What then do I gain by being wise?”
I said to myself,
“This too is meaningless.”
16 For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered;
the days have already come when both have been forgotten.
Like the fool, the wise too must die!
Toil Is Meaningless
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 that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil 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 person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. 22 What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? 23 All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.
What is worthy to do under the sun my friends? Are my activities more worthy, now that Jesus Christ has come into the world? I couldn’t say. As Abraham was justified through faith, so was Solomon. And those he shared that message with had a good, and this was a right and true thing to be done. But then still he claims all his toils to be meaningless. James Macdonald made the suggestion that Solomon was “whining” in Ecclesiastes. But I don’t think so. This is a very important book, as it explores the ends of all intentions and goals on the Earth. They are all equally meaningless.
I was leaving a Bible studying early, because I was quite upset and I wasn’t entirely sure why. It may have had something to do with my car being broken down a few miles away. It may have had something to do with my inability to pay any sort of theoretical, yet highly probable bill that would result from the incident. But I don’t think so. But anyway, my friend came and picked me up. And I turned to him, as we sped away into the night in his white bmw, “Kyle, I was thinking. That both before, during, and into the future after my disaster one sentence could be added after every single thing I’ve done, written or said: this too was meaningless.”
I had felt greatly uncomfortable during the Bible study and chose to leave. I had found the socializing meaningless, as I often do. I had found all the conjecture on the Bible and God equally meaningless. Not that these things in themselves were meaningless, but that the drivel about them was meaningless. I came outside where a middle aged man was fixing a cover over his boat. He came over and told me stories of drinking, and chaos, and injuring his back. I laughed, and felt a certain comradry with him, as I had been there. But once again, it felt quite meaningless.
I had been considering the fact that it wasn’t them at all, or the topic, but that it was me. And that my overpowering sense of meaninglessness was indeed, a personal problem, and not the problem of any other. I hadn’t considered it to be the fault of anyone there or of God, or any other. It was of my own making.
There is great toil in this human life, to often very slim result. This is a fallen world. Those Christians who think everything is fine, have been led astray by mass media, news, and consumerism. Most certainly everything is not fine. Or was that once again only within my mind? Perhaps everything was and is just fine, since the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This sacrifice is more than sufficient.
I remember in my many intellectual discussions with random bums and college students, I was sometimes told that they considered the death of Jesus Christ on a cross seemingly highly insufficient for the payment of all the sins of mankind. If I had known then what I know now, I would have agreed with that individual. But I would have also asked them if they had ever died on a cross. I would also ask them if they understood the kind of cruelty and pain involved in such a barbaric process. It was and probably still is the most inconceivably painful method of execution imaginable. But that in and of itself would not have been sufficient for the redemption of all mankind.
Add to this crucifixion several important details. The first detail to add is that Jesus Christ was executed having done absolutely nothing wrong, over the span of his entire life. He was completely without flaw or error in his entire life. This is unheard of, as much as we as humans like to pretend we’re such decent people. We most certainly fall far short of perfection, and I might even add, fall short of decency all together.
1 Peter 2:24 (NIV) lays out the most important detail of the crucifixion when considering the redemption of man kind and it says this: “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”
On the cross Jesus Christ gathered of all the sins of man kind, from the beginning of time, and into the future, to the very end of time, to the last sin every single person would commit on the face of the Earth. He took that into his body and felt it. He felt the disconnection from God. This is what Jesus feared when he became greatly troubled the night before his crucifixion. I cannot even postulate as to what the full implications of taking into his being all the sins of man kind for all time. I cannot even say what it might feel like, and what kind of actual sacrificial penalty was bestowed as far as pain.
But it gives us a good clue as to our own sins and the sufficiency of the sacrifice made by Jesus. Once for all time the scriptures say this was done. All sins you will commit in your future have already been paid for by Jesus Christ. We are not nailing Jesus to the cross anew every time we sin, despite being a Christian. There is no perfection within us, but we are undergoing a process of change.
Hebrews 10:14 (NIV) For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
There is a process of growth and change going on within the heart of every Christian. From all things the heart flows. God doesn’t need to change anything else. Our heart determines the rest. What does the Bible mean by heart? It means our intentions and motives. It looks to the very basis of why we do what we do! If I help my neighbor by mowing his lawn, the act in and of itself is not a motive or intention. Why did I do it? God looks to my intentions and motives for this act. Suppose I did it because I believe it’s what a good Christian ought to do. Is that at the core the motive or intention? Probably not. What underneath being a good Christian is my actual motive? Do I desperately desire heaven? Or do I desperately desire to make my Father, God, happy? Are those good and true motives? And if I did do it for my Father, did I also do it with joy in my heart? Or was I resentful at my Father, considering him a cruel taskmaster in my life?
I pray and ask God to exam my heart and change it fundamentally. That is the core of the process of change going in seeking a lifestyle of peace. And this is why I say, being a Christian and having peace requires a lifestyle change. And a continued lifestyle of growth. Attaining a loving heart doesn’t happen by itself.
And now, once again I wonder at the power of God. I began this piece with the topic of meaninglessness. And as I wrote I earnestly wanted to know what was not meaningless. God has answered that question. Was the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross meaningless? It was not. And it may be the only earthly event that was not meaningless, but so infused with meaning, it made up for all the rest of the sin, destruction, war, disaster, famine, and meaninglessness all put together. And God points to the process we are in as Christians, and points this out to me clearly.
He asks me, “Is this too meaningless?”
And I reply, “I now see, it is of great meaning and substance.”
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the literal infusion of meaning in my life, and in all of our lives. And God’s changing of my heart through Christ’s work, is the application of that meaning in my daily life.