Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.
When I was growing up, I was fascinated by the opening words in Ecclesiastes, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”
That was the King James Version. Today’s New International Version puts it, “Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless.”
That’s a harsh philosophy of life. Everything is meaningless? Does the Bible really teach that nihilistic philosophy?
One graduation requirement at my Christian high school was to preach a ten-minute sermon in chapel. I wasn’t an active Christian back then, but I did want to graduate, so preaching the senior sermon presented a dilemma.
I solved the problem by taking my theme from Ecclesiastes. As I followed the author through his search for meaning in work, in wealth, in leisure, and in learning, I agreed with him that, yes, it was all rather meaningless. Today, as a committed Christain, still searching for meaning, that theme of Ecclesiastes keeps coming back.
These days, I’m pretty sure I pointed my senior sermon in the wrong direction. The Hebrew word for meaningless is better translated as vapor or breath.
The author is not asserting that everything is meaningless, but that everything is transient, unsubstantial, passing. Like smoke and vapor. Like the morning mist the sun disperses.
I worked in computing for 28 years at Alberta Motor Association, on three different membership systems. The first was a home-built system we retired before the year 2000; the second was leased from a vendor, and the third was an off-the-shelf system that morphed into an expensive custom development. And now that I’m retired, they’re replacing that system too.
That’s what Ecclesiastes tells me. It’s smoke: three decades on transient computer systems. It’s vapor: no one remembers me or the systems I supported.
Ecclesiastes says the same about other parts of life. Years of scrimping and saving built my small investment portfolio. But what will happen to my savings? Will the stock market crash, will inflation chew them up, will health expenses deplete them? My health insurance contract covers the first $200,000 of lifetime medical expenses. After that, they’re finished with me. I can solve my own problems.
That too is part of Ecclesiastes. Success is not guaranteed in the things we do. And as we do them, we grow old and die and leave it all behind. Like smoke in the wind or mist on the water.
Fortunately, that’s not the whole message of Ecclesiastes. Stay tuned to hear more of the story next time.
Our father, we pray with the poet of Psalm 90:
The length of our days is seventy years,
or eighty if we have the strength,
yet their span is but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass and we fly away (v. 10).
Our wealth and health and pleasures fall under the shadow of age. We bury the friends of our youth, and our zest for life diminishes. O Lord, draw us closer to you and to those we love and to the home you are preparing for us.
I’m Daniel, on the channel “Pray with Me”.
YouTube channel: Pray with Me – YouTube