Last week my daily bible reading took me through the book of Ecclesiastes. Over a three-day period I was inundated with messages reminding me that everything is meaningless. Everything in life has been tried by the writer of Ecclesiastes and everything falls short of providing meaning in life. Wealth, fame, work, sex, partying, and even education are tried in an attempt to provide some sort of satisfaction in life, and yet none seem to create peace and happiness. Instead, life seems to be a riddle, in which oppression of the poor always continues, and in which it always appears that someone else is gaining the reward. To be completely honest, it’s easy to see why many people skip the book completely, it can be extremely depressing to be reminded over and over again that life is meaningless. If someone who has tried everything under the sun and has every advantage at one’s disposal and still can’t find happiness or peace, what hope is there for the rest of us.
Yet, as I read I was reminded of the world and our own struggle with idolatry. Not idolatry in the sense that we are bowing down to little statues hoping they will heal our diseases or help the crops to grow, but idolatry in the sense of believing that some created thing can somehow provide meaning for our lives. That’s really the big lie that the world is trying to convey; the lie that believes that there is something in this life that if pursued with enough determination can provide meaning and purpose. We know idols can never fulfill all of our dreams and goals, they can never provide stability for life, yet still we seek after them with all we have believing that maybe this time their promises will not come up lacking.
The world wants us to believe that happiness is the result of success, fame, or money. The world wants us to believe that if we are sexier we will have more friends, have greater adventures, and feel better about ourselves. The world wants us to believe that having the newest phone, the newest car, or the newest house will somehow make our lives easier, providing more pleasure and more peace. And so we pursue success, we pursue money, we try to make our bodies sexier, we surround ourselves with the newest gadgets, all in an effort to somehow provide meaning in our lives. We believe the lie of the marketing companies and the high budget commercials that if we can just find the one magic pill it will make all of life better. Yet at the end of the day we are as hopeless as ever, wondering why everyone else seems to be enjoying life while we are struggling to survive. Everything is meaningless!
Yet the key to finding meaning is the key discovered at the end of the book, God must be placed first. The writer of Ecclesiastes says it this way, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” It’s very similar to the famous passage from Deuteronomy 6, “The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You should love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength.” It’s a reminder that meaning can only be found in life when God is at the center. Meaning can only be discovered when our priorities are in line. God must be our highest desire, our chief commitment. When God alone is our highest priority, every other decision in life becomes easier and every other commitment becomes easier to keep in check.
The world says, pursue education, pursue success, pursue beauty, pursue wealth, because these characteristics lead to meaning and happiness. However, it’s a lie. The way of the world does not work. It is only when we place God as supreme, when God alone is our highest desire, that life becomes meaningful. Maybe we’ll have success and maybe we won’t. Maybe we will be wealthy and maybe we won’t. Maybe we’ll pursue education, friendship, or wisdom and maybe we will find some joy in them. But they will only provide meaning when they are kept in their proper place.
The message from Ecclesiastes is clear. Don’t believe the lie of the world. Instead, fear God and keep his commandments. That is the best way to live.