23: “What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless.”
Yet even in that empty pursuit of meaning in the things and experiences of life under the sun, Solomon hints that there’s something more. He writes, “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, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?” (Ecclesiastes 2:24, 25). Even though Solomon recognized that the endless cycles of everyday life without God are ultimately meaningless, he reveals that when we find even temporary satisfaction in our daily work or daily bread, that is a gift from God.
However, the gift isn’t merely the satisfaction in those things themselves, it’s the reminder that the life God offers is full of meaning in him. This is the truth and good news found in Creation, as Paul explained to the people in Athens in Acts 17:26-28:
“From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’”
Then Paul told them how God provides meaningful life through Jesus, whom God raised from the dead, and how to receive that life through repentance and faith. Some believed; some did not.
Our message of new, meaningful life in Jesus is Good News. Some will refuse to believe it and look for temporary meaning in the temporary things of life under the sun. While we live among them, we must reveal that new life in Christ is meaningful, with both our words and our lives.