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Living in a "Meaningless" World

Ecclesiastes 1:1-11

The words of the Teacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem:

[2] "Meaningless, meaningless," says the Teacher; "totally meaningless, everything is meaningless."

[3] What benefit do people gain, for all the hard work they do under the sun? [4] Their generation dies off and another generation replaces them. And the world just continues on.

[5] The sun rises, and the sun sets. Then it goes back to the place where it rises again. [6] The wind blows one way, and then another. Round and round it goes, until it returns to where it came from - and starts over again. [7] All the rivers flow into the sea, yet the sea never completely fills. The waters return to where the rivers began, and there they flow again.

[8] Everything is filled with weariness - far beyond what words can describe. Nothing you see and nothing you hear can fully satisfy anything.

[9] What has been, will be again; and what has been done, will be done again - there is nothing new under the sun. [10] Is there anything of which it may be said, "Look, this is new"? No. It has already been here, for ages long past.

[11] People of the past are forgotten. Those of the future will be forgotten by others who will come after them.



You are born...

And you live...

And then you die...

Is this all you are living for? What good is it?


In the book of Ecclesiastes, we discover that nothing in this life has lasting meaning. If this "life under the sun" is all you live for, then you are the ultimate loser!

But we also learn that there is meaning, if we find our meaning in God. The ultimate conclusion of all this is found in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14:

This is the final conclusion after all has been heard: Fear God, and do what he says - this is all that each of us must do. [14] For God will judge everything - even what we do in secret - whether it be good or evil.

If this is what you live for, then your life will have meaning, both now and forever!


The message of Ecclesiastes is the same as what Jesus taught. "What advantage is it, for a person to gain the whole world, and then lose his soul?" (Mark 8:36) Ultimately, we must look beyond this world "under the sun," to the values of God's kingdom. When God's kingdom becomes our focus, and God's Word becomes our foundation - in other words, when we become genuine followers of Jesus - everything in life takes on a new meaning. We can do the activities of this present life, but we will do them with a different purpose - for there is a Day of Justice, and a new heaven and new earth to look forward to. As Jesus' followers, we know that the things we do now, in this "meaningless" world, will result in value and meaning that will remain - long past the time this "meaningless" world has crumbled into the dust!

"He who dies with the most toys... DIES; but he who dies with Christ... LIVES!"


Background Issues (for the whole book of Ecclesiastes)

About the book: It's part of the "wisdom" section of the Bible

About the human author: Most likely King Solomon

The importance of context

Issues to Think About (in Ecclesiastes 1:1-11)

What does this passage mean by "meaningless"?

- Meaning or value that is short-lived/temporary

- Meaning or value that is lasting/permanent

In the long run, only what lasts will have lasting meaning!

- If a nice-sounding obituary is all that you are living for, what good is it? (Little or none, in the long run!)

- In contrast, what if you change your focus to things beyond the point of death - to the Day of Justice and beyond - what good is it? (Quite a lot!)

What does this passage mean by "nothing new"??

1) Could this "nothing new" be referring to "new" inventions or products people make? (Not very likely!)

- People have always been inventing and making things. The human author would have been smart enough to know it, so he wouldn't have been referring to that!

- Even though this is probably not what the author was referring to, there is a sense in which we could say that new inventions are not new. After all, in many respects, they are nothing more than new ways to do the same types of old things as have been done since the beginning of time! Although the techniques may change, what they are trying to accomplish doesn't. (For example, cars are just another form of transportation; computers are just another form of communication; etc.)

 2) Could this "nothing new" be referring to world conditions, conflicts between right and wrong, human nature, the types of things people live for, values, etc.? (This view is much more realistic.)

Dennis Hinks 2005 (Scripture = my translation.)