In this talk we explore the meaning of Ecclesiastes, which begins: "1 The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:
2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless.” NIV. Ecclesiastes is one of the most powerful texts in the Bible. Although Biblical scholars have had a hard time making it fit traditional understandings of Judaism or Christianity, the author speaks very directly about the futility of our ordinary ways of living. This book provides an excellent and very clear diagnosis of the nature of our suffering. There's very little offered as a solution, other than to enjoy whatever simple and fleeting pleasures life offers. Even this recommendation is offered in an obligatory and half hearted manner. From my perspective, the author deserves enormous credit for his refusal to offer simple minded and pat solutions to the very vexing problems of life. Far better to not know at all then to be certain yet wrong. So much of what is currently offered in the name of religion requires the submission of questioning and not knowing to the certainty offered by fixed belief. There are no simple or easy answers offered here. Nor does the author sugar coat his description of ordinary life, but rather speaks honestly from the heart. Although he has everything, he feels empty inside. It is a perfect and highly accurate description of the human condition. As such, it is worth taking seriously. What can we learn from this challenging work? The author could not be more clear about the problem. What is the solution?
The entire book of Ecclesiastes is very challenging to our ordinary assumptions about the meaning and purpose of life. It is an outlier in the Old Testament.