“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
Who uttered all these so peculiar words? Isn’t it a bit far-fetched? Yet isn’t it so full of poetry in motion? If you want to know what is best described as acrimonious, what you have read at the top is something that precisely fits that description. If you look in the mirror and try to conduct a self-assessment exercise and be especially critical of yourself, perhaps there’s a chance you may begin to see a part of why you are existing here on earth just like the person here did who was full of resentment even for having acquired all the wisdom and knowledge in the world. It doesn’t matter whether you are a laborer or even a king because the truth is, you will find out the truth of who you are, unless you’d gotten behind the scene and having scrutinized a little about the poetry of life and death and everything under the sun. Only then you might be able to see the big picture in all the right perspective.
To most ordinary people, it would seem like an unnatural thing for a person to make such a fuss over something. And what precisely was the fuss all about? If it’s unnatural that anyone could get this angry and frustrated, surely then it’s unnatural for anyone to have a good enough reason to find out what’s going on. Isn’t it? But all the anger and frustration being directed at who or what? So, is it better to become nosy and find out or not to? Of course, given anyone who has the natural instinct of a human like that of Adam and Eve that caused them to pay a heavy price, the same question would arise here. Is something so similar now that would instigate anyone to repeat the same mistake like the person implicated here who once was known as the wisest man ever existed? Be that as it may, it’s not a witch-hunt, so it really doesn’t matter whether another similar insinuation like this would put you or anyone in hot water as that’s not the priority here. Only hopefully and by chance, the topic of this post might catch you off-guard and get you a little shaken if not stirred at least!
In any case, whether you are one of those who are ignorant or not, or who haven’t got a clue what is wisdom and knowledge, the only option to know what’s going on is this. You have to step into the shoes of someone here who once was a rich and famous king. That means, you have to “transform” yourself to become a king to understand what’s going on. It may sound ironic, but again hopefully, you as a “king” now at least for one day, will learn a valuable lesson from this real king who reigned for forty years, had unfortunately turned out less than moral himself, yet can still catch you off-guard with his wisdom and knowledge which was a gift from the one and only Almighty God.
He was certainly someone unassuming, yet made great history in teaching what wealth and glory can do to a person, even kings as well, if one is not careful or worse, become disobedient and rebellious that would lead to serious consequences. Although he is pretty much forgotten now, but again here is an important lesson to learn that most people would have taken for granted, hence found themselves falling head-on with self-induced disasters as a result all because of only one serious mistake. What is it? You will find out soon enough. One most notable thing about what happened to this rich king who, like us fragile, feeble and have the tendency to run short of gratitude, an ordinary laborer of his time warned him that he should not forget to remember a simple advice, lest an unhappy ending shall follow. The advice was: Do not abandon God your Creator, or He will abandon you.
And as for riches, the simple advice is, either you control money or money controls you and turn you upside down and in this case, from outside in. That means, if you let money get the better of you, there’s no telling how you would chase after it to the extent that you could find yourself stuck in a ‘point of no return’ situation and that would be the end of your “own world”. That’s why, it is so imperative to know what is “hidden” inside you which will either save you or destroy you till kingdom come. Here is a man who, even as king, had learned a bitter lesson and wanted us not to fall into the same trap of the ‘devil-may-care’ riches of this world that could easily violate your heart and conscience if you are not careful. And indeed no one is good enough not to fall prey to riches. Remember Judas Iscariot, even a chosen disciple who betrayed Jesus because of money?
The fact that such speeches made by someone so prominent during his time will most likely not matter to most ordinary folks now than it really did matter to this very person who was once known as the richest king of Israel centuries ago. And more so as anticipated, a long forgotten king like him would certainly not very much matter to you especially when we are living in an era that is pretty much scientific-orientated and where practically almost everything revolves around money, right? So it’s not surprising that everything you are about to read here would obviously sound and look outdated or so you thought. If it looked and sounded that way, that’s because you do not have the heart and conscience to look beyond and that’s why! Another problem is, you are looking but may not see what you want to see because you do not see with your heart and conscience.
