Daily Bible Reading follows along with the passages discussed in the current teaching series. If you're jumping into the middle of a series or just prefer to read here instead of receiving a daily email, we hope this page is helpful to you.
If you’re part of a group, write down what God is saying to you through his word and share in your weekly discussion. You’ll get the most out of this if you read the verse several times throughout the day, and write down what stands out to you along the way.
(Not in a group yet? We can help you with that. Sign up for a group at your campus here.)
It's all meaningless.
"These are the words of the Teacher, King David’s son, who ruled in Jerusalem. “Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!
What do people get for all their hard work under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes. The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again. The wind blows south, and then turns north. Around and around it goes, blowing in circles. Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea. Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.
History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!” But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now."
Right at the beginning, the writer of Ecclesiastes keeps saying, “Everything is meaningless!” In Ecclesiastes, “meaningless” is translated from the Hebrew word “hevel,” which literally means vapor, or smoke. The teacher uses this term 38 times in total throughout the book, to describe that life is a paradox: it appears solid, but when you grab onto it too tightly, there’s nothing there. Just when you’re enjoying life, tragedy strikes, and everything can seem to blow away.
The writer of Ecclesiastes is essentially asking this one, big question: what’s the meaning of life?
See, when we try to build meaning and purpose in our lives apart from God, the author is essentially telling us that without God, everything is meaningless. Nothing is in our control, no matter how hard we strive. In 100 years, most won’t remember our names, and yet the word of the Lord will still remain.
This can be depressing until we recognize our place in the grand picture, and therefore our primary purpose: to enjoy life, and fear God.
Today, ask yourself: will my worries of today still be there in 10 years? If not, what worry can I lay aside?
Chasing the wind.
"I, the Teacher, was king of Israel, and I lived in Jerusalem. I devoted myself to search for understanding and to explore by wisdom everything being done under heaven. I soon discovered that God has dealt a tragic existence to the human race. I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.
What is wrong cannot be made right.
What is missing cannot be recovered.
I said to myself, “Look, I am wiser than any of the kings who ruled in Jerusalem before me. I have greater wisdom and knowledge than any of them.” So I set out to learn everything from wisdom to madness and folly. But I learned firsthand that pursuing all this is like chasing the wind.
The greater my wisdom, the greater my grief.
To increase knowledge only increases sorrow."
Have you ever tried to chase wind? Hopefully not (although, we wouldn’t mind seeing some video footage of your attempts). Chasing the wind is utterly futile! No one can catch the wind by chasing it. The Teacher in Ecclesiastes says that all of life is like this—full of pointless pursuits. He even says knowledge and wisdom are meaningless too because nothing on earth ever changes.
In an information age, it's easy to lose yourself in streams of content, each line begging for your attention more than the next. Today, set your heart and sight on Jesus and his word. The cross means we no longer have to strive for satisfaction, belonging, or acceptance. Jesus, what he did and who he is, put an end to our chasing.
What vain pursuits are you still running after? Take a deep breath. Trust Jesus with the future, and lean into his peace today.
Too much of a good thing...
"I said to myself, “Come on, let’s try pleasure. Let’s look for the ‘good things’ in life.” But I found that this, too, was meaningless. So I said, “Laughter is silly. What good does it do to seek pleasure?” After much thought, I decided to cheer myself with wine. And while still seeking wisdom, I clutched at foolishness. In this way, I tried to experience the only happiness most people find during their brief life in this world.
I also tried to find meaning by building huge homes for myself and by planting beautiful vineyards. I made gardens and parks for myself, filling them with all kinds of fruit trees. I built reservoirs for myself to collect the water to irrigate my many flourishing groves. I bought slaves, both men and women, and others were born into my household. I also owned large herds and flocks, more than any of the kings who had lived in Jerusalem before me. I collected great sums of silver and gold for myself, the treasure of many kings and provinces. I hired wonderful singers for myself, both men and women, and had many beautiful concubines. I had everything a man could desire!
So I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me. Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere."
