Scripture: Ecclesiastes 2:1-15
Key verse: (11) Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had spent in doing it, and again, all was vanity and a chasing after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.
Reflection: “Hevel” is the Hebrew word that is translated “vanity” in Ecclesiastes. Hevel means “ephemeral, unknowable, mysterious, absurd, and ironic.” The word is used fifty-seven times in the book of Ecclesiastes. The writer, identified as the Teacher, dispenses wisdom and in many cases a “reality check” about the way the world works.
In this chapter the writer tells us that he pursued pleasure as his utmost goal. He cheered his body with wine (!), and went on a hedonistic spree. He built houses and planted vineyards and made pools. He bought slaves and herds of animals. He amassed gold and silver. He kept his heart “from no pleasure.” And then he looked at all of it and proclaimed it was hevel. All of that wealth, all of that worldly success, all of those worldly pleasures, were vanity. They had no spiritual eternal value. They brought no real satisfaction.
Sometimes we describe the life of faithfulness as a sad life deprived of pleasure. We tell young people to sow their oats in hedonistic fun before they have to settle down as adults. I wonder why we encourage people to pursue hevel. What if, as Jesus taught in John 10:10, the life of faithfulness is an abundant life? Sometimes we realize that the time on a mission trip was more satisfying than the resort vacation. We realize that caring for a sick loved one is more valuable than going to a party. We realize that faithfulness in marriage is more cherished than years of promiscuity. The Teacher gives us this reality check – the dream life the world offers is just a dream and the faithful life that God offers is the abundant life.
Prayer: O God, forgive me when I pursue temporary pleasures and amass worldly possessions. You call me to live “the life that really is life.” When I face choices, remind me what is valuable and meaningful and abundant. And remind me again. Amen.
Author: Millie Snyder
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].