By Michael V. Wilson
In addition to following the Bible Reading Guide published by our church, I also do my own reading, reading the Bible front-to-back, cover-to-cover just like you would with an ordinary book. This morning I started on the Book of Ecclesiastes, a book most people refer to as the most depressing book in the whole Bible, and, quite honestly, there's more than a grain of truth to it.
Ecclesiastes, written by King Solomon in his later years, goes on and on about how everything is vanity and grasping for the wind; it's all useless and pointless anyway so why bother? It's been said that if you're in the mood to commit suicide, Ecclesiastes is the book for you.
But I beg to differ.
From the first time I read it when I was a baby Christian in mid-2002, to the present, I've always seen Ecclesiastes as a guide, a perfect road map of what not to do. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, said there's nothing new under the sun (and he was right) and he had already tried it all and written down what worked and what didn't, so I don't have to repeat his mistakes.
But in Ecclesiastes 2:18-20 he said something rather extraordinary,
Then I hated all my labor in which I had toiled under the sun, because I must leave it to the man who will come after me. And who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will rule over all my labor in which I toiled and in which I have shown myself wise under the sun. This also is vanity. Therefore I turned my heart and despaired of all the labor in which I had toiled under the sun.
Life, where we're born, we live and we die, is short. Four score and ten (90 years) is considered old in most of the world, yet before the Flood most people lived 8-9 centuries, but even that's short compared to what God intended for us – eternity.
Because we die, everything we worked for and built and cherished, will wind up going to someone else, someone who may not care about it or take care of it. They might even sell it for money to waste on riotous living like the Prodigal Son. So Solomon was right to despair of all his labor. No matter how much he did, it was all destined for someone else – in this life.
BUT . . . there is always a flip side to every coin, and the Bible makes it clear we'll live forever in heaven if we repent and turn to Jesus. There, everything we work for, everything we labor over, everything we build and create, will be ours – forever. We'll get to keep what we make.
We were made to live forever, and our hearts know it, even if our minds don't. That's why we, and Solomon, experience so much frustration with life, with it's shortness, with the futility and vanity and grasping for the wind. Somethings wrong and we know it.
But in heaven, it will be heaven because we'll live forever. We'll live forever with Jesus. We'll live and keep all that we build and create. Even if we sweat like pigs to make it, it won't seem like work because what we make will be ours to enjoy for all eternity.
That's the flip side of Ecclesiastes. That's the promise.