Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?
Ecclesiastes 1:2-3 (ESV)
In these verses, Solomon proclaims that all is vanity. Or using other words, everything is meaningless. That statement is true, but there is a problem.
Saying that everything is meaningless is unavoidably a meaningful statement.
It’s like making the claim that there is no objective truth. It is a self-defeating proposition. By being true, it would also prove itself false.
Similarly, the Preacher says something of meaning, even while he claims that nothing has meaning. How do we reconcile this?
The key is the phrase under the sun.
Everything under the sun is meaningless. The things of this life, including us, are fleeting vanities, little more than blips on the radar of eternity.
If this is true (and it is), Solomon is able to utter this meaningful statement only because meaning exists somewhere beyond the sun.
We know, of course, that all meaning flows from the Author of life, Jesus Christ. Paul describes Jesus like this:
Colossians 1:16-17 | For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him and he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Take a moment to allow the sweeping magnitude of those verses sink in.
ALL THINGS were created through and for Jesus, and He holds EVERYTHING together. In other words, the atoms that form my keyboard as I type this are held in place by Jesus.
Existence exists because Jesus keeps it existing.
This means that there is no reality outside of Jesus. If all things are held together in Jesus, then nothing exists away from Him. Everything, therefore, is meaningless without Christ because without Christ there is nothing.
With this understanding, Ecclesiastes’ life under the sun is a myth.
It is a fantasy, nothing more than a day dream.
We cannot actually live outside of God because He is the giver of life. Life without God is a fool’s quest since “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
Attempting to avoid God is a striving after wind.
Ecclesiastes, therefore, does not need to be a depressing book. The Bible reveals to us the God who created the sun and gives meaning to all existence. He is the only source of true purpose, meaning, and satisfaction.
We do not have to embrace the meaninglessness of life, the abyss that stares back; we can follow and serve the Creator.
We can exchange the vanity of life under the sun for the fullness of abiding in Christ.