Surprisingly, this rich and famous king, as opposed by those who would discredit him because of his unsavory lifestyle as someone who was known to disobey and sinned against God, is now given a new lease of life to serve as a dignitary to teach us the finest lessons in life. During the biblical times, although the Bible recorded that he was known as someone who feared God, yet he turned out as a womanizer and worse, ended up as idolaters because of women. How interesting – a supposedly man-of-God turned around and became from good to worse? Even then, he went through life without having problems getting what he wanted. That would be very much likely what most people are dying for and could never even come close to getting all that they wished for in their entire lives. So why still give credit to someone undeserving? What’s the underlying preference here? You will see or not at all. No one else can help you if you can’t after this.
As a king born with a silver spoon in his mouth after inherited the throne from his famous father, he had somewhat everything that he was not in any way deprived of owning or tried owning. Yet, somehow he was feeling so miserable and frustrated because there was something he felt was much more precious than all of what he owned and ever had, and that “something” wasn’t right in his life the richer and wiser that he became. He became torn apart by two things in his life – his beloved foreign wife and his allegiance to God who gave him what he wanted – wisdom and knowledge!
You cannot possibly imagine what else is left for you to live for if you found out to your dismay that finally everything is meaningless under the sun. Meaningless? Even being rich and famous? What do you mean by that? What actually triggered him to view everything with such an unprecedented philosophy even as a king? Perhaps if you take today’s standard in particular where materialism rules, then you could not have agreed more especially when you become rich and famous yourself. That’s because there’s always a chance you’d become more fearful for your riches the more you possessed them. So it’s the usual classic case of either you’d fear losing them all of a sudden, or not enjoying your prosperity to the fullest due to unforeseen circumstances that may go beyond your control.
In contrast, there are those people who have worked their whole lives, yet failed to make all that they dreamed of achieving, and this naturally would make it even more meaningless than this rich king, when they found out in the end they were not destined to become rich and famous no matter how hard they tried. So, it is not surprising you might have been one among them. Would it not then make you feel everything so meaningless, especially when you know you’ve given your best shot at becoming rich and famous? Does that not make you feel far more meaningless than someone implicated here?
So how could it be possible then for someone who practically almost have had everything in life yet still finally arrived at such a pitiful conclusion that everything is utterly meaningless? Does it make sense?
NO, of course not, and especially with the rich and the ignorant, it really does not make sense to them. How come? Can you imagine all of what you worked so hard for and gained such as wealth, power and glory, everything pleasant and pleasurable that you desired and perhaps some would even die for, yet all these things are meaningless after all, and worse, that’s according to a rich and famous king? Are you kidding? How can it make sense? It is not surprising at this point if someone starts throwing shoes at me even though I’m talking about earthly things! It would naturally get anyone thinking someone is a nutcase or something for cursing riches after amassing them. Given most people today, they could not have waited to walk with their chins held up high if they have all the riches written all over them.
YES, to most other people who are average income earner and below par compared to the rich, it makes absolute sense to feel everything is meaningless only because they couldn’t make it to become rich and famous. If you failed big time trying to make yourself rich and famous, wouldn’t you be feeling sorry for yourself and that everything is meaningless after all? Only then, it’s normal to feel that way, right?
But in this case, it’s the opposite. The person here, a wealthy and God-fearing king was lamenting over all these earthly things – riches! To anyone who have read and knew about the history of this biblical king, it looked pretty much like he was suffering from “schizophrenia” at times, yet amazingly, he could turn out being so wise suddenly as though he was teaching some very good moral values and ethics in life that we always overlooked when he said in Ecclesiastes 3:3, “A man may have a hundred children and live many years; yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity and does not receive a proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he.”
Going by that statement, he was like giving an impression that he was somewhat hinting about togetherness and bonding between family members. No wonder he had seven hundred wives and all of them were from the rich and famous. It would be wise to take his advice though, if I were you, but it’s best not to follow in his footsteps in having so many wives even if you are a king now. However, there’s something so true with what he was trying to point out. You will not understand until you put yourself in his shoes and see from his perspective. You see, we are always so busy pursuing wealth and whatnot, that we may at times have overlooked the simplest things in life and that is, unity and happiness in a family.
