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The Scriptorium

Worthless Words

Ecclesiastes 6.11, 12

11Since there are many things that increase vanity,
How is man the better?

12For who knows what isgood for man in life, all the days of his vain life which he passes like a shadow? Who can tell a man what will happen after him under the sun?

The Story:These verses make me wonder if Solomon’s periodic conversations with his son – recorded here in Ecclesiastes – were more than monologues. Did Rehoboam respond with explanations, rationalizations, justifications for his chosen way of life? Attempts to rebut his father and defend the lifestyle he and his friends had chosen to follow? Solomon here puts these arguments to silence: no one speaking “under the sun” can say anything of any permanent meaning or significance; no one can tell another man how he ought to live. And no one speaking “under the sun” can tell us anything about what happens after we die. For such absolute and eternal meaning we need revelation, not speculation. But revelation is only available to those who are willing to receive it, those who embrace life “under the heavens.” If you choose not to live that way, then, if you’ll pardon the expression, you may as well just shut up, because one man’s words under the sun are as worthless as the next’s.

The Structure:The Christian must be firmin defending the truth. It’s not that unbelievers never stumble upon or practice things good and true. They do, and Solomon wants to acknowledge that, as should we. However, they can’t make sense of this, can’t even prescribe their works and views because no one apart from God can attach any lasting meaning to their worldview. It’s all simply “true for me.” But in a world where everybody’s truth is as good as anyone else’s, there can be no truth, and everything goes. Yet no unbeliever will accept that view, for to do so is to validate the use of raw power as justification for everything. Moreover, no one working from a merely human perspective can say anything reliable about things beyond the grave or beyond this material/temporal existence. They are bound by their presuppositions and can only argue as far as those extend. The believer knows better, and he also knows that his understanding of things is the only one that can make sense of the unbeliever’s worldview, as well as his own.

So when a secularist says, “There is no God, and there is no spiritual world, and there is no life beyond the grave”, is he truly qualified to make this statement? Why not? How might you help him to see that?

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, “Are We Having Fun Yet?: Ecclesiastes 6,” 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.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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