Among Christians, the Bible is generally taken to be the greatest source of wisdom available to us. If divine revelation is seen as the wellspring of all wisdom, than the Bible is it’s largest brook. But when it comes to straight up advice for life, not all of the books were created equal, for within it we have five books generally referred to as Wisdom Literature: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes. Today I want to dive into Ecclesiastes, one of the least talked about among the five. Ecclesiastes can be a hard book to read, and for that reason, I love it. In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis talks about how we must leave behind a six year old’s Christianity. Ecclesiastes certainly presents us with something beyond a six year old’s belief. Within twelve chapters it somehow manages to hit upon nearly every major subject of thought within human history: The purpose of life, the purpose of death, the role of wisdom, where we place value, attaining happiness, and the list goes on.
The greatness of Ecclesiastes is in the depth of its aim. It does not deal with the individual circumstances of life covered within Psalms or Proverbs. It does not deal with the specific emotions and states of being experienced by the authors of Job and Song of Songs. Instead, it shoots straight for the heart of humanity, asking what is, perhaps, the most fundamental question available to us: In light of our place within God’s Kingdom, how shall we live? As an answer we are given an equally fundamental piece of advice: live in remembrance of what is truly important.
From the beginning of the book, we are reminded that this life is temporary, and there’s nothing that can be done to change that. The life of the wise man will pass away just as easily as the life of the fool. The author calls himself “The Preacher,” and he tells us that to cling too tightly to this life is a “vanity of vanities and a striving after wind.” It is useless, a complete waste of time and energy we have been given. It is a thought revisited often by Jesus himself.
Rather than holding onto life, The Preacher says, we must simply experience it. One of the biggest themes within Ecclesiastes is the seasons of life. Throughout our lifetimes we will be brought pain and hardship as well as joy and peace. We are promised that there is a time for everything; and that for every time of greatness there is a time of sorrow.