When it comes to relationship, even those so-called educated ones are having problems learning to appreciate and be grateful to God in all humility to have a family to cherish and love. Evidently the king was correct in teaching about setting our priorities right because the greatest tragedy is when one does not consider the top priority of looking out for each other well-being in a family as much as we should also look out for what we can do that will please our heavenly Father, lest we would not get to enjoy our prosperity and worse, not get a proper burial which would be rated as far worse than a stillborn child. Now, isn’t that really something for you to think about if you found yourself not eating together with your family members for umpteen years because of indifference with one another?
Yes, unfortunately this is exactly the simplest thing in life we always take for granted. Simple, yet so important to keep the bond in a family last at all cost. It’s really a shame if no one tries as hard as one should as siblings in a family in making it a priority to look out for one another in need whether it’s emotional or financial support and whatnot. But sad to say, all too often family members are found more likely to distance oneself from another than getting closer in today’s materialistic world. Whether Christians or not, people are unknowingly distracted by all the earthly wantonness in their pursuit of earthly wealth and glory that they think it is “alright” to become selfish to look after oneself first than having even a thought for another siblings in the family who might be struggling with distress, financial difficulties and whatnot.
If compared with the case of the king, the only difference was that he thought it was “alright” to neglect his duty and instead, pay more attention to his beloved African wife, the Queen of Sheba who left him after she learned that the people of Israel would not allow a son born from a foreign woman to become the next king of Israel. And also because of his failure to hear the advice of his people to sober up, they (people of Israel) were becoming disillusioned with him for not setting his priorities right that eventually led to the fall of the kingdom after his death.
So it seemed the worst thing that would ever happen is when family members fighting each other over properties, riches, titles and whatnot that ironically sparked by the evil side of riches. You may get to own a costly house like a bungalow or even a mansion, but if you do not have all the family members at heart and not happy because that made you feel not at home, what’s the point? It’s even more costly to lose the closeness and togetherness of family members. Material things like a bungalow house, or mansion cannot send you off on your funeral and give you a proper burial, can it? Only your loved ones can, but if you were at odds with them before with money issue and whatnot, how do you expect them to even come and pay the last respect? But if they do come, wouldn’t they be coming with a heavy heart? Isn’t it all too meaningless then?
Sometime ago, I bought a DVD movie called, “Dim Sum Funeral” just because I was “struck” by the title of the movie. After watching it, I found the plot pretty interesting as it centered on a rich Chinese-American family where a somewhat “dictatorial” and widowed woman who was dying of cancer alone suddenly found herself not having all her grown up children near her for comfort. So she devised a plot with the help of her faithful and loyal Jewish nanny so that it will bring her (dragon woman) children, a son and 3 daughters back for seven days of mourning that is part of the traditional Chinese funeral before burial.
As this is not an action movie you will definitely get pretty impatience for the finale, but it’s worth all the patience to finish watching it to the end. As a matter of fact, this movie is only suitable for those with a heart and conscience and more importantly, a penchant to learn the values and importance of family unity and happiness. As most things good and meaningful always come in a pack of 3-in-1, so is this movie about God, truth and forgiveness that will either freak you out, or bring you as siblings in a family, together and even closer than ever.
Although the dialogues were pretty much centered around the siblings who were at odds with each, but still it was humorous at some point especially with a chanting monk who didn’t think he was a monk but became a monk out of peer pressure. Also, if you’re someone who’s always looking for a good punch-line in a movie, there is one in this movie and it comes as an advice too and that is, “Don’t leave things till it’s too late!” All in all, it was worth watching it because the movie was like echoing exactly what the Teacher said about the case of every ‘someone’ always end up afraid of not getting a proper funeral and burial and indeed it is to the Chinese especially, because it’s a taboo not having it fulfilled.
If you check this out in 1 John 4:7-21, perhaps then you know how simple even God himself is who gave us so easy and simple commandments to follow, yet it seemed so hard for us to follow and fulfill. Why? Why is it so hard to love one another? Because of our sinful nature, that’s why! Trust me. If you make sin your top priority to conquer, you’ll know beyond 100% that love is in your heart, mind and soul. Trust me again. If you love God and keep his simple commandments, you don’t really need man-made “religious laws” or “rituals” to keep you sane and sober as God had already provided us the utmost solution and that is Jesus! Jesus loved us by sacrificing himself to save us, not by imposing laws that make us liable to commit more wrongdoings, or kill one another instead!
