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Vanity, All is Vanity

“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? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.”

Ecclesiastes 1:2-4

Ecclesiastes on first reading seems to be a book that does not belong in the bible. Many statements made in this book seems to contradict our traditional understanding of biblical wisdom. Yet, it is possible that the preacher in Ecclesiastes is teaching us a sobering message, one that is highly relevant for us as inhabitants in a post-modern society.

To truly appreciate the message of the preacher we should consider the parallels between the preacher’s situation and ours.

Within the last 200 years or so, mankind has made great technological advancements. This hyper-rationality has come at a price, namely it has alienated us from our spirituality.

The preacher finds himself in a similar situation with that of the post-modern man. Being well-off financially has allowed him to indulge himself to the finer things in life. In the book, he is able to purchase servants, build statues and study philosophy. However, he comes to the conclusion that “This too is meaningless”

What then is the solution to this conundrum? The preacher himself states his answer in the last two verses of the book. “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil”.

The preacher constantly reiterates this phrase “there is nothing new under the sun”. Perhaps, rather, it is what comes from “beyond the sun” that is the answer to our dilemma. Indeed, it is Jesus who transcends our dimension that brings meaning to our lives.

Colossians 3:2 states “Set your mind on things above, not earthly things”. This should be attitude we should take to life - to constantly be conscious of the things that are above.


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