Did you notice how many times the Teacher says “myself” in this passage? Go back and look. (No, seriously, we’ll wait.)
The expression “for myself” is repeated eight times in most translations of this passage to emphasize that the Teacher did not deny himself anything. He indulged himself in whatever he desired—his vast resources allowing him unlimited opportunities. He could have anything, and he did.
While you probably don’t live like a king, you might overindulge on occasion. Think about a time or two you overdid it. We're willing to bet you felt less satisfied and more empty than you started.
Today, when you’re tempted to take something further than it was designed (food, pleasure, work, money), remember this: it promises more than it can deliver. Unless it comes from God, it will leave you feeling empty.
What good is wisdom?
"So I decided to compare wisdom with foolishness and madness (for who can do this better than I, the king?). I thought, “Wisdom is better than foolishness, just as light is better than darkness. For the wise can see where they are going, but fools walk in the dark.” Yet I saw that the wise and the foolish share the same fate. Both will die. So I said to myself, “Since I will end up the same as the fool, what’s the value of all my wisdom? This is all so meaningless!” For the wise and the foolish both die. The wise will not be remembered any longer than the fool. In the days to come, both will be forgotten.
So I came to hate life because everything done here under the sun is so troubling. Everything is meaningless—like chasing the wind."
Just a few years earlier, the Teacher had everything anyone could ever want. He reflects on merrymaking (2:1-3), accomplishments (2:4-6), gaining great wealth (2:7-8), and achieving a lot of worldly things (2:9-10). He makes a great case for living wisely and not giving yourself over to self-indulgence. Why is he now saying not even wisdom will keep him satisfied?
Think about it like this: without visiting Ancestry.com, do you know the first name of your grandmother’s grandma? Unless you’re one in a hundred, you don't know the answer. Why? Because even the wise aren't remembered any longer than the fool (and we’re assuming your grandma’s grandma was wise). When we place our trust in our own human abilities and knowledge, eventually, we’ll come up short. We’re finite, and God is infinite.
Work is futile.
"I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned. And who can tell whether my successors will be wise or foolish? Yet they will control everything I have gained by my skill and hard work under the sun. How meaningless! So I gave up in despair, questioning the value of all my hard work in this world.
Some people work wisely with knowledge and skill, then must leave the fruit of their efforts to someone who hasn’t worked for it. This, too, is meaningless, a great tragedy.
So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety? Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest. It is all meaningless.
So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him? God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please him. But if a sinner becomes wealthy, God takes the wealth away and gives it to those who please him. This, too, is meaningless— like chasing the wind."
Studies show our workaholism problem is anything but new— in fact, it’s been around since the beginning. Most Americans spend one-third of their lives at work, and that’s just for those who work 40-hour weeks.
At the end of his reflection, the Teacher concludes that there’s nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and find satisfaction in work, recognizing all of these pleasures are from God. God is the giver of wisdom, knowledge, and joy.
No matter what you call work, whether it’s in the home or outside of it, find time today to thank God for it. Thank him for the gifts he’s given you, for the labor you can do, and ask him to help you have an identity outside of it. Then make a plan to have some fun, in Jesus’ name.
Time is a mystery.
"For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.
What do people really get for all their hard work?
I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.
And I know that whatever God does is final. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it. God’s purpose is that people should fear him. What is happening now has happened before, and what will happen in the future has happened before, because God makes the same things happen over and over again."
A simple reminder keeps coming up in Ecclesiastes: we can’t change what’s happened, rewrite history, or rewind our failures. We live within the bounds of time, no matter how much we push against them.
And yet, forever is written on our hearts. The human spirit knows it doesn't belong to this finite, decaying world—it exists for something more. We know this something more is the hope of heaven. It's like longing for a home, only not one in which we've ever lived before.
While this world keeps letting us down, we have the eternal promise of a never-changing God. He is steady, faithful, and just. Decide whether your mood this week will reflect the unstable peaks and valleys of the world or the peace and unwavering faithfulness only God can offer.
Life's not fair.
