All Is Vanity

toil

Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 57; 145, Ecclesiastes 2:1-15, Galatians 1:1-17, Matthew 13:44-52


Ecclesiastes is the story of a man seeking meaning in life.  The first chapter is titled “Everything is Meaningless” and the rest is about what you’d expect. The seeker does not find meaning in wisdom, pleasure, folly, toil, advancement, or riches. He concedes that wisdom is better than folly because your life will probably be more pleasant and longer. He advises readers to obey the king, keep their vows to God, make some friends, enjoy pleasure in moderation, remember God in youth, and (no kidding) diversify your portfolio.

The third chapter has a passage about everything in life happening in its proper time (which many of us remember best as the lyrics of the lovely Pete Seeger song “Turn! Turn! Turn!”), but the bottom line is no matter what we do we’re all going to die, so all our efforts are no more than vanity.

Fun stuff, right?

But there is wisdom here. The author of Ecclesiastes could also have written Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff … and it’s all small stuff (actually by Richard Carlson). We worry a lot about things that don’t matter in the long run. We convince ourselves we’re in control of far more than we are, then berate ourselves for not doing a better job. We waste emotional energy comparing ourselves to others when the competition and its rewards are completely imaginary. We want life to make sense, so we tell ourselves stories to make it seem so, and when reality collides with our stories we lose faith.

Good things happen. Bad things happen. In the final analysis … maybe there is no final analysis. At least not by human standards.

Faith means trusting that no matter what is going on, God is present and constant throughout. Let’s try to remember that when it feels like things are falling apart personally, nationally, or globally. Jesus tells us worry never added a single hour to anyone’s life … but it steals plenty. Do what you can today; there will be more to do tomorrow, and other people to do it. Do it with faith and love. Everything else is vanity.

Comfort: True meaning is found by recognizing that we live in the presence of God.

Challenge: For a week (if you can), keep a log of how you spend your time, and how what you’re doing makes you feel. Review it for a stark evaluation of where your vanities lie.

Prayer: God, I am with you. Teach me I need nothing else. Amen.

Discussion: What parts of life don’t make sense to you? How satisfied are you with the idea from Ecclesiastes that they don’t need to?

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