What is the meaning of life? Having just finished reading the book of Proverbs, and being set to begin Ecclesiastes, I am feeling deeply thoughtful. So many directives of wisdom, common sense and some other sense I probably will never understand were written into Proverbs. I was overwhelmed. And now I embark on a journey through the book of Ecclesiastes.
It was written, most scholars believe, by King Solomon near the end of his life – although authorship is debatable. The theme of the book is stated in chapter 1:3 – “What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun?” In other words, what is the true meaning or value that can be found in this life?
Solomon is searching for that value (“profit”) that is the very core reason for life. His search results in his finding that wisdom, wealth, pleasures, accomplishments or materialism have no real value. Nonetheless, he feels we should enjoy any of God’s blessings but warns us to be aware that God will judge us for how we do handle blessings.
In the end, Solomon’s search finds that the only real value in life is found in reverence of and obedience to God. Even though he never knew Jesus, Solomon’s conclusions reflect Jesus’ teachings. In the book of Matthew, Jesus cautions against wealth and materialism and encourages seeking God first, loving your enemies, and going the second mile. He warns don’t judge, don’t worry and don’t miss the narrow gate. Wow – if only Solomon could have known Jesus like we do he would have made a good disciple!
I think Solomon would have found that ‘value of life’ as he followed Jesus. Jesus’ ministry would have opened Solomon’s eyes as to know “how to do life” – which might have even been the title of his next book. Solomon also would have even realized that the “value” he was searching for is called Christlikeness.
Religion can focus on what Jesus did without ever exposing unbelievers to who Jesus is. If Solomon knew Jesus, he would have found what really matters is knowing Jesus Christ and growing in such a deep relationship with Him that it almost seems as though the Spirit of Jesus just leaks out of us.
A Christlike life flourishes on relationship, not religion. A Christlike life thrives on walking through life with Jesus – Jesus in me, me in Him – talking, sharing, caring. As we walk, He reveals intimate thoughts as a friend would. He reveals what’s on His heart, what the Father’s heart is, and what the Holy Spirit is guiding us to do. Because of this covenant relationship there is power in a Christlike believer’s life. Christlikeness can influence and transform individuals and even nations!
The Apostle Paul poured out his heart in Philippians 3:7-10 “that I may know Him.” Paul wanted to be “conformed” to Jesus’ purpose. All the works Paul accomplished – signs, wonders, miracles – were secondary to his passion to deeply know Jesus. Here’s the formula Paul lived by: If Jesus is poured in, Jesus will spill out!
I bet that “spill” is exactly what Solomon was searching for. Picture that spill of Jesus’ Spirit overflowing, running out, sloshing out, splashing out, spattering out on to others. Now there’s the power to transform lives. There’s the “value of life” King Solomon was searching for.
Let’s imagine King Solomon was still searching and doing interviews. He met up with Jesus and asked for an interview. What would that scene have looked like? Here’s what I think:
Setting: Outside the temple (Pharisees hovering in background)
Wardrobe: Solomon, kingly attire, crown and jewels; Jesus, simple woven tunic, sandals.
Solomon: I was told you are a king, too. Where is your kingdom?
Jesus: My kingdom is not of this world.
Solomon: Really. Where is it, then?
Jesus: Some call it the Kingdom of Heaven. I call it the Kingdom of God.
Solomon: Eh, okay. Let’s move on. Everyone tells me you have many, many followers in
your kingdom. Why?
Jesus: Power. Power to change lives.
Solomon: Are you serious right now? You sure don’t look like a powerful king. What’s
Jesus: Lovingkindness and mercy. (the Pharisees gasp!)
Solomon: What? Is that all? That’s the secret?
Jesus: Oh, I didn’t say, rank yourself below others.
Solomon: You’ve got to be kidding me! (long pause, then in subdued tone) I spent my
whole life acquiring riches and wisdom and I am miserable. I’m willing to try it your
way. Will you show me?
Jesus smiles at His new friend. “Solomon, I’ve got some great fish on the grill over there. Can we do lunch?”