Perhaps you’ve tried reading Ecclesiastes in the past and thought, “Man, what a buzz-kill!” If you’re looking for verses to memorize for inspiration, you probably won’t find them in this book. It begins with “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” (Eccl. 1:2) This isn’t exactly the sort of thing you want to meditate on as you eat your Wheaties. So why should you read Ecclesiastes?
It is brutally realistic
There is no sugar-coating the brutal realities of this world. Life “under the sun” (Eccl. 1:3) can be incredibly difficult. Every bit of labor comes with thistles and thorns. The common curse stemming from Adam’s fall touches every bit of our existence. It leaves us often feeling meaningless: “All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing” (Eccl. 1:8). If you’re tired of platitudes that oversimplify your existence and dismiss your heartache, this book is for you.
It shows the futility of causes without Christ
We live in a society that fixates on causes with a spiritual intensity. Issue “X” is what’s wrong with the world, so we must enact “Y” to solve that problem. Without reflecting on how we lost Eden, we defiantly declare that we can make this world great again if only we do “Z.”
Ecclesiastes spells out the lie underneath all futile causes and pursuits. Wisdom will fail you (Eccl. 1); self-indulgence and hard work will fail you (Eccl. 2); wealth will fail you (Eccl. 5–6). If the man representing the wisdom of Solomon can’t re-create Eden, then surely we can’t either. “What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted” (Eccl. 1:15)
It resonates with our present culture
We live in an age of incredible cynicism. People casually dismiss claims to truth and hate attempts to tie up hard realities with a pretty little bow. We want to know that what’s wrong will be given serious consideration before we move on to how it can be made right.
The Preacher in Ecclesiastes gets it. Check out this treatment of death:
For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. (Eccl. 3:19–20)
There is no attempt here to skirt the reality of the death—that mankind has earned the wages of its sin (Rom. 6:23).
We are reminded in these unblinkered looks at our broken world that sin, suffering, and death are real. That’s why we must fear God (Eccl. 12:13). Only the living God can make straight what is broken. Only he can offer hope to those under the sun by sending his Son to bear our wilderness and gain our garden. Only the Holy Spirit can lift our eyes beyond the sun to the Son. Use this book of wisdom to convict your own heart, relate to your fellow sinner-sufferers, and point to the hope of all hopes—the Savior-King who will wipe our every tear away.