Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 Ephesians 5:15-17

I have been reading the book of Ecclesiastes this week. Again and again the book references either the value of time or the perceived vanity of time. Time is important to us. When I was in grade school- back when we had to walk to school in the snow, uphill both ways- (remember those days?) we had to make our own little clocks. We were given a paper plate. You had to cut out the hands of the clock and make sure one was long and one was short. You put all of that on the paper plate and wrote the 12 numbers spaced just so. The teacher would call out a time and you’d have to move the little hands around and show her that you could tell time. Could you put the big hand and the little hand in the right place? She would walk around us and embarrass you if you couldn’t tell time. Learning how to tell time was very important.

When you got a little older, you realized the easiest thing to do is to tell time–but the hardest thing to do is to know what time it is. That’s a whole other question. Is this a time to speak, or is this a time to be quiet? Is it the time to make a stand, or is it the time to sit and wait? Is it a time for action or a time for patience? The writer of Ecclesiastes asked this question a long time ago, reminding us that one of the most important things we can do is to learn what time it is.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace” (Ecc. 3:1-8).

“Be very careful, then, how you live-not foolishly, but wisely, knowing how to make the most out of every opportunity, for these days are evil. Because of this do not be foolish, but know the will of God” (Eph. 5:15-17).

Ecclesiastes is a very intriguing book to read because it keeps bringing up problems, but it doesn’t often give air tight solutions.  It gives you all kinds of helpful, sobering proverbs, such as, “What good does it do to become rich, because you will die and your children will spend it all?” The book is a bit frustrating for folks who need something that is prescriptive and deductive rather than descriptive and inductive in nature. The book dares to ask the difficult questions, but often holds back on giving a clear response. Like reading the parables of Jesus, you may find yourself scratching your head when reading Ecclesiastes.

One of the broad questions that the writer engages is “Is there any meaning to the time that I spend in this world?” We put on a tombstone that the deceased was born on a certain date and died on a certain date. Between those two dates we live our lives. And the basic question is, “Does my life have meaning?” A common refrain within the early portions of this book might be that there is futility, vanity, and nothing “new under the sun.” If our lives begin under the sun as a cosmic accident, a result of random collisions and mutations of inert matter, if our ultimate destiny is to return to the dust that bore us, then there is no purpose. This could be the conclusion of someone only considering life under the sun.

When we cease to look at life “under the sun” and seek to see our destiny as the writer concludes by the end of book as life “under heaven,” then we find deep purpose and intention. Our origin is wrapped up in the very hands of God, who shaped us and breathed into us. The writer comes full

circle by the end of Ecclesiastes, acknowledging that our destiny is not to return to dust, but to give honor and praise to God forever. Under heaven we find purpose. If we have God as our origin, and God as our destiny, between those poles we find there is purpose and meaning. So the writer concludes the book answering his own question “Is there meaning to the time I spend on earth?” The answer becomes a resounding “Yes!” There is a reason for our lives. There is a reason for our sufferings, a reason for our pain. And there is also a reason for our unspeakable joy. The key to finding reason is in the finding of creator God.

He told me to tell you!


Pastor Robert Zimmerman