Blessing In Disguise
Honestly, you should consider yourself more fortunate than the Buddha who didn’t have the privilege to know about Jesus. If he did, probably he didn’t have to sit under the bodhi tree seeking enlightenment. He could have become a Christian instead and saved himself a lot of time. Why didn’t it happen that way? Trust me – God had his reason for things to turn out the way it did. But the good news is, there’s no need to go and sit under the bodhi tree anymore to seek for enlightenment now. The best enlightenment is here even long before you were born and surely you can ‘see’ it by now. If even a born blind man could see, don’t tell me you can’t?
If you are still as ignorant as ever, perhaps you will find out whether it’s meaningless or not when you have completed reading the Book of Ecclesiastes where the words of the Teacher, son of David, king of Jerusalem, are so absorbing, yet at most times so intimidating especially if you’re someone who believed you should deserve the fruits of your success in life for all the hard labor you endured in achieving them. It will not only open your eyes to see for yourself whether life is really that beautiful and if everything is utterly meaningless. It will also open your heart to fathom what would usually be unfathomable to most people when it comes to the choice of getting your priority right. Whether or not it is important to put all your earthly treasures first in your life is something that happens here which is the reason the writer exclaimed that everything is meaningless!
Until then, you will highly likely be still basking in the glory of the pleasures of life on earth and not willing to wake up from living in the bubbles that could burst anytime soon. The person who wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes was by no means an ordinary person in the society at that time because he was known throughout the book only as the Teacher, the son of David and a king. To most Christians or anyone who reads the Bible, one could easily tell that the author was King Solomon who also wrote the Proverbs in the Old Testament. What’s most interesting to note is that he was like what most rich man are now, who on the outside had everything in life that any other ordinary man would wish for and are not able to make in a lifetime. Yet there were emptiness inside him. What went wrong? This too will happen to you and everyone sooner or later. Sorry to say this. You will know when the time comes. If your time of reckoning has not arrived yet, there’s no point in telling you now. That’s because you probably would not get it in your head. Only time will tell if you’re ready to be busted like it did the king.
But still, what he wrote were so amazingly truthful because what he saw and said then that everything is meaningless is exactly reflecting what’s happening now and will in all centuries to come, if indeed there’s another century to come. The most important thing in life for a lot of people is to get rich as it always seemed it’s the “one” and “only” answer to anyone’s “worse nightmare” to overcome poverty. Isn’t it? Don’t get me wrong. It’s not wrong or bad to become rich and famous. It’s not about what you have or owned. It’s about what you do with your riches that is a cause for concern because that’s what really set you apart from other “rich man” who just care about amassing riches, and nothing else! And that’s the part our big boss is watching from above to see if your riches indeed made you rich inside or outside. In other words, better watch how you make and spend your money!
Why then are some people so rich yet not happy and commit suicide? Why is it that some people so rich yet are not satisfied and still allowed greed to destroy them by committing corruption, or crimes of any means just to get more to satisfy their insatiable appetite for riches? These are real stories that you can even read in the newspapers daily. Until you can find the answers to all these questions, what you are living for is nothing but a chasing after the wind.
Labor Is Meaningless
Perhaps, if I share a little sad incidence of what happen not a long while ago, it may cement the wisdom of what the Teacher wrote, saying that everything is meaningless. It would in a way, substantiate what he meant in the verse that says, “What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun? (Ecclesiastes 1:3)
I was walking along a street market one morning to a butcher shop. As I was nearing the shop I noticed there was an old man begging at the busy morning market. He was a hunchback and standing on one leg with the support of a walking stick while the other leg looked like it’s maimed. I took pity on him and wanted to give him some spare change. But sadly I held back and didn’t give a penny in the end. Why? That’s because I was totally disgusted at seeing him smoking. I started questioning the rationale to “do-good” at this point. I was thinking in my heart. Given you or anyone, would you give him alms knowing that he would most likely spend it on his filthy habit and not on food? Besides, you would have pretty much avoided inhaling his ‘second-hand’ smokes yourself if you just walk away, right? What’s more, wasn’t he old and matured enough not to be told bluntly that smoking is bad for his health, the health of others and the environment as well?
