I have been working lately on the Book of Ecclesiastes, that forever intriguing reflection that keeps asking us if all things are indeed vanity on this earth. While it seems to have been composed more than 24 hundred years ago, it is so timely in 2015.
The author is living in a time of crisis. The old immutables – monarchy, temple, priesthood, -- are all gone. The wicked seem to be prospering and the good are overlooked. Where is one to find values by which to chart a life’s plan? Should we just throw up our hands in despair?
Interestingly, the author proposes that we widen our view. If this earth has only changeable things that perish, is it possible that we were made for something more? By all means enjoy the good things of this life, but know that they will not last. That does not mean that they have no place in our lives. I love his suggesting that there is a time for everything under the sun. He reinforces his thoughts by that great poem of contrasts which begins chapter 3: “There is a time to be born and a time to die;... a time to weep, and a time to laugh...” (You might want to look at it in its entirety.)
I did, and it struck me that my life would be so much simpler if I could neatly parcel out all that fills my days and put each thing in its place. But that is where life gets complicated, doesn’t it? Things run together and we cannot reserve compartments for each. We are forced to multi-live, to juggle the demands laid upon us and still to find laughter in the living. “Enjoy life with the wife whom you love” for “Light is sweet.” (3:9; 11:7)
Yes, all things pass away, but the author says that we should work and play and pray while time is still ours. There is mystery in what comes after this life.
If a dose of the daily news is bleak and non-life giving, and it often is, this little book of the Bible tries to balance things a bit. If we can believe that “wisdom is better than weapons of war”, and we grasp that key biblical idea that wisdom is concerned with good living, then everything shifts.
Ecclesiastes offers a different viewpoint on the complexity that is life. It could be a dose of spring tonic for our souls. Try it.