What is the meaning of all our toils under the sun? What do we gain by amassing money beyond what we need in our lifetime and acquiring parcels of land

  • PublishedJune 28, 2016

What is the meaning of all our toils under the sun? What do we gain by amassing money beyond what we need in our lifetime and acquiring parcels of land that we never get to develop? Simple! Because every day we are looking for more and we want to have more than the other person. We want to be the talk of town about how much we own and the kind of exotic lifestyles we lead. But this is meaningless!

Consider these two scenarios. A man who derived great pleasure in talking about his “immense wealth,” how he became a billionaire at 30, the kind of “palatial home” he built and the type of cars he owned recently died. Another man, who lived from hand to mouth, and whose poverty could not allow him the pleasure of dreaming about owning a home or driving his own car and who struggled to educate his children also died. They are no longer here with us. Despite the fact that one was buried

in an expensive casket and his burial attended by dignitaries while the other was accorded a burial befitting his stature, the two now share everything in common: they are dust. What was the meaning of all their toiling? Does it now matter that one lived a more privileged life than the other? No.

The writer of Ecclesiastes opines, “Everything is meaningless, utterly meaningless” as he expounds in Ecclesiastes 2:11, “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what

I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind: nothing was gained under the sun.” This wise man had decided to experiment with life. He resolved to have everything his heart desired. Slaves, gold and silver, buildings, farms, women, name it and he had it! But in the end he came to one conclusion; everything under the sun is meaningless.

But God could not have placed us down here to experience a life of absurdity because if everything is meaningless, then God was involved in a meaningless act of creation. Yet the Bible cannot be telling a lie that everything is “chasing wind.” And it cannot also be telling a lie when Jeremiah proclaims these words in Jeremiah 29:11 which he attributes to God, “For I know the plans I have for you; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and future.” How then are we to live a meaningful life in the midst of meaninglessness? These two texts from the Bible are not contradictory. What the writer of Ecclesiastes is telling us is that to live only for the flesh and worldly things is to live a meaningless life. If we seek wealth, fame, property and money for the sake of it, then we are missing the point. These things should be a means to an end and not the end itself. Therefore, while it is good to have money and all the property we can acquire, we must ask ourselves how these can help us to attain meaning in life.

Whatever we acquire here must be for the service of God; and the service of God is only possible through service to mankind and the entire creation. This is to say that using our resources to ease the suffering of others is what gives our life meaning. Wangari Maathai found meaning in life by caring for the environment; Mother Teresa found meaning in life by helping the poor and so on. How does what you have contribute to making your life meaningful? The talents you have, the wealth and knowledge are meaningless unless you expend them in the service of others and the rest of creation.

And that is why God has a plan to prosper you. It is because he wants you to be a blessing and not a curse to other human beings and his entire creation. But the only way to go there is by “renouncing yourself (the flesh)” and “giving your wealth away” and living for God. God is the only one who can give meaning to our otherwise meaningless existence. Without God we are nothing. We may appear like we are in control, like we are living meaningfully, enjoying life and living large. But in the end what does it all add up to? Nothing.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, live for God. Choose God and God will give your life meaning just as it is promised in Matthew 6:33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Published in July 2016

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