Living life with purpose - A study in Ecclesiastes

Published: Monday, February 1, 2021

I believe Ecclesiastes has become my favorite book in the Bible.  There is so much packed into the verses for contemplation, guidance, and just pure wisdom. 

After all, this book is written by the wisest man that the world has known. His opening line is that all is vanity.  What is vanity though?  The definition is one around excess pride, egotism, and arrogance.  The Message bible calls vanity smoke. 

How you toil matters

When I look at the term vanity, I picture myself looking at my past achievements and the things that I do currently.  At time, I see prideful capturing of what I achieved, what I created, or what I gave the idea for.  What purpose does that serve.  Only to feed on my ego personally.  I liken it to the story of the emperor with no clothes.  I am so confident in my historical achievements, that I am oblivious to the downfalls that will be caused by those interactions.  As I have gotten older, I ask myself what is the value of the work that I am doing, the life that I am living.

Smoke, nothing but smoke. [That’s what the Quester says.] There’s nothing to anything—it’s all smoke. What’s there to show for a lifetime of work, a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone?

What does I gain by the work that I do?  The reality is nothing.  Oh, maybe a footnote captured in a blog post, a distant memory by someone that was put into writing, or a picture that no one recognizes fifty years later.  The work I do is meaningless if it is for me and what makes me feel good.  So I don’t really gain anything then for me.

However, if I work for a motive that is at the direction of God, the gain will be much.  It will bring joy into other people’s lives, contentment and security for those who have a personal relationship with the Savior, and peace around the statement “well done good and faithful servant.”  It has taken my lifetime so far to be taught that seeing the joyous work of Jesus through me is peace and contentment.  That is what I gain if I toil for the Lord versus myself.

An additional resource to help in the study of Ecclesiastes

Living Life Backwards