Many of us grew up indoctrinated on the American Dream. It’s a dream that the future is always brighter than the past. It’s a dream that with hard work and determination any goal can be achieved. It’s a dream that helped pave the way for our nation, and influenced many of our family histories. While any number of individuals may define the American Dream differently (from a three bedroom house in the suburbs to a corner office on Fifth avenue) the American Dream highlights that for many of us, we have been taught to pursue our goals and life with passion.
The question becomes, what ultimately leads to this great pursuit? There is something inside of us that is always searching for something different, always believing that some new goal or ideal will create meaning and purpose in our lives. It’s as if we have this hole inside of us that is just longing to be filled, but we can never find the right ingredient to make it whole. We keep trying, but nothing seems to fulfill the desire.
The Qoheleth knows all about this struggle. The Qoheleth is the writer of the Old Testament book of Eccleisasties. Sometimes translated as teacher or preacher, the Qoheleth shares wisdom at the end of life concerning this incessant pursuit for something to fill the hole in life, to provide meaning and purpose. The Qoheleth spent time searching after wisdom, trying to understand everything that was happening, thinking that knowledge would bring peace and contentment. Yet alas, it was meaningless. So Qoheleth indulged in all sorts of pleasures, trying to just live the good life; lots of food, lots of parties, lots of slaves, great possessions and flocks, silver and gold. Yet alas, it was all meaningless, it didn’t fill the hole in life or provide purpose. So Qoheleth sought to find meaning in relationships; in marriages, friendships, or any sort of human relationship that would somehow provide meaning. Yet all of these relationships left something to be desired. Finally, at the end of life the Qoheleth provided a powerful reminder of what is most important. I spent my life searching after so many things, trying to find meaning and purpose in many different avenues of life. I’ve searched high and low, and after it all I can tell you this is the meaning of life, this is the only pursuit that will not leave one empty, “Fear God and keep the commandments, this is humanity’s full duty and plan.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13) If you want to find meaning and purpose in life, or if you want to be able to wake up in the morning without some unfulfilled hole in your soul, then give your life wholly to God.
The Bible has a term, or a concept for this pursuit of wholeness in anything that is not God; it’s the term idolatry. We sometimes laugh when we think of idols wondering how anyone could ever think some small statue of rock or stone could bring the rain or help our crops to grow. Yet an idol is really any created thing that we look to for purpose and meaning above the Creator of all good things. If I believe my educational degree somehow makes me a better person or gives my life meaning, my education has become an idol. If I think that my car somehow gives me status among my peers, my car is an idol. If I think that because I live in house A and not house B that somehow I’m better off or have more value, my house has become an idol. Or whenever I think that if I were to lose one of these things I would lose purpose or meaning, that my life would be less than whole, than this created thing has become an idol, and the pursuit of it will leave me empty.
But God reminds us, you are my child. You are made in God’s image. You have value and worth, not because you have a degree, or a car, or a great family. You have value and worth because you are a child of God. And the only way we will discover life is when we connect ourselves completely to the one who breathes life into us, and find strength in the life changing power of God.
In the sermon on the mount Jesus says it this way, “seek first the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, and everything else will be added to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)
So what are you seeking? Are you seeking some greatness, some passion, some idol, some American Dream believing that this dream or idol will provide meaning? If so it will be meaningless. Or are you seeking God with every ounce of your being, making God a priority when you wake in the morning and before you go to bed, intentionally spending time with God through the day? If you do, God will take care of the rest.