Did you not know that ‘second-hand’ smokes kill others faster than it kills the smokers themselves? Did you not know that a pack of cigarettes cost more than a pack of lunch and a drink combined? If he could so much afford to smoke even while begging, certainly he could so much even afford to buy me lunch instead. Don’t you think? So how in the world could he expect benevolence from the public the way he conducted himself as a beggar? Would you give him even the spare change then? If you did, you would be only making everything all the more meaningless. Wouldn’t you?
Wisdom and Folly Are Meaningless
Not surprisingly, the writer were also quick to point out that even when he devoted himself to study and to explore by wisdom all that’s being done under heaven, he still claimed all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind. He went on to say he even had experienced putting into action all of what a wise man is and could do. And not to mention, he did the same, experimenting all the madness and folly of the fools, but he learned that this, too is a chasing after the wind. He summed it all up in Ecclesiastes 1:18 saying, “For with such wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.”
Perhaps if you could relate his thoughts with the life of the Buddha, you might understand better why he lamented that even having wisdom and knowledge weren’t good enough to make a person satisfied and happy. Every followers of the Buddha knew about the story of how he once was a young and innocent prince and had everything that he ever wanted in his father’s palace. Yet he was not happy and satisfied because he thirsted for knowledge and wisdom. As he was always shut out from the world all the time, he had no way of knowing what’s happening outside the palace walls.
So he decided he had to get out of the comfort zone and seek his adventures of knowledge and wisdom. He certainly did find what he was looking, only that it was the picture of a bitter truth of life where he learned about the sorrows of hunger and sufferings of all kinds. When he found enlightenment under the bodhi tree, his life finally transformed to that of someone becoming more humble and wiser because of the sufferings he saw after he left all the luxury of a prince. Yet he was not satisfied and happy because he still couldn’t find the answer to his own existence on earth and why he even after having acquired all knowledge and wisdom still have to face death.
Probably this could be the reason that sparked his teachings of “do-good” which is one way of paying one’s penitence for the life of sin on earth. But we all know that to “do-good” alone is not the real solution to sin, death and the devil, Jesus is! It is of course good to “do-good”, but unfortunately, it is not good enough according to the Bible which is God’s Word, not mine. You can argue until you turn blue and black. Still it does not change what the Bible tells me! Yes, you need more than doing good to save yourself from the penalty of death! Only by believing in Jesus and accepting him as Christ and Savior will you be saved, like it or not.
But on the contrary, if you’re a Buddhist, you would naturally argue on one fact. How was it possible for the Buddha to believe and accept Jesus as Christ and Savior to have eternal life when Jesus only came into the picture long after Buddha was dead and gone? Good question. I supposed no one can answer this question except God. It is all up to Him because He is the big boss up there. Hopefully the Buddha might get lucky and found favor in the sight of God for his bravery and faith in seeking enlightenment and the humility he shown to people. Who knows?
As such, it is not surprising that the Buddha too, met the same fate as that of King Solomon who said in Ecclesiastes 2:14-16, The wise man has eyes in his head, while the fool walks in darkness; but I came to realize that the same fate overtakes them both. Then I thought in my heart, “The fate of the fool will overtake me also. What then do I gain by being wise?” I said in my heart, “This too is meaningless.” For the wise man, like the fool, will not be long remembered; in days to come both will be forgotten. Like the fool, the wise man too must die!
However, there is an important aspect here that no one should confuse oneself about the physical existence of Jesus and his existence as a spiritual entity that he even existed before Abraham was born. As both the Buddha and King Solomon only physically existed before Jesus did, this would be based on the physical aspect of a human being as in flesh and blood like all of us now. Still, it does not necessarily mean it was unfair of God for not giving them the chance to believe in Jesus and thus have eternal life just because they lived and died before Jesus was born. Just the same, it does not necessarily mean that even all Christians who accepted Jesus Christ will be sure of having eternal life. That’s because even if any Christian is not careful and strong in faith to carry on doing the Lord’s will, will still be tempted to fall from grace and it’s all back-to-square-one. That’s why, it’s so important that no one whether Christians or not, should abuse the graciousness of God while still breathing.
