Summary: Solomon writes that "everything under the sun is meaningless." Why and what does that mean for our lives?
Today, I want to ask ourselves the tough question of, how much do we actually pursue the love of God? To help us think about this issue, I want to start off with an activity that someone suggested to me this week. I’d like everyone to take a blank piece of paper which represents your life and take a few minutes to reflect about the things in your life that are important to you: family, friends, God, money, material possessions, jobs, etc.
Then I want you to divvy up the piece of paper to represent how much of your life those things affect or influence your decisions, how you spend your time and where you get your worth or love from. I want to challenge you all to be really honest as no one is going to judge your answers. Don’t worry about “right” answers or making sure the God box is the biggest, unless of course it is, just be honest about your life, right now.
***Take 3-5 minutes***
Keep the piece of paper handy as we are going to come back to it throughout the evening. For the rest of our time I want to explore through the book of Ecclesiastes. It’s a book that doesn’t get a ton of attention but yet it holds a great deal of wisdom and advice about how to live life and what will make you most happy and joyful…which is a goal I think we can all agree on.
Ecclesiastes is written by a guy named Solomon who was the son of David (from the David and Goliath Story) and was king of Israel. Solomon is known for being one of the wisest men who ever lived. There is a story that can be found in 1 Kings 3 where God comes to Solomon and says, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” Solomon responds that we wants wisdom at which God replies, “I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! And [because you asked for such a noble thing] I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life!”
One could argue that Solomon pretty much had everything that could ever be wanted. Over the course of his life he found great wealth, power, respect, influence, friends and pleasure. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines as well on top of that so he was having a lot of sexual pleasure as well.
Towards the end of his life, he wrote this book Ecclesiastes and reflected on everything that he had and his findings are something that we should all sit up and take notice of. Let’s take a look:
Solomon starts off with a summary of what his thoughts are going to be says: read 1:1-11. Then for the rest of the book he goes through issue by issue about what he has found about each and how it relates to meaning, purpose and joy in life.
For each passage, have the students read silently and then discuss out loud what Solomon is saying. After each, have the youth rip from the piece of paper the corresponding issue:
• 1:12-18 – the meaninglessness of wisdom
• 2:1-11 – the meaninglessness of pleasure
• 2:18-26 – the meaninglessness of work
• 3:16-17, 4:1-4 – the meaninglessness of justice
• 4:13-16 – the meaninglessness of political power
• 5:8-20 – the meaninglessness of wealth
• 6:10-12 – the meaninglessness of planning
• 9:1-12 – the fact of death
***At the end, everyone should be left with only a piece of the paper devoted to God or nothing***
After exploring Solomon’s words, there is an immediate reaction to just throw your hands up and say that there is no point to life and we can just do whatever we want but there are a couple of things that we need to understand before we end our discussion.
First, is there a difference between “meaningless” and “bad/evil?” Yes! Solomon is not saying that any of those things discussed are bad but simply in light of greater things are meaningless. I think his word choice is really important in 1:14…“I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless – like chasing the wind.” This leads to our second questions because it refers to the fact that there is something out there “above” or “greater” than the sun of which meaning and purpose are drawn.
What is that greater thing? The answer comes in 11:9-12:7 and is actually addressed to young people directly. We also see Solomon’s final conclusion in 12:13-14. The truth and wisdom that we all need to understand, whether you want to or not, is that everything in our lives can be taken away, destroyed, replaced, not go as planned, fall apart, etc…but the ONLY thing that remains constant is God. That is why when Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is by religious leaders he says that it is “To love the Lord your God with all your heart all your soul and all your mind.” In other words, he wants us to give Him every area of our lives and find our purpose and worth from Him and Him alone. (Hold up sheet of paper with God written on it as a whole).