Vanity, vanity, all is vanity. So states the writer of Ecclesiastes.
Often in my Morning Reflections I have alluded to Proverbs and its place in the Wisdom literature. But rarely do we encounter Ecclesiastes in our line up of readings. Along with Job and Proverbs, Ecclesiastes joins the ranks of Wisdom literature, and certainly one that provides a different voice.
Often referred to as the Teacher, the writer of Ecclesiastes, gets down to the nitty-gritty, speaking of the futility and folly of success and ambition. Just as it is futile to seek wisdom, so it is futile to seek after success. All the wine in the world, all the possessions, all the land, all the singers, or men, or women, nothing can compare to the stark reality that none of this leads to God. He goes further to declare that NOT doing these things was equal folly, and got him no closer to Wisdom.
In the end it is, “All was vanity and a chasing after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.”
“So I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly; for what can the one do who comes after the king? Only what has already been done. Then I saw that wisdom excels folly as light excels darkness.” It turns out that the only thing of worth for the Teacher is to seek after Wisdom, and God’s way.
I look out my window this morning and it is turning out to be a beautiful day, and it is hard to believe that God wants us to avoid all pleasure, and that I should shut my blinds and stew in the darkness, seeking after Wisdom. And I don’t think that is what the Teacher is trying to say. To find Wisdom and joy is to give oneself to pleasing God. Certainly one can do both!
The beginning of one of our Presbyterian Confessions, the Westminster Shorter Catechism, begins with the question “What is the chief end of man?” The answer? To glorify God and enjoy God forever. And similarly, the Teacher urges that the goal is not to hate life or love life, for “life’s” sake, but to love God, sucking all the marrow of life through a lens of love of God.
May joy and life and Wisdom fill your day!