So, today after a rather drawn-out conversation with Mandy regarding the senselessness of life – specifically regarding the church – I decided to read Qohelet (Ecclesiastes for those of you who haven’t yet learned Hebrew). As someone who loves Proverbs 1-9 (I’m still a bit young to have a good grasp on the rest), Qohelet is not always an easy read. For starters he hardly gives a shining review of pursuing wisdom (though he certainly agrees with me that wisdom is better than folly). Yet I’m sometimes left confused by what he says. At other times I find myself nodding in silent ascent or even adding a softspoken “amen” to signify my approval of his assessment of the state of things.
When I examine my life up to this point I am left with no recourse but to agree with Qohelet – all is Havel. Emptiness. Senselessness. Vanity. My attempts at serving Adonai have proven to be learning experiences at best, and open wounds that may take years to heal at worst. I suppose I might look at things and say a learning experience is a positive thing. It certainly is, and the father of Proverbs would certainly encourage less learning on my own and more listening to him. Though perhaps he would be pleased enough if I don’t repeat the same mistakes a second time. Yet Qohelet echoes what I often say to myself, “What’s the point?” Those who serve Adonai and those who foolishly walk away – both might be hit by a car tomorrow. Then what benefit has the one over the other? For both have gone on to Sheol. I may be able to reach forward (I do know more, from a revelatory perspective, than Qohelet did) into Revelation and pull out some hope of being on the “inside” (assuming I have washed my robe in white). On second thought, perhaps Revelation is not so much of a good idea, since I don’t understand it as much as I need to. We’ll simply go with reaching into the New Testament generally and the Gospels specifically when Jesus says that he is preparing a place for his followers, and that one day he will return.
Regardless of progressive revelation however, Qohelet is dealing with life here and now, not in the hereafter. Life seems dire indeed if obeying Adonai does not equal blessing. Again, one might reach into the Gospels and hear Jesus seem to say that following him brings more pain than rejoicing, at least in this life (is he playing with Deut, or just agreeing with Qohelet?) Yet our Soter promises out of time rejoicing and happiness that transcends Qohelet’s view of things.
So, I am left with many questions still of how the cynical worldview of this ancient Jew (a worldview I happen to share) jives with both New Covenant revelation and reality (speaking of which, do the later two line up at all?) Perhaps I can reach once more into my dearly beloved (I’m being serious, not sarcastic!) Christian Scripture and pull out a single verse from one of who’s writings I understand painfully little that I think agrees very much with Qohelet.
1 Timothy 6.6-7 “Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.”
Qohelet 2.24 “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God,”
Perhaps what my friend Qohelet is getting at with his book is, enjoy the doing. For what else is there? You wish to serve God? You best enjoying the serving, regardless of the results. You wish to work in Information Technology? You best enjoy the working, regardless of your salary. You wish to get people saved for Jesus? You best enjoying the telling of the story, regardless of how many people pay any attention to you (because even if they do place their faith in him – they might go off and be bums anyway, or worse yet – deny him when persecution is faced, then your toil would be for nothing)!
So, I will conclude this conversation with Qohelet by simply saying: May Adonai guide you as you enjoy the doing.