"I also noticed that under the sun there is evil in the courtroom. Yes, even the courts of law are corrupt! I said to myself, “In due season God will judge everyone, both good and bad, for all their deeds.”
I also thought about the human condition—how God proves to people that they are like animals. For people and animals share the same fate—both. Or both have the same spirit and both must die. So people have no real advantage over the animals. How meaningless! Both go to the same place—they came from dust and they return to dust. For who can prove that the human spirit goes up and the spirit of animals goes down into the earth? So I saw that there is nothing better for people than to be happy in their work. That is our lot in life. And no one can bring us back to see what happens after we die."
We buy, save, spend, waste, serve, and sometimes, we kill time. Time is a commodity without which we couldn't exist—what you do with your time defines who you are.
How have you been spending your time lately? Do you know where your time is going? Like money without a budget, left unchecked, we often have no idea where our resource of time goes.
Here’s a tip: if you have a smartphone, download an app to help track your time. Moment is one we've found pretty helpful. Get some inventory of where your time is going, and then ask God to help you be disciplined about spending it well.
"Again, I observed all the oppression that takes place under the sun. I saw the tears of the oppressed, with no one to comfort them. The oppressors have great power, and their victims are helpless. So I concluded that the dead are better off than the living. But most fortunate of all are those who are not yet born. For they have not seen all the evil that is done under the sun.
Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind.
“Fools fold their idle hands, leading them to ruin. And yet, better to have one handful with quietness than two handfuls with hard work and chasing the wind."
The phrase “Keeping up with the Joneses” originated from a comic strip in 1913, depicting a neighborly relationship of non-stop competition. Ironically, the comic strip never actually introduced its readers to the Joneses, only the perception of them.
Jealousy so quickly leads to isolation. When you’re stuck in a pattern of believing everyone else has it better than you, you’re cut off from connection. When you’re jealous others, you can’t see the whole picture of yourself—only the insecure, made-up version in your mind.
Are you jealous of someone? Reach out to him or her today, and offer a compliment. Ask how it's going. See that person (and yourself) the way God sees his children, and get free from the senseless competition. You might be surprised what God reveals to you, about yourself and about him or her.
Two are better.
"I observed yet another example of something meaningless under the sun. This is the case of a man who is all alone, without a child or a brother, yet who works hard to gain as much wealth as he can. But then he asks himself, “Who am I working for? Why am I giving up so much pleasure now?” It is all so meaningless and depressing.
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken."
Reflect on the people God has brought into your life—the ones who always reach out, always help, those who stand back-to-back with you when you need courage and strength. Tell them how thankful you are for them, and do it before the day’s end.
They've always got more.
"It is better to be a poor but wise youth than an old and foolish king who refuses all advice. Such a youth could rise from poverty and succeed. He might even become king, though he has been in prison. But then everyone rushes to the side of yet another youth who replaces him. Endless crowds stand around him, but then another generation grows up and rejects him, too. So it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind."
No matter how much we toil and strive, someone always has more power—everyone answers to someone. What’s meaningless here isn’t the work itself, but work for the sake of prestige or power.
What motivates you? Is it the desire to make a name for yourself, or to leave this world better than you found it? Center yourself today on Jesus, who made himself nothing (Philippians 2) and took the humble position of a servant.
Words, words, words.
"As you enter the house of God, keep your ears open and your mouth shut. It is evil to make mindless offerings to God. Don’t make rash promises, and don’t be hasty in bringing matters before God. After all, God is in heaven, and you are here on earth. So let your words be few.
Too much activity gives you restless dreams; too many words make you a fool.
When you make a promise to God, don’t delay in following through, for God takes no pleasure in fools. Keep all the promises you make to him. It is better to say nothing than to make a promise and not keep it. Don’t let your mouth make you sin. And don’t defend yourself by telling the Temple messenger that the promise you made was a mistake. That would make God angry, and he might wipe out everything you have achieved.
Talk is cheap, like daydreams and other useless activities. Fear God instead."
