It Is Senseless
1I said to myself, “Have fun and enjoy yourself!” But this didn't make sense. 2Laughing and having fun is crazy. What good does it do? 3I wanted to find out what was best for us during the short time we have on this earth. So I decided to make myself happy with wine and find out what it means to be foolish, without really being foolish myself.
4 I did some great things. I built houses and planted vineyards. 5I had flower gardens and orchards full of fruit trees. 6And I had pools where I could get water for the trees. 7 I owned slaves, and their sons and daughters became my slaves. I had more sheep and goats than anyone who had ever lived in Jerusalem. 8 Foreign rulers brought me silver, gold, and precious treasures. Men and women sang for me, and I had many wives who gave me great pleasure.
9 I was the most famous person who had ever lived in Jerusalem, and I was very wise. 10I got whatever I wanted and did whatever made me happy. But most of all, I enjoyed my work. 11Then I thought about everything I had done, including the hard work, and it was simply chasing the wind. Nothing on earth is worth the trouble.
Wisdom Comes from God
12I asked myself, “What can the next king do that I haven't done?” Then I decided to compare wisdom with foolishness and stupidity. 13And I discovered that wisdom is better than foolishness, just as light is better than darkness. 14Wisdom is like having two good eyes; foolishness leaves you in the dark. But wise or foolish, we all end up the same.
15Finally, I said to myself, “Being wise got me nowhere! The same thing will happen to me that happens to fools. Nothing makes sense. 16Wise or foolish, we all die and are soon forgotten.”
We spend our lives standing watch. Day and night we patrol the walls we build around ourselves, searching the horizon for any sign of danger, any threat to the lives we’ve made. Carefully we guard against the enemies of our happiness: against loneliness and rejection, poverty and failure, failure and dissatisfaction. At the first sign of trouble approaching, we leap into action to save our treasured selves, to keep the lights burning and the bills paid, to protect the precious lives we have so carefully assembled.
But the devastating truth is that sooner or later, something slips by our careful watch. Sickness steals in through an open window. Violence breaks down the gate we barred against mortality. The years themselves rise up like a wave and crush us with the weight of age. At the end we finally understand what Solomon knew: that all our watchfulness was for nothing.
Solomon’s words cannot be denied by mortals such as we are. They are true in all their desolation. Every story is a tragedy if you follow it long enough, for every story ends with the death of every character.
But the Author of Life is not content with a tragic ending for his creation. Jesus comes down to us and is the Word, the new word, written across the great blankness of death we thought was the end of our story. He writes it in his own blood, the new ending we find in the book of Revelation: “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” For in the new order of things there are no endings, only the eternal telling of the endless story of his love for us.
Lord God, You knew us before we were born and will receive us when our bodies die. Be near to me today that I might live as you would have me live, bringing glory to you and healing to your world. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.