Oh . . . And One More Thing
August 4, 2022
This past Sunday, I preached on the first two chapters of Ecclesiastes. The sermon was titled “Life: Task or Gift?” In this scripture the author goes on and on about how meaningless life is: “Life is vanity! All is vanity!” This passage challenges us to decide if and how we will make meaning of the limited time we have to live and if we will make peace with leaving behind all that we toiled for to the next generations. The author struggled with these questions.
The general stance I took in my sermon is that life is both a task and a gift, and God created us with freewill so it is up to us to decide how we will approach life. Will we do so with joy, curiosity, and an intention of seeking the divine? Or will we buy into the author of Ecclesiastes' belief of life being worthless and futile?
God created us as both/and creatures. We are good and bad, broken and beloved. So, our lives should be about holding these two truths in tension, that life is a task (at times difficult) AND a gift (something to be cherished). God has given us the ordinary task and extraordinary gift of creating a life for ourselves that we love to live, in which we seek the divine, joy, and enjoyment.
But there was a part of the scripture that I didn’t have much time to dive into, and for purposes of length, shortened this section in the reading, chapter 2 verses 4 through 9…
“I made great works; I built houses and planted vineyards for myself; I made myself gardens and parks and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had slaves who were born into my house; I also had great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces; I got singers, both men and women, and delights of the flesh, and many concubines. So, I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem…”
When I read this section of scripture, I can’t help up say, “Duh! Of course, you think life is vanity!” Sure, you worked, toiled, and created, but for whom? For what purpose? The author worked and toiled only for themselves, to increase their wealth, their status, not for the glory of God or out of love or joy or for the benefit and care of others and creation.
For what is the point of having houses if you have no one to live in them with you?
For what is the point of making gardens and parks if there is no one to run around and play in them?
For what is the point of having orchards of fruit trees and herds and flocks if you will never have anyone to share a meal with?
For what is the point of increasing your wealth when you either have no one to share it with or no intention of sharing it?
This is the other piece of this Ecclesiastical-pessimistic-puzzle. If we live only for ourselves, then yes, all we can do is die for ourselves. Our lives will not have had the love, beauty, and meaning I believe God intends for each of us. God did not create us to be separate, siloed, selfish creatures, God created us out of love, so that we might love and care for all of creation.
I don’t know about you, but that gives me a great deal more hope.