The MEANINGLESSNESS of Life, Work, Pleasure...
Selected from Ecclesiastes by Tuese Ahkiong
Ecclesiastes is one of my favorite books of The Bible.
Here are some of my favorite passages regarding work, labor, pleasure, life... and their meaninglessness or vanity apart from God.
Eccl 1:2 “Meaningless!Meaningless!”
says the Teacher. “Utterlymeaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
3 What do peoplegain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?
14 I have seen allthe things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasingafter the wind.
15 What is crookedcannot be straightened;
what is lackingcannot be counted.
16 I said to myself,“Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalembefore me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 Then I appliedmyself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but Ilearned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.
18 For with muchwisdom comes much sorrow;
the more knowledge,the more grief.
Eccl 2: I said to myself, “Come now,I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also provedto be meaningless. 2 “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?”3 I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guidingme with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under theheavens during the few days of their lives.
4 I undertook greatprojects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5 I made gardens andparks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made reservoirs towater groves of flourishing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves and hadother slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks thananyone in Jerusalem before me. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and thetreasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and aharem as well—the delights of a man’s heart. 9 I became greater by far thananyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.
10 I denied myselfnothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heartno pleasure.
My heart tookdelight in all my labor,
and this was thereward for all my toil.
11 Yet when Isurveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everythingwas meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.
12 Then I turned mythoughts to consider wisdom, and also madness and folly.
What more can theking’s successor do
than what hasalready been done?
13 I saw that wisdomis better than folly,
just as light isbetter than darkness.
14 The wise haveeyes in their heads,
while the fool walksin the darkness;
but I came torealize that the same fate overtakes them both.
15 Then I said tomyself, “The fate of the fool will overtake me also. What then do I gain bybeing wise?” I said to myself, “This toois meaningless.”
16 For the wise,like the fool, will not be long remembered; the days have already come whenboth have been forgotten.
Like the fool, thewise too must die! 17 So I hated life, because the work that is done underthe sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.18 I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because Imust leave them to the one who comes after me.19 And who knowswhether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control overall the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under thesun. This too is meaningless. 20 So my heart began to despair overall my toilsome labor under the sun. 21 For a person may labor withwisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to anotherwho has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. 22 Whatdo people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor underthe sun? 23 All their days their work is grief and pain; even atnight their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.
24 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drinkand find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand ofGod, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?26 Tothe person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but tothe sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it overto the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
Eccl 3:9 What do workers gain from their toil? 10 Ihave seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has madeeverything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart;yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 i know that there is nothingbetter for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 Thateach of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this isthe gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endureforever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it sothat people will fear him.
22 So I saw that there is nothing better for a personthan to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them tosee what will happen after them?
Eccl 5:10 Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loveswealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.
11 As goods increase, so do those who consume them.And what benefit arethey to the owners except to feast their eyes on them?
12 The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eatlittle or much,but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep.
13 I have seen a grievous evil under the sun:wealthhoarded to the harm of its owners, 14 or wealth lost through somemisfortune,so that when they have children wwthere is nothing left for them to inherit.
15 Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb, and as everyonecomes, so they depart.They take nothing from their toil that they can carryin their hands.
16 This too is a grievous evil: As everyone comes, sothey depart, andwhat do they gain, since they toil for the wind?
17 All their days they eat in darkness, with greatfrustration, affliction and anger. 18 Thisis what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat,to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun duringthe few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. 19 Moreover,when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them,to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God.20 Theyseldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied withgladness of heart.
Eccl 6:1 I have seen another evil under the sun, and it weighsheavily on mankind: 2 God gives some people wealth, possessions andhonor, so that they lack nothing their hearts desire, but God does not grantthem the ability to enjoy them, and strangers enjoy them instead. This ismeaningless, a grievous evil.
Eccl 8:14 There is something else meaningless that occurs onearth: the righteous who get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked who getwhat the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless. 15 SoI commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a personunder the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany themin their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.
16 When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observethe labor that is done on earth—people getting no sleep day or night— 17 thenI saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun.Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning.Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it.
Eccl 9:9 So I reflected on all this and concluded that therighteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands, but no one knowswhether love or hate awaits them. 2 All share a common destiny—therighteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean,those who offer sacrifices and those who do not.
As it is with the good, so with thesinful;as it is with those who take oaths, so with those who are afraid to take them. 3 This is the evil in everythingthat happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts ofpeople, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts whilethey live, and afterward they join the dead. 4 Anyone who is amongthe living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!
5 For the living know that they will die, but the dead knownothing;they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten.
6 Their love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished;neveragain will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun.
7 Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your winewith a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. 8 Alwaysbe clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil.9 Enjoylife with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life thatGod has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days. For this is your lotin life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. 10 Whatever yourhand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead,where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge norwisdom.
Eccl 10:3 Evenas fools walk along the road, they lack sense and show everyone how stupid they are. but fools are consumed by their own lips. 14 and fools multiplywords. No one knows what is coming— whocan tell someone else what will happen after them? 15 The toil of fools wearies them; they do not know the way totown
19 A feast is made for laughter, wine makeslife merry, and money is the answer for everything.
Eccl 11:3 Ifclouds are full of water, they pourrain on the earth. Whether a tree falls to the south or tothe north, in the place where itfalls, there it will lie. 4 Whoever watches the wind will notplant; whoever looks at the cloudswill not reap. 5 As you do not know the path of thewind,or how the body is formed in amother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of allthings. 6 Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not beidle,for you do not know which willsucceed, whether this or that, orwhether both will do equally well.
7 Light is sweet, and it pleases the eyes tosee the sun. 8 However many years anyonemay live, let them enjoy them all. Butlet them remember the days of darkness, for there will be many. Everything to come is meaningless.
9 You who are young, be happy while you areyoung, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whateveryour eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you intojudgment. 10 So then, banish anxietyfrom your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor aremeaningless.