15So I said in my heart,
“As it happens to the fool,
It also happens to me.
And why was I then more wise?”
Then I said in my heart,
“This also is vanity.”
16For there is no more remembrance of the wise than of the fool forever,
Since all that now is will be forgotten in the days to come.
And how does a wise man die?
As the fool!
17Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun wasdistressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind.
The Story: The fear of death is a powerful lurking presence in the human soul (Heb. 2.15). When we are living “under the sun”, death seems so final. So it really doesn’t make any lasting difference whether we pursue a course of wisdom or one of folly; we’re all going to die, and no one is going to remember whether we lived one way or the other. This is, of course, only half the truth. As Solomon will later explain, people are made for eternity, and the way of eternity leads along the path of wisdom. But when you’re considering wisdom over folly from an “under the sun” perspective – as Rehoboam was doubtless doing – it will never make sense to go that way. This is why, in sharing the Good News of the Kingdom with unbelievers, in a certain way we must call them to renounce their short-sighted, this-worldly perspective and to hear the Gospel on its terms, according to its perspective. But they will only be ready to do so when they have first come to see that their own worldview has nothing substantial to commend it. Once we get them to agree that their way is vanity and striving after the wind, they may be in a better position to consider life “under the heavens.”
The Structure: Solomon’s argument proceeds in fits and starts. Ecclesiastes is a study in how to make the divine way clear to headstrong unbelievers. Seek agreement and common ground as a starting-point. Investigate the claims and hopes of the one who is living “under the sun.” Point out the inconsistencies of his view and call him to confess that his way is, in the end, only hopelessness and death. But help him to see that his soul, crying out for more, will never be satisfied with such a way of life. Solomon builds bridges to the secular-minded reader – like his son, Rehoboam – then he burns those bridges as he builds more – only to burn them as well. What’s the conclusion of all this building and burning? We shall see in due course.
Why is it important, in sharing the Gospel, to try to understand the worldview of the one with whom you are speaking? What are some questions you might use to discover that worldview together?
Each week’s studies in our Scriptorium column are available in a free PDF form, suitable for personal or group use. For this week’s study, “Solomon’s ‘I’ Problem: Ecclesiastes 2,” simply click here.
T. M. Moore
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.