Meaningless: Reflections for Lent, Week 5

As we near Holy Week, it is appropriate that our reflections on Ecclesiastes take us to meditating on our mortality. Death comes for us all, whether wise or foolish, good or bad, just or selfish.

The writer of Ecclesiastes encourages us to acknowledge our limitations and our mortality. Yes, work hard. Yes, be prudent. Don’t be an idiot and make things harder by letting your selfish inclinations and evil desires get the best of you.

But in the end, relax a bit. Put in real effort, but don’t get sucked into perfectionism. Make good choices, but don’t be trapped by legalism. Take life bit by bit, and enjoy each moment for what it is. Take time to take care of yourself and nurture your relationships. Take time to laugh, to feast, to celebrate.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. One day, you’ll be gone, and all the stuff you’re working so hard for will go up in smoke.

Take a look at Ecclesiastes 9 and 10 here, and the reflect with me as I meditate on what it says to me.

In light of all that has been said before, here is what I have come to understand: The just and the wise and everything they do are in God’s hands. Their fate is not on their control. There is no way to know what will happen next. In fact, in the end, everyone’s fate is the same, whether just or evil, good or bad, healthy or soiled, religious or non-religious. It’s evil that there is no difference, but there’s no difference just the same. At least while we live, there is still some hope, some good. At least we know we are alive and that one day we will die, and in the meantime, we can try to make an impact. Still, one day we will die and everything we do will die with us. Good or bad, it all passes away.

Stop worrying about achieving perfection, and enjoy yourself. Take care of yourself. Enjoy the people you love and the life you have and the time you’ve been given.

Whatever you do, put all your effort into it. You only have so much time; there is no work or learning or wisdom in death.

Though it seems like we should be able to earn a better life, it does not work that way.

“Again I saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, or the battle to the strong, or bread to the wise, or riches to the discerning, or favor to the skillful; rather, time and chance happen to all of the them” (Ecclesiastes 9:11 HCSB).

Hardship happens when you least expect it.

A timeless and terrible truth endures:

“There was a small city with few men in it. A great king came against it, surrounded it, and built large siege works against it. Now a poor wise man was found in the city, and he delivered the city by his wisdom. Yet no one remembered that poor man. And I said, ‘Wisdom is better than strength, but the wisdom of the poor man is despised, and his words are not heeded’” (Ecclesiastes 9:14-16 HCSB).

Wisdom is better than strength, wealth or power, but no one pays attention to it. No one wants to hear it unless they have no other choice.

Yet, wisdom is taken more seriously when spoken calmly and reasonably than even the words of the rich and powerful when they are shouts and out of control. Wise words are far better than war and aggression, but it is so easy for one idiot to ruin things.

Ignorance and refusal to learn are powerful evils. They are opposed to wisdom and right at all levels. They lead to utter nonsense and injustice.

Evil is destructive to everyone, including the one who works it or ignores it. Ignoring or rejecting wisdom make life worse and harder to endure.

Wisdom never seeks to harm others. Wise people never diverge from kindness and are open to learning. The wise are willing to work hard.

Having joy is good, and sharing it is better. Having money gives you power and makes life easier.

Idiots run their mouths and talk about people behind their backs, including authorities. Not only is it destructive, it just might get back to the person, and then they’ll want retribution. If you say the wrong thing about the wrong person, they may make you regret it.

Mortality is inescapable, but it does not mean we give up on life. Instead, it means we live it to the fullest while we can. We seek good, we serve justice, and we are thankful for every breath.

If we try to build an empire, it is doomed to fall. If we seek power, it will fall into someone else’s grasp, whether seized from our control or left after we die. If we live impulsively, taking what we want or talking trash or refusing to take on responsibilities, it will catch up with us. If we try to do everything right and work ourselves to the bone, we will never enjoy the benefits, and we’ll still lose it all anyway.

Lord, Jesus. Grant us wisdom. True wisdom. Your wisdom. Leave us always open to notice an opportunity to love, to create, and to enjoy.

Help us to seize each moment with purpose, not ruminating over the past nor plotting ceaselessly about the future nor even living blindly in the present only for selfish pleasure. Instead, may we keep our eyes open to God’s ways, to the people in our lives, to the good we can participate in or generate at every opportunity.

May we live a life with meaning, not throwing it away by working to build something that cannot last nor throwing it away in the pursuit of pointless indulgences.

Show us your way to do find this wisdom and align ourselves with it.

Amen.

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