If someone were to make a judgment on your character based only on the words you spoke yesterday (in public and private), what would he or she say about you?
Spend time reflecting on your words and how they impact those around you. Has your mouth caused you to sin? What are you going to do about it?
What good is wealth?
"Don’t be surprised if you see a poor person being oppressed by the powerful and if justice is being miscarried throughout the land. For every official is under orders from higher up, and matters of justice get lost in red tape and bureaucracy. Even the king milks the land for his own profit!
Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what good is wealth—except perhaps to watch it slip through your fingers!
People who work hard sleep well, whether they eat little or much. But the rich seldom get a good night’s sleep."
Justice is close to the heart of God. If you follow Christ, you probably know what it feels like to long for justice and peace. Bringing justice to those who need it most requires getting close enough to understand their pain.
Solomon laments not using his money (or other resources) for something meaningful, and he sees a lot of other wealthy people using their power to gain more wealth—often at the expense and injustice of others. Here's what we ought to do with our money instead:
Defend the vulnerable, look out for those who need an adversary, and to speak up for the voiceless. Don’t use your resources for your own gain, but for the purposes of God’s Kingdom and for the building up of others.
Not sure where to start? Check out these local partners.
Can't take it with you.
"There is another serious problem I have seen under the sun. Hoarding riches harms the saver. Money is put into risky investments that turn sour, and everything is lost. In the end, there is nothing left to pass on to one’s children. We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us.
And this, too, is a very serious problem. People leave this world no better off than when they came. All their hard work is for nothing—like working for the wind. Throughout their lives, they live under a cloud—frustrated, discouraged, and angry.
Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past."
Notice the teacher calls out that while hard work is like working for the wind, we also should enjoy our work under the sun during the short life God has given.
Make a list of all you are grateful for. What has God given you? What people make your life richer? What abilities and gifts enable you to do your work? Thank God for them. Remember: we will come to the end of our lives as empty-handed as the day we were born, which makes us utterly dependent on God until the very end.
Enjoy what you have.
"There is another serious tragedy I have seen under the sun, and it weighs heavily on humanity. God gives some people great wealth and honor and everything they could ever want, but then he doesn’t give them the chance to enjoy these things. They die, and someone else, even a stranger, ends up enjoying their wealth! This is meaningless—a sickening tragedy.
A man might have a hundred children and live to be very old. But if he finds no satisfaction in life and doesn’t even get a decent burial, it would have been better for him to be born dead. His birth would have been meaningless, and he would have ended in darkness. He wouldn’t even have had a name, and he would never have seen the sun or known of its existence. Yet he would have had more peace than in growing up to be an unhappy man. He might live a thousand years twice over but still not find contentment. And since he must die like everyone else—well, what’s the use?
All people spend their lives scratching for food, but they never seem to have enough. So are wise people really better off than fools? Do poor people gain anything by being wise and knowing how to act in front of others?
Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless—like chasing the wind."
When was the last time you laughed so hard you could barely breathe? Has it been a while?
Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of verse seven goes like this, “We work to feed our appetites; meanwhile our souls go hungry.” When you stop wanting what you don’t have, you end up with a lot more joy. Whether you find yourself content, discontent, or somewhere in between, ask Jesus to help you see outside yourself today.
Make a list of all you have to be grateful for, or take 5 minutes out of your day to intentionally thank someone for something they’ve given to you—time, money, wisdom. It's a small exercise that goes a long, long way.
Watch your mouth.
"Everything has already been decided. It was known long ago what each person would be. So there’s no use arguing with God about your destiny.
The more words you speak, the less they mean. So what good are they?
In the few days of our meaningless lives, who knows how our days can best be spent? Our lives are like a shadow. Who can tell what will happen on this earth after we are gone?"
It can be tempting to think words don't matter. Our lives are like a shadow—we’re here one day and gone the next. How much more true is that of the words we say? Solomon says the more words we say, the less they mean.
How are your words helping others? Do your words harm others, intentionally or on accident?
