Meaningless! Meaningless! - by Tom Waters

At some point in their life, almost everyone deals with the question: What is it all for? What is the purpose of living? Whether you are young and thinking about what to pursue in a career, or old and wondering whether you made the right decisions, the question of finding a purpose is widespread.
 
I have found the book of Ecclesiastes really helpful for thinking about this issue. Ecclesiastes is written by a man at the end of his life, surveying all that's he's done (possibly King Solomon, although it doesn't actually say). It's 12 chapters long and the first 10 are pretty depressing. It starts off with:
 
“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
    says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless.”
 
He lists through the book all the things which he finds meaningless - knowledge (1:13-18), wine (2:3), laughter (2:2), pleasure (2:10), wealth (2:7-8), evil men getting what the righteous deserve and vice versa (8:14), and great projects (2:4). On that last one he writes:
 
"I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees... Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun."
 
Many of us might recognise this tempted to feel that so long as we achieve enough big projects, and leave our mark on the world... then we will have led a meaningful life. But when the writer of Ecclesiastes reflects on this, he finds that he "hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind."
 
But although all these things in this life are meaningless and chasing after the wind, the writer notes that God "has set eternity in the human heart" (3:11). As a result, satisfaction can't be found in money and goods - in 5:10-12 he writes:
 
"Whoever loves money never has enough;
    whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
    This too is meaningless.
 
As goods increase,
    so do those who consume them.
And what benefit are they to the owners
    except to feast their eyes on them?
 
The sleep of a labourer is sweet,
    whether they eat little or much,
but as for the rich, their abundance
    permits them no sleep."
 
Instead, we should be satisfied in what God has given us - 5:18-19 reads:
 
"This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labour under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God."
 
But more than that, true meaning and satisfaction in life is found in following what we have been made for. The last few verses of the book say:
 
"Fear God and keep his commandments,
    for this is the duty of all mankind."
 
This is our duty - this is what we've been made for, and this is not meaningless. It is God that provides life with meaning, and it's because of him that it's not all just 'chasing after the wind'.
 
If we fall into the trap of thinking that great projects, money, knowledge, or other human endeavours will in themselves give us purpose, we will find ourselves to be in the position of the writer of Ecclesiastes – seeing it all as meaningless. Let’s remember each day what our true purpose in life is: serving God.