10 Takeaways from Ecclesiastes- by Raegan Allen
I blinked and it’s August, a month that’s always meant beginnings and endings for me. For one, it’s my ~birth month~ which always causes me to reflect about the past year and set goals and intentions for the next one. It also marks the end of the summer, a time that always brings a certain melancholy for me. It’s not that I’m going to miss the heat (I’ve always been a cold weather person), but something about the change in seasons always makes me feel a little blue. Maybe it’s the dwindling daylight hours, or the realization that the year is two-thirds of the way over. Whatever it is, August is always bittersweet and ripe for reflection.
When I find myself in this kind of contemplative mood, I always seem to turn to Ecclesiastes. Solomon offers seemingly infinite wisdom in these twelve short chapters, making it my favorite book of the entire Bible. Today I’d like to share ten takeaways from Ecclesiastes, in hopes that you’ll benefit from its insights during this season of transition.
1. Earthly knowledge and experiences cannot ultimately satisfy us.
- I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind. (Ecclesiastes 1:14)
- Solomon had it all. Really. He was king of Israel, possessed a mind-boggling amount of material wealth, and could pretty much do whatever he wanted. It turns out that none of that equals happiness. When I guitily ask myself if I made the most of my summer, if I really soaked up every experience, I remind myself of this verse.
2. Success can save no one from the fate of all humans: death.
- The wise have eyes in their heads, while the fool walks in the darkness; but I came to realize that the same fate overtakes them both. (Ecclesiastes 2:14)
- Sorry if this just got really depressing — I promise there is a silver lining if you keep reading! In this verse, Solomon discusses our pursuit of success and knowledge of the things of this world. He concludes that no matter what we gain in this life, we are all heading towards the same fate. As a constant comparer, I find solace in this verse.
3. Worrying is useless!
- What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless. (Ecclesiastes 2:22-23)
- While the verse may seem like a downer, the message is a positive one: being anxious about the cares of this life (little or big) can get us nowhere, and is a waste of our time and energy. Claiming that abandoning worry is easier said than done would be the understatement of the century, but endeavoring to clear our lives of this toxic habit is worth the effort.
4. God is the primary source of joy and pleasure in this life.
- This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25)
- Without God, the meaningless Solomon keeps talking about can really start to feel hopeless. With God, we can enjoy our lives on this earth, knowing that every blessing comes straight from Him.
5. We were made to crave more than this life can offer.
- He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
- If takeaway number one left you feeling melancholy, this verse is for you. The truth is that God made us this way — unable to find true satisfaction from earthly pleasures, hungry for something eternal. This is how we find our way to the Father, how we start our journey to heaven.
6. Justice will ultimately prevail.
- God will bring into judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time to judge every deed. (Ecclesiastes 3:17)
- This world is a grossly unjust place. It was in Solomon’s time, too. He discusses his frustration in watching evil continue without punishment, before uttering this reassurance: God will restore justice. No matter what it seems like from day to day, God is involved and attentive and committed to righteousness. We should be, as well.
7. Godly relationships make life sweeter.
- Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
- Solomon spends time in chapter four discussing the beauty of friendship and the richness that human connection can give to our lives. In the last verse of this section, Solomon mentions the “cord of three strands,” a concept often discussed in wedding ceremonies. This enhanced and powerful cord consists of two individuals and God, a team against which no one stands a chance.
8. It’s best to let go of the past.
- Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions. (Ecclesiastes 7:10)
- As seasons change and we engage in self-reflection, it’s important not to get too caught up in the events of the past. Whatever great things happened, whatever mistakes we made, whoever we spent our time with, the past is the past. No amount of rumination can bring it back or change it. God knows our tendency to rehash can be destructive.
9. All seasons of life are valuable. Try to enjoy the one you’re in!
- When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future. (Ecclesiastes 7:14)
- This is another wonderfully reassuring verse. Even when times are tough or we are experiencing hardship, we are learning and growing. God has made these seasons just as valuable as our happiest moments. Solomon reminds us that the future is uncertain, and invites us to live in the present, content.
10. The bottom line? Serve God.
- Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
- After telling us about all the things that don’t matter in this life, Solomon ends the book by telling us what does matter: God. Solomon finally concludes his grand quest for meaning at the author of it all, promising us that true satisfaction can only be found in Him. I’ve heard people say that this verse does a great job of summing up the entire Bible, and I would have to agree.
I realize some of these lessons seem melancholy (maybe that’s another reason I return to them at the end of the summer), but the book of Ecclesiastes has an ultimately hopeful message. Knowing and serving God can provide unimaginable joy, releasing us from the futile cares of this passing world. No matter what season of life you’re in right now, as summer fades into fall, try to remember our true purpose as humans on this earth. Peace and fulfilment will ensue.