Today, be picky with your words. Consider every word before it leaves your mouth, and be choosy. Only choose what is kind, encouraging, and edifying to those around you. Then, before the end of the day, reflect on what it was like to intentionally choose every word.
"A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume.
And the day you die is better than the day you are born.
Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties.
After all, everyone dies—so the living should take this to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us.
A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time.
Better to be criticized by a wise person than to be praised by a fool.
A fool’s laughter is quickly gone, like thorns crackling in a fire.
This also is meaningless.
Extortion turns wise people into fools, and bribes corrupt the heart.
Finishing is better than starting.
Patience is better than pride. Control your temper, for anger labels you a fool.
Don’t long for “the good old days.” This is not wise.
Wisdom is even better when you have money.
Both are a benefit as you go through life.
Wisdom and money can get you almost anything, but only wisdom can save your life.
Accept the way God does things, for who can straighten what he has made crooked?
Enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realize that both come from God.
Remember that nothing is certain in this life."
What better way to start the week than with some schooling on wisdom, right? Chances are, you might be waking up to a list full of unfinished to-dos and projects. January is known for being the time when everyone goes back to the gym, starts the new diet, and tries fostering new habits.
If you’re at the beginning or in the middle of a change, keep going. Finishing is better than starting.
On good days, find time to enjoy yourself. Use the hard days to examine your motives and your heart. God gives us both to draw us closer to him.
"I have seen everything in this meaningless life, including the death of good young people and the long life of wicked people. So don’t be too good or too wise! Why destroy yourself? On the other hand, don’t be too wicked either. Don’t be a fool! Why die before your time? Pay attention to these instructions, for anyone who fears God will avoid both extremes.
One wise person is stronger than ten leading citizens of a town!
Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins.
Don’t eavesdrop on others—you may hear your servant curse you. For you know how often you yourself have cursed others."
Isn’t it true that while we want others to believe the very best about our intentions we usually assume the worst about theirs? Today, be mindful in the moments you start looking for the bad in other people. The grace God gives you every day covers everyone else, too. If you’ve created a god in your mind who likes only the people you like, that’s not God.
Let people off the hook. Go over the top with grace.
What the teacher found.
"I have always tried my best to let wisdom guide my thoughts and actions. I said to myself, “I am determined to be wise.” But it didn’t work. Wisdom is always distant and difficult to find. I searched everywhere, determined to find wisdom and to understand the reason for things. I was determined to prove to myself that wickedness is stupid and that foolishness is madness.
I discovered that a seductive woman. is a trap more bitter than death. Her passion is a snare, and her soft hands are chains. Those who are pleasing to God will escape her, but sinners will be caught in her snare.
“This is my conclusion,” says the Teacher. “I discovered this after looking at the matter from every possible angle. Though I have searched repeatedly, I have not found what I was looking for. Only one out of a thousand men is virtuous, but not one woman! But I did find this: God created people to be virtuous, but they have each turned to follow their own downward path."
Maybe you’ve noticed this by now, but the people of the Bible were pretty messed up. Everyone, even some of the biggest heroes—people God used to carry out his mission, had some baggage and sin in their life. Everyone except Jesus.
When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the garden, sin entered our world, leaving us fractured and disconnected from God. A life separated from God is filled with restlessness and longing that’s impossible to take care of on our own—the void is too big. We’re unable to repair our relationship with God by ourselves.
But because of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, we no longer have to toil and strive for acceptance. We’re accepted because of Jesus’ sacrifice, and in him, we can know that he is everything and more.
Rest today in the truth that with Jesus, you’ll always have enough.
Who will fix it?
"How wonderful to be wise, to analyze and interpret things.
Wisdom lights up a person’s face, softening its harshness.
Obey the king since you vowed to God that you would. Don’t try to avoid doing your duty, and don’t stand with those who plot evil, for the king can do whatever he wants. His command is backed by great power. No one can resist or question it. Those who obey him will not be punished. Those who are wise will find a time and a way to do what is right, for there is a time and a way for everything, even when a person is in trouble.
