It must be about 14 years ago that I opened a New Years day talk with the words of Ecclesiastes: ‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’
Probably not the encouraging, ‘eager for the New Year’ words that anyone expected – including me! Out of context verses 2 – 9 say in so many different ways that you may as well not bother getting up in the morning. Everything is useless. Everything is pointless, good & bad both die, the course of the world is futile. Nothing you can do makes sense or can change things. Happy New Year indeed…
I was reminded of this passage though when a friend who is just about the same age as I am sat down and said that he needed to find some meaning in his life because, he said, ‘what’s the point?’. We are living in a materialistic and secular society but secularism has failed. It has failed because it cannot provide any lasting answers to life’s questions, the questions posed by ‘the Teacher’ in this passage. Unlike my friend many don’t know it has failed yet, haven’t recognised any ‘gaps’. They are too busy filling every minute either with some activity, from shopping to sport, from Facebook to Pinterest…or just passively letting themselves be filled with other peoples views or superficialities.
Why? Because it is easier if we don’t have to think. These verses say that if we think, then we might really realise the futility of it all. If you don’t have the answers then the subconscious mind makes sure you run away from confronting the problems and the questions. This first part of Ecclesiastes is a clear statement and summary of the barrenness of life without a practical faith in God. The teacher writing it is delivering the opening sentences of an evangelistic message that is just as relevant today as it was nearly 3000 years ago.
We live in a privileged area where people too often rely on their wealth or status to cocoon them from the real world … and from the futility of life without faith in Jesus Christ. There is this desperate need out there, there is a desperate need in our neighbours, maybe in our families, it is a need we cannot ignore. The challenge for us, like ‘the Teacher’, is to wake them up to their needs, and once they have realised them, then to help move them on to finding the answer in God. I believe that each one of us takes this same evangelistic message to the people we meet. Then all can have a truly Happy New Year!