Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Thoughts about Ecclesiastes

One of the things the Book of Ecclesiastes is known for is a dismal outlook on life, exemplified by the saying that is repeated throughout of, “all is vanity and vexation of spirit” and “this also is vanity” and so on.

However, I recently realized that along with pointing out stuff that was vanity and vexation, I noticed it also points out what is good. The preacher of Ecclesiastes was anxious to discover the ideal, happy, profitable life, one best optimized for the most happiness. And running under all the observations about vanity and vexation are that fearing God and working hard is the optimal state.

Concerning work, the preacher of Ecclesiastes is not optimistic about the longevity of work results. He puzzles over how a wise king might be followed by an awful king who cares nothing and knows nothing about maintaining or adding to what was done before him. So the preacher falls back on realizing that each person must work and enjoy that work and not worry about what will happen once they leave life because the people who follow will have their own work to do.

This gives me the impression that the way work changes us is the most important result of work, when looked at from the eternal perspective. Work serves us temporarily by providing us with things like shelter, food, protection, education, comfort, but it serves us eternally by how it helps us develop good character. So, in terms of what Ecclesiastes teaches about work, it is very positive, and helps us keep from getting unhealthy notions about the temporal results.