Indeed, how can people avoid what they don’t know is going to happen? None of us can hold back our spirit from departing. None of us has the power to prevent the day of our death. There is no escaping that obligation, that dark battle. And in the face of death, wickedness will certainly not rescue the wicked.
I have thought deeply about all that goes on here under the sun, where people have the power to hurt each other. I have seen wicked people buried with honor. Yet they were the very ones who frequented the Temple and are now praised in the same city where they committed their crimes! This, too, is meaningless. When a crime is not punished quickly, people feel it is safe to do wrong. But even though a person sins a hundred times and still lives a long time, I know that those who fear God will be better off. The wicked will not prosper, for they do not fear God. Their days will never grow long like the evening shadows."
It’s humbling, isn’t it? In the words of Solomon, none of us can hold back our spirit from departing—we all will someday face death.
Sometimes it can be tempting to think we’re the morality police, but it's not always up to us to let others know when they’re out of line or on the path to destruction. That’s not our responsibility; that’s on God. As followers of Christ, we’re called to radically love people in ways that don’t make any sense and show them Jesus through word and deed.
How are you living your days? Where are you fixing your attention? Think today about how your life is making a kingdom impact, and ask God to give you courage to not waste your hours dwelling on what isn’t yours to fix.
Is fun on your schedule?
"And this is not all that is meaningless in our world. In this life, good people are often treated as though they were wicked, and wicked people are often treated as though they were good. This is so meaningless!
So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.
In my search for wisdom and in my observation of people’s burdens here on earth, I discovered that there is ceaseless activity, day and night. I realized that no one can discover everything God is doing under the sun. Not even the wisest people discover everything, no matter what they claim."
When was the last time you put fun on your schedule? When was the last time you took your spouse on a date, treated a friend to lunch, or spent an afternoon doing what you enjoy? Life can be hard and grueling, and none of us can get through it without some fun. We sincerely believe that because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we should be some of the most joyful people around.
When you find yourself grumbling or complaining today, remember Jesus' grace and compassion for you. Take time to enjoy this life: the food you eat, the relationships God has given you, the work that provides. Ask Jesus to make you grateful and to give you eyes to see his goodness all around you.
What do you enjoy? What fills up your tank? Spending time with friends, solitude, being in nature, worship—put it on the calendar and take time to do it.
Life is brief.
"This, too, I carefully explored: Even though the actions of godly and wise people are in God’s hands, no one knows whether God will show them favor. The same destiny ultimately awaits everyone, whether righteous or wicked, good or bad, ceremonially clean or unclean, religious or irreligious. Good people receive the same treatment as sinners, and people who make promises to God are treated like people who don’t.
It seems so wrong that everyone under the sun suffers the same fate. Already twisted by evil, people choose their own mad course, for they have no hope. There is nothing ahead but death anyway. There is hope only for the living. As they say, “It’s better to be a live dog than a dead lion!” The living at least know they will die, but the dead know nothing. They have no further reward, nor are they remembered. Whatever they did in their lifetime—loving, hating, envying—is all long gone. They no longer play a part in anything here on earth."
Solomon knew this truth: life is brief. Depending on how you’re living your days, this can be a sobering or terrifying thought. All of us, no matter where we come from or where we’re going, face the same destiny in the end. Those who have not accepted Christ, however, are facing an eternity without him.
The apostle Paul said it this way in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Who do you know who needs the redemptive grace and hope only found in Jesus? Pray today for God to give you an opportunity to share this eternal hope with him or her.
Whatever you do, do it well.
"So go ahead. Eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart, for God approves of this! Wear fine clothes, with a splash of cologne!
Live happily with the woman you love through all the meaningless days of life that God has given you under the sun. The wife God gives you is your reward for all your earthly toil. Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave, there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom."
In a world of cutting corners and finding the easiest way out, thorough and honest work stands out from the rest. Solomon knew this from experience and urged us to consider our days and live them well.
The apostle Paul knew this, too, and emphasized it to the church in Colossae in Colossians 3:23: “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”
Is there an area of your life where you’ve been slacking off, not giving it your best? Confess that to Jesus, and invite him in to help you change from the inside out.
