It occurred to me that the writer of Ecclesiastes missed an entire area in his quest for meaning, purpose, and significance in a fallen world. If the author was Solomon, he certainly started well. “Solomon loved the Lord” (1 Ki.3:3). He asked God for an “understanding mind” that he might properly govern the nation of Israel (1 Ki.3:9), to understand and discern what is right (v.11). So, because he had not asked this from a merely selfish motive (v.11), God gave him “a wise and discerning mind” (v.12).

Though the writer of Ecclesiastes searched exhaustively in the area of self-aggrandizement, it never occurred to him, it seems, to explore the area of altruism or brotherly love. In other words, he failed to explore the whole realm of possibilities this life affords in philanthropy or helping others to succeed. This is the area of benevolence and beneficence that focuses upon coming alongside others as a brother to heal their sorrows, dress their wounds, to help them get back on their feet and achieve their dreams. It is the paradox Jesus spoke of, that it is in considering the welfare of others above our own (Phil.2:4), in losing our life, that we find it.1 Jesus laid down His life for the sheep (Jn.10:15) and illustrated what it meant to love one's neighbor with the story of the good Samaritan.

It is precisely at this point that everyone who has received an expression of gratitude for helping someone along knows what it feels like. I have found it to be so for even the very small instances that I have gone out of my way to lend a hand. Imagine a whole life dedicated to feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, helping the downcast back on their feet, caring for the sick, getting justice for the wronged, starting orphanages and hospitals, bringing hope to the walking dead. Thankfully, many have experienced the joy of such service and would say to the Preacher, "You are wrong, there is something better than work, and wisdom, and every attempt at self-fulfillment…even here, in this life "under the sun." Without any consideration of an afterlife or reward then for our efforts here and now, there is no better personal fulfillment than to work for the benefit of others. However, even though we may find something better than self-indulgence, we must admit that the preacher is right in his overall assessment. In the final analysis, without continuity of life and relationship with the infinite God who is personal, "all is vanity."


1 This is stated as a principle in 1 Cor.10:24 and Lk.17:33 and applied to serving the Lord which works out as denying ourselves for the sake of others.  Phil.2:20-21, Mk.8:35, Lk.9:24, Mt.10:39, 16:24-25, Jn.12:25, 1Cor.9:19-23, 10:33, 13:5, Rom.15:1-2


Let’s expand on the above thoughts by asking the question, "Discounting physical needs, what would it take to complete one, to fulfill one"? In other words, assuming that our individual personalities go into heaven2 where there are no physical needs or longings, what is it [about heaven] that completes and fulfills us? The first answer is in the area of relationship - love, acceptance, belonging; company, and companionship; to be at peace and at home; to enter into the joy of God in His own perfection. Maybe this is the whole answer. But that's not the way I feel about it in the here and now. The second answer, if there is one, lies in the area of exploration and activity. Once one is safe and at home with those he loves and who love him, he can unleash his energies in meaningful and valuable projects - creative effort, work. In these two areas, relationship and work, one finds what he is looking for to fill out his existence. Relationship alone is not enough. All of the pain inherent in a fallen abnormal world will be ended. We will be without the need or desire for entertainment, diversion, or recreation; without weakness, insecurity, loneliness, discouragement, boredom, tiredness, dissatisfaction; with no unsettled feelings, discomfort, uneasiness; plagued by feelings of being lost, afraid, or outside; unhampered by incompetence or feelings of inadequacy. We will be free to rejoice in our work and find fulfillment in it before God. After all, that’s the way it was in Eden.


2 I am still me, but made like Christ…righteous, good, etc.