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Ecclesiastes 12:13 and the Meaning of Life


Lerk

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Ecclesiastes 12:13 (ESV): The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

 

To which I ask: That's all you've got?

 

I've never set goals. Really! Oh, I did finish college (after changing my major 3 times), but I've always lived my life a day at a time. And I've always found my "meaning" in my responsibilities. I have work, I have family, and I have things to do. What more meaning do I need? Well, I know what's going on in the world and have discussions about it, and contribute to causes and organizations that I feel are important, and I vote -- so there's more meaning. I'm thinking more and more about how I'm going to be able to retire and I should have made that more important many years ago, but even now I wouldn't call it a goal. I need to get as much put away as I can, but I don't really think I want to retire. I just know that I'll have to some day.

 

The meaning in life just comes along. I have grandchildren and I love to spend time with them. I love having grown-up conversations with my kids and their spouses. I enjoy spending the evenings with my wife, even when it's boring, because we're together. I enjoy listening to music, but not as much as I used to. I listen to podcasts in the car while commuting every day. All of that stuff is just there, but it has meaning.

 

Largely, this day-to-day attitude that I was either born with or picked up somehow has meant that I never thought about Heaven or Hell, and certainly never imagined what they would be like. Apologists sometimes say that without eternity, life is absurd. Maybe that's so, but eternity is absurd, also. How can sitting in front of a throne worshiping a deity forever and ever be meaningful?

 

"Meaningful" is making things work, getting things done. Meaningful is enjoying a good meal. Meaningful is enjoying a fast-food meal. Meaningful is laughing with your friends and family. Meaningful is laughing at a TV show or a movie. Meaningful is experiencing anything -- a relationship or a story or anything -- that brings out emotion, happy or sad or just deep. Meaning and purpose are found in the everyday tasks and entertainment and relationships we experience. No ultimate goal is required. In fact, believing that there's an ultimate goal takes away from the true meaning, which is found in the everyday.

 

And after life is over? Meaning is for the living who remember you.

 

Maybe you're young and don't have some of those things, but you still have a 24-hour day that's full of meaning. Over time, the meaning changes, but it's there already, every waking hour.

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Even as a kid, I thought that verse made God sound like a selfish human.  It took another 30 years to decide God was "created" in the image of man.

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Ecclesiastes is my favourite book of the Bible, and the only one that's even worth reading. Obviously, I don't take it literally, but do find it interesting that literature written over 2000 years ago reads like it could have been written today. In my opinion, the book ends at 12:8, with the rest of it being "filler", because the original ending is so sad.  But I have given thought to trying to figure out from the book of Ecclesiastes, what are the "commandments of God" that the ending could be talking about. The only thread that seems to be that common is enjoying your food, drink, wife, labour, etc. Be reasonably hedonist perhaps?

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