Set in Stone: Ecclesiastes 7 – 12

When times are good, be happy;
    but when times are bad, consider this:
God has made the one
    as well as the other.
Therefore, no one can discover
    anything about their future.

Ecclesiastes 6:14 (NIV)

We have a pretty lax view when it comes to bigoted grandparents. Almost everyone has a story. “I brought home a black boyfriend and” fill in the blank. “I told my grandma I was gay and” mild trauma ensued. These instances rarely inspire deep hurt – grandparents tend not to have much influence in our day-to-day lives so we end up laughing off their insanity.

Why do they get a free pass?
Because… old.

But their bigoted views are wrong…
True, but they were put in place a long time ago. They’re stuck.

So why not expect them to learn?
Because the older we get, the harder it becomes.

All of my grandparents were pretty benign; if they went to say something remotely off color, my parents managed to both project its arrival and then squash it. In middle school, fellow lunch-Bible-study-leader Briana and I struck up a short-lived romance. I went to her black church (oh yeah, she’s black), and she went to my exceedingly white church. We went to Chili’s and ate ribs with her dad. We spent the day in my backyard and jumped on the trampoline. Then, on the first day of seventh grade, I dumped her because… I don’t know, I was thirteen, and I COULDN’T HANDLE THE PRESSURE.

Anyway, my family loved her. Not that this was a surprise, Briana was an all-around amazing girl – devout, pretty, kind. We sat at dinner one Sunday night to discuss it – everyone was in agreement about her. Then my grandmother said, “But you would never marry her, right?” After lots of silencing coughs and nudges, she clarified, “No, no, not because of, no.” We all breathed a sigh of relief. Then, she continued, “The wedding would just be so complicated.” And what did we do? We just changed the subject and kept eating.

Ecclