August 24-26, 2019
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:18-26 (NIV 1984)
THE MEANING OF LIFE
1. Without Christ It Is Meaningless
2. With Christ Everything Has Meaning.
Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:18-26 (NIV 1984) “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” 2:18I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19And 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. 20So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. 21For 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. 22What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? 23All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless. 24A 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, 25for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26To 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.”
I begin with an apology to anyone familiar with British comedy group, Monty Python. You saw the sermon theme “The Meaning of Life” and it took your mind to where you did not want it to go. So wipe it away and realize that long before that group existed the Book of Ecclesiastes was written to carefully expound the meaning of life here on earth. And a good thing. It’s one of the basic needs of all people to know that their life has meaning. That is why philosophers new and old spend so much time trying to figure it out. What a waste. Their work is already done for them contained in this book of the Bible we call Ecclesiastes. Now if you have read that book of the Bible recently or choose to soon you might come away feeling down or depressed. It does a good job of demonstrating how meaningless life can be. And yet Pastor Martin Luther wrote this about Ecclesiastes. “It is a book of comfort.” How does that work? Let’s find out.
Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon. Remember him? He’s the son of David that asked for and was given by God great wisdom for ruling the nation of Israel. He’s the one who told us the fear of the Lord is beginning of wisdom. It seems later in life he left the Lord out of his life. Ecclesiastes seems to be his fruits of repentance, his teaching to others to help them learn from his mistakes. What had he discovered? Without Christ life is meaningless! "Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless." That’s how the book starts. Solomon calls himself the teacher and goes on to describe how he had tried to find happiness, meaning in life, by pursuing the best knowledge the science of his time could provide. But when he learned it all, he was still feeling empty. Meaningless. Then he tried to find meaning by pursuing pleasure. First he tried neutral pleasures, laughter and entertainment, building projects and gardens and parks. Still his life was empty. Meaningless. He amassed great wealth. Still he felt meaningless. Then he tried sinful pleasures of all kinds. He summed it up this way in chapter 2:10-11 “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.”
In this part of Ecclesiastes Solomon Teacher contemplated something that takes up a good portion of our lives, working and acquiring things. “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.” I guess that about sums it up. You work hard all your life. You save and take care of your things. You die and someone else gets your things. They may not value them like you do or take care of them. You can be frugal and save money and your heirs might waste it. That's it. What good did all that saving do? Meaningless.
Now we probably haven’t gone down all the roads to meaningless that Solomon did but you can recognize the times we have been heading there. You know how when you make a purchase and you got a great deal and how good you felt? But that feeling doesn’t last. Kids, remember that toy you had to have for Christmas, or that video game you had to have? Still using it? Oh yeah and how about that work thing. If all there is to life is an endless cycle of working to pay bills and keep your head above water and stress about things all night, life is meaningless. Working hard and saving up and building things only to have the next generation ruin and waste it all is meaningless. What did Jeffrey Epstein find with his pursuits? Meaningless. If that’s all there is to life then let us eat and drink and try to be merry for tomorrow we die life has no meaning. Meaningless!
But that isn’t all there is Solomon went on. “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?” Did you catch it? “Without him who can find enjoyment.” Without whom? The Savior God. The Lord. In Old Testament times the Teacher, or Solomon, simply knew their Savior as the LORD, the powerful God how saves and promised to send a Savior. We know that Savior is Jesus Christ. While everything really is meaningless without Jesus everything becomes meaningful with Him!
With Him, with Jesus in our life we can find enjoyment now and know the best is yet to come. With Jesus in our life everything has meaning. Let’s take some of the things Solomon pursued and found meaningless. Knowledge and learning. Science. With Jesus in your life you are led to an awe and amazement of how wise God is putting this world together. That may lead you to a vocation where you will use your knowledge to help people in the medical field realizing God loves people and wants certain things cured or healed. You see that there is good entertainment and things that make you laugh and often the best laughter is at yourself. Laughter can really be the best medicine because it is a gift from God. There are pleasures in this world that aren’t sinful. Whether you eat drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. You can thank God for chocolate or coffee a good tasting wine or beer. None of that have to be used sinfully. Think of the gift of friendship as a gift from God. With Christ even amassing wealth is meaningful. A nice home or vacation home can be enjoyed with a grateful heart. You can use money to do the work Jesus gave you to do not only now but when you go to heaven with your will. With Christ my job is a gift from God, a mask He wears to provide for me. With Christ the job lost is an opportunity gained, the house offer that fell through a needed guidance from God who has something better for me. With Christ I realize that the people I am coming into contact with every day are there for a reason and who knows but I am the one through whom God will work to reach them. Think of what it would be like to deal with a sickness or hardship without knowing it too is guided by the hand of a loving God. How can you deal with those things without being able to look at Christ on the cross to know your sin are forgiven and God has a good plan. Some people ask me how do those who don’t know Jesus as Savior deal with death and I say I don’t know. Without Christ it is meaningless. With Him the door to heaven.
With Christ everything is meaningful because with Christ the best is yet to come. No matter how hard I work at taking care of this body it will be destroyed. No worries. I’ll get a new one. A better one. A perfect one. All things amassed on earth will not only go to someone else but will ultimately be destroyed. I’ll lose this home and get a better one. The meaning of life then is to know Christ and to make him known to others. Because only with Christ does this life matter. Your job is to cling to Him above all else so you can share Him with others at all times. Amen.