Ecclesiastes: A Realistic but Hopeful View of Life

I’ve been re-reading a number of the wisdom passages of the Bible (Proverbs, Psalms 1 and 119, Ecclesiastes) in recent months as I seek the Lord for His next career-related step in my life. I’ve found Ecclesiastes somewhat confusing until recently.

On previous readings, it seemed the author of Ecclesiastes was overly cynical in his assessment of the human condition. However, on yesterday’s reading, it occurred to me the author is simply reflecting a very realistic view of life based on his own wide experience with it. Perhaps my own advancing age and experience has better helped me to understand what the author is saying. Following is a brief summary of what I believe the author is trying to communicate.

  • Life, if pursued for its own sake only, is meaningless.
  • However, life, in spite of its apparent meaninglessness at times, can be pursued purposefully and hopefully, if:
    • we believe God knows and is in control of the many aspects of life we cannot understand or control;
    • we receive with gratitude the simple pleasures God has given us (eating, drinking, friendship); and,
    • we respect, honor and love God and obey his commandments knowing he will judge everything we do, both good and bad.  

Notice that God is referenced in each of the three final subpoints above. Ecclesiastes tells us that in order to find meaning for our lives, we must relate every aspect of life to the God who created us and the world in which we live. Not doing so leaves us feeling disillusioned, out of control and ungrateful in this world and morally defenseless in the world to come. Doing so, however, causes us to live hopefully, trusting in God’s knowledge, control, goodness and justice in this world and the world to come.

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