Life under the sun
What do people gain from all their labours at which they toil under the sun?…Consider what God has done…
Ecclesiastes 1:3; 7:13 (NIVUK)
In the secular, post-modern West some, perhaps many, consider the purpose of the universe, including life ‘under the sun’ and life on earth, to be meaningless.
The book of Ecclesiastes examines life under the sun from two perspectives: physical existence with and without a spiritual dimension. The book begins and ends (apart from the conclusion) with the same statement, ‘Meaningless! Meaningless! says the Teacher… Everything is meaningless.’ (1:2; 12:8).
This bleak statement summarises life if the material world is the sum total of everything that exists. Sandwiched between these two verses the author gives a critical analysis of his quest for meaning in life ‘under the sun’ lived with, and without a spiritual perspective.
Although set in the culture of his day, many of the author’s experiences and achievements would, even in today’s secular world, be regarded as ‘living the dream’ or ‘the good life’.
He undertook great projects, built houses, planted vineyards, made gardens and parks, built reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees, and amassed silver and gold (2:4-8). He wrote, ‘I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labour, and this was the reward for all my toil. 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.’ (2:10-11).
The author concluded that his life of material abundance, when lived on a purely physical plain, brought temporary pleasure, but there was nothing ‘under the sun’ that could give meaning to life.
The author also considered what God has done. He evaluated living with a spiritual dimension, and showed that meaning in life comes from a relationship with God. This theme is further developed in the Christian gospel which proclaims that meaning in life ‘under the sun’ comes from living under ‘the sun of righteousness’, Jesus Christ (Malachi 4:2). What God has done through Jesus offers to all humanity grace, forgiveness, salvation, hope, a moral compass, and a purpose in life in today’s uncertain world.
Father, help us to understand, accept and proclaim God’s unconditional offer through Jesus Christ in this uncertain world.
Study by Eddie Marsh
About the writer:
Eddie Marsh attends Grace Communion International in Sheffield.
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