Our life on earth is just the same as going back to “schools” where we never stop learning whether young or old. However, one must really be careful with our certificates of graduation and where we obtained them from because whether your certificate is genuine or bogus will depend on which school you attended, God or the Devil.
Whether one existed before or after Jesus, and whether one believes Jesus or not, God will judge us based on where our hearts and conscience lies in all the years of our existence on earth whether you were a Christian or not. You’re not judged just by the religious laws and rituals that you observed. In other words, you may recite your prayers 5 times a day, observe fasting or deeply devoted to whatever religious chanting, but if you still easily become angry, violent or worse, kill people over some silly excuses whether religious or not, then what’s the point of believing in religion? If you do not have a heart for God, and much less a conscience to make yourself right with Him by obeying his simple commandments such as, “Thou shalt not kill”, or Thou shalt not commit adultery”, whatever religious laws and rituals you practice are all meaningless. It’s the same as not scoring in football and you’d still a loser even if you are the most famous football team in the world. Isn’t it?
Riches Are Meaningless
Certainly, if you tell that to anyone especially the rich, they will say you’re a nutcase 100%. How can it be meaningless to have all the riches in the world? They will tell you this: “Don’t you know you can do so many countless things with money in your life”? “Don’t you know that it is money that makes more money”? “Don’t you know that even now money can buy “love” and have any woman you fancy”? “Don’t you know that there are still people so desperate “to-be-loved” that they are willing to pay you tons of money if you are willing to spend a little time to go for a “loving chat” online”? This is exactly what King Solomon meant when he said in Ecclesiastes 5:10, “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.”
There’s no denying that money plays a great part and a great deal in our lives. Yet, it’s not entirely true money is everything. One good example is when a person contracted the deadly cancer disease. Of course, if discovered early, maybe still can save the person who may have all the riches to pay for all the medical expenses, but that’s only so good and that far money could do. Isn’t it? But then, certainly everyone knows very well that no amount of riches can save someone who discovered the disease a little too late, right? So, is money everything now?
Now, what money cannot play, or vindicate even the smallest part is when you violated your heart and conscience with your words and deeds, thus having the sin label hotly burned a mark in your heart and conscience that no amount of money you are willing to pay can clear that indelible mark 100% because God does not need your money. He only wants your heart and conscience good and clean so that you can hold up your head when you finally face Him in the end. That’s how you know you have all the riches in the world, and why all of them suddenly become meaningless. Jesus had made it very clear when he said, “What does it profit a man if he gains the world but lose his own soul”? But sad to say, people today are still the same as ever. Wealth, it seems, is more important than their souls, to lose it.
The writer claimed he had learned almost everything and tried almost everything under the sun so much so no one was by far greater than he in Jerusalem, even those before him. Yet, whatever he worked for with his own bare hands and whatever he acquired like houses, gardens, vineyards and parks that were great projects he undertook. Whatever he amassed like silver, gold, the treasure of Kings and provinces, male and female slaves, men and women singers and even a harem as well (no relevance to Muslim), everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind and nothing gained under the sun, he said.
Finally, he has this to say in his conclusion. “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)
What the Teacher was trying to get the message across is this simple only. We as human beings created in the image of God should not forget to remember our Creator who is the giver and the taker of everything. The only thing we need be mindful of always is that we are not going to live here on earth forever as what Ecclesiastes 8:7 said, “Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come? No man has power over the wind to contain it; so no-one has power over the day of death.”
So, don’t you think you should start doing your homework? You only have just the time on earth to work out your salvation in fear and trembling. You should work on where your destiny will bring you because that is all it matters. Honestly, if you are smart enough, you would follow this advice: Do not abandon God, or He will abandon you! And if you’re contemplating to come back to God, make sure you enter the correct door. Don’t be so foolish to believe there are other doors where you can either enter by the back door, side door or middle door to become the ‘sons of God’ in the kingdom of heaven. If you enter the wrong door, you can rest assured it will lead you to the point of no return. The one and only correct door that God already showed us is Jesus!