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 people gain 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 chasing after the wind.
15 What is crookedcannot be straightened;
what is lacking cannot be counted.
16 I said to myself,“Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 Then I applied myself 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 much wisdom 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 the heavens 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 than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure 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 than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.
10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heartno pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
and this was the reward for all my toil.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.
12 Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom, and also madness and folly.
What more can the king’s successor do
than what has already been done?
13 I saw that wisdom is better than folly,
just as light is better than darkness.
14 The wise have eyes in their heads,
while the fool walk sin the darkness;
but I came to realize that the same fate over takes them both.
15 Then I said to myself, “The fate of the fool will over take me also. What then do I gain by being wise?” I said to myself, “This too is meaningless.”
16 For the wise,like the fool, will not be long remembered; the days have already come when both have been forgotten.
Like the fool, the wise too must die! 17 So I hated life, because the work that is done under the 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 I must leave them to the one who comes after me.19 And who knows whether 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 with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. 22 What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? 23 All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.
24 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?26 Tothe person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to 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 made everything 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 nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each 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 endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.
22 So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than 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 loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.
11 As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them?
12 The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much,but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep.
13 I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners, 14 or wealth lost through some misfortune, 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 everyone comes, 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, and what do they gain, since they toil for the wind?
17 All their days they eat in darkness, with great frustration, affliction and anger. 18 This is 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 during the 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 They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.
Eccl 6:1 I have seen another evil under the sun, and it weighs heavily on mankind: 2 God gives some people wealth, possessions and honor, so that they lack nothing their hearts desire, but God does not grant them the ability to enjoy them, and strangers enjoy them instead. This is meaningless, 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 person under 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 observe the 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 the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands, but no one knows whether love or hate awaits them. 2 All share a common destiny—the righteous 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 the sinful;as it is with those who take oaths, so with those who are afraid to take them. 3 This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of people, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead. 4 Anyone who is among the 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 know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten.
6 Their love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again 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 Always be 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 that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand 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 nor wisdom.
Eccl 10:3 Even as 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 multiply words. No one knows what is coming— who can tell someone else what will happen after them? 15 The toil of fools wearies them; they do not know the way to town
19 A feast is made for laughter, wine makeslife merry, and money is the answer for everything.
Eccl 11:3 If clouds are full of water, they pour rain on the earth. Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where itfalls, there it will lie. 4 Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. 5 As you do not know the path of the wind,or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. 6 Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle,for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.
7 Light is sweet, and it pleases the eyes to see the sun. 8 However many years anyone may live, let them enjoy them all. But let 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 are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. 10 So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor are meaningless.