“vanity, vanity”

Does life ever seem just so pointless to you? The day-in and day-out of life, the work-weekend-work-weekend cycle? Cut the grass AGAIN, wash the dishes AGAIN – what does it mean? What’s the purpose of life?

The author of Ecclesiastes had these questions, concerns, and complaints. He is the Preacher, a son of David, a king. He had wisdom beyond imagination and the full riches of his kingdom at his disposal. Nothing was beyond his reach. Yet he said, “Vanity of vanities, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” The word vanity can mean breath or mist, like the fleeting wind. It is elusive and you can’t catch or hold it. It could also mean futile, pointless, worthless, or empty. The word was even used to describe idolatry and chasing after false gods. And that’s how the Preacher is describing life. “So what? What’s the big deal?” he asks. Maybe you have felt like this.

The Preacher continues in chapter 1: “What does man gain by all the work at which he works under the sun?” What do you gain from your work in the fields, at the office, in your home? What does it matter at all? “A generation goes, and a generation comes, the earth is still here, and the sun rises, and the sun goes down, and it rises again. The wind blows to the south and north and around and around and back again.” It is tiresome. Nothing new is under the sun, all is vanity, and a striving after wind. Good luck chasing and trying to catch the wind.

Why is the Preacher down and out like this? Why is he harping on the meaninglessness of life under the sun? Maybe he’s an old man looking back on his life and wondering what it’s all about. Maybe he’s a young man in the prime of life wondering where all his efforts will lead to. Maybe he’s making observations that I’ve felt and we’ve all felt from time to time. Maybe he speaks to you today in your situation: you’re tired of pushing the rock up the hill and you’re asking the same questions as he is. What’s the answer?

Another son of David had something to say about this. The Son of David, Jesus, said in Mark 8:34-36, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” Life does have meaning and is not vanity with Christ as your focus. Christ brings significance and meaning to all our actions, including the ones that seem mundane. The purpose of life is to lose your life for Jesus’ sake and the gospel’s. Life has meaning and purpose only in Christ.