Life is unpredictable.
"I have observed something else under the sun. The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time.
People can never predict when hard times might come. Like fish in a net or birds in a trap, people are caught by sudden tragedy. Here is another bit of wisdom that has impressed me as I have watched the way our world works. There was a small town with only a few people, and a great king came with his army and besieged it. A poor, wise man knew how to save the town, and so it was rescued. But afterward no one thought to thank him. So even though wisdom is better than strength, those who are wise will be despised if they are poor. What they say will not be appreciated for long.
Better to hear the quiet words of a wise person than the shouts of a foolish king. Better to have wisdom than weapons of war, but one sinner can destroy much that is good."
Let’s face it—our world is loud right now, and life can be unpredictable. When you find yourself wanting to jump into a debate or share your opinion, try today to sit, listen, and in the words of Solomon, share “quiet words of a wise person.”
As you go about your day, ask Jesus to show you his perspective of your circumstances and to help your mind and heart to be rooted in him. Seek his peace when you find yourself becoming overwhelmed by the trials of today.
"As dead flies cause even a bottle of perfume to stink, so a little foolishness spoils great wisdom and honor.
A wise person chooses the right road; a fool takes the wrong one. You can identify fools just by the way they walk down the street!
If your boss is angry at you, don’t quit! A quiet spirit can overcome even great mistakes.
There is another evil I have seen under the sun. Kings and rulers make a grave mistake when they give great authority to foolish people and low positions to people of proven worth. I have even seen servants riding horseback like princes—and princes walking like servants!
When you dig a well, you might fall in. When you demolish an old wall, you could be bitten by a snake. When you work in a quarry, stones might fall and crush you. When you chop wood, there is danger with each stroke of your ax. Using a dull ax requires great strength, so sharpen the blade.
That’s the value of wisdom; it helps you succeed.
If a snake bites before you charm it, what’s the use of being a snake charmer? Wise words bring approval, but fools are destroyed by their own words.
Fools base their thoughts on foolish assumptions, so their conclusions will be wicked madness; they chatter on and on. No one really knows what is going to happen; no one can predict the future."
If you’re on the path to wisdom, chances are you’re not being noticed for it. Wisdom usually comes in the form of quiet, mundane, step-by-step obedience.
Wherever you’re seeking wisdom in your life—your finances, relationships, way you speak—keep going. Don’t quit for lack of affirmation or if you’re not seeing results quite yet. No matter who sees (or doesn’t), God knows the motivations of your heart, and will bless them in time.
Trust, and release.
"Fools are so exhausted by a little work that they can’t even find their way home.
What sorrow for the land ruled by a servant, the land whose leaders feast in the morning.
Happy is the land whose king is a noble leader and whose leaders feast at the proper time to gain strength for their work, not to get drunk.
Laziness leads to a sagging roof; idleness leads to a leaky house.
A party gives laughter, wine gives happiness, and money gives everything!
Never make light of the king, even in your thoughts.
And don’t make fun of the powerful, even in your own bedroom. For a little bird might deliver your message and tell them what you said."
If there were a way to summarize the end of Ecclesiastes 10, it would be this: work hard, enjoy life, and go to sleep. If it’s not obvious by now, Solomon seemed to regret his days chasing the sun, always needing more than what was given or offered.
Jesus calls us to have our lives firmly and safely planted in the hands of a God who loves us more than we can imagine, and then to acknowledge that he’s in control of everything under the sun. We can do what we can, but in the end, God is the one who sees and knows every detail.
Where do you need to work harder? What do you need to surrender to God’s hands? Ask God to help you see what you can do, and the trust to release what you can’t.
Together is better.
"Send your grain across the seas, and in time, profits will flow back to you. But divide your investments among many places, for you do not know what risks might lie ahead.
When clouds are heavy, the rains come down. Whether a tree falls north or south, it stays where it falls. Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.
Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things. Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both."
The book of Ecclesiastes takes a hard look at how to find meaning in life. It’s a book that asks profound questions, and you’ve likely asked some of them yourself over the last several weeks.
Where the book right before this, Proverbs, is highly practical, Ecclesiastes is philosophical. The teacher knew what it was to have it all but had to face the fact that life is a vapor compared to eternity. He came to terms with the fact that just like the path of the wind, or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother's womb, he could not understand the activity of God.
What has God revealed to you about where your hope is over the last few weeks? Has he convicted you about your daily rhythms, patterns, and habits? We grow best when we have others to hold us accountable. Share with your group this week what God has taught you through this series.
We're not promised tomorrow.
"Light is sweet, and it is pleasing for the eyes to see the sun. Indeed, if someone lives many years, let him rejoice in them all, and let him remember the days of darkness, since they will be many. All that comes is futile.
Rejoice, young person, while you are young, and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth. And walk in the ways of your heart and in the desire of your eyes; but know that for all of these things God will bring you to judgment.
Remove sorrow from your heart, and put away pain from your flesh, because youth and the prime of life are fleeting."
If you’ve been putting something off—a conversation you need to have, a relationship that needs mending, or a debt that needs to be paid—don’t wait any longer. Take some time today to write out a plan to take one step of progress.
Solomon says it best: remove sorrow from your heart, and put away pain from your flesh, because the prime of life is fleeting. We're not promised tomorrow.
Heads up: It’s okay if it doesn’t go according to plan. Sometimes healing takes time, but the best time to begin is always now.
He is faithful.
"Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, “Life is not pleasant anymore.”
Remember him before the light of the sun, moon, and stars is dim to your old eyes, and rain clouds continually darken your sky. Remember him before your legs—the guards of your house—start to tremble; and before your shoulders—the strong men—stoop. Remember him before your teeth—your few remaining servants—stop grinding; and before your eyes—the women looking through the windows—see dimly.
Remember him before the door to life’s opportunities is closed and the sound of work fades. Now you rise at the first chirping of the birds, but then all their sounds will grow faint.
Remember him before you become fearful of falling and worry about danger in the streets; before your hair turns white like an almond tree in bloom, and you drag along without energy like a dying grasshopper, and the caperberry no longer inspires sexual desire.
Remember him before you near the grave, your everlasting home, when the mourners will weep at your funeral.
Yes, remember your Creator now while you are young, before the silver cord of life snaps and the golden bowl is broken. Don’t wait until the water jar is smashed at the spring and the pulley is broken at the well. For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it."
As Solomon closes out Ecclesiastes, he has some repetitive advice: remember God. Remember what he’s done for you and where he has brought you.
What has God done for you? As you look back on your life, what themes pop up as you reflect on his faithfulness? Thank him for those things today, and remember them when you find yourself feeling far from him.
Getting beyond the temporary.
"“Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless.”
Keep this in mind: The Teacher was considered wise, and he taught the people everything he knew. He listened carefully to many proverbs, studying and classifying them. The Teacher sought to find just the right words to express truths clearly.
The words of the wise are like cattle prods—painful but helpful. Their collected sayings are like a nail-studded stick with which a shepherd. But, my child, let me give you some further advice: Be careful, for writing books is endless, and much study wears you out.
That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad."
Solomon wraps up his thoughts with a powerful conclusion: fear God and obey his commands. Jesus taught this in Matthew 22:36-38, when an expert in the law asked him, “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”
Like Solomon, Jesus used the opportunity to point past the temporary into that which is eternal: love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind--this is the most important command. And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.
Life is short. Love God. Love others.
"Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”"
In a world fixated almost solely on the condition of the body, we must remember that even our flesh is meaningless. It's fleeting. Your body has been temporarily leased to your soul. You are not your body.
You are eternal.
Solomon's conclusion—everything is utterly meaningless—applies to all that is not eternal. You, a person made in God's very image, are meaningful. Jesus points us to the two most meaningful things you can do with your days under the son: love God and love people. That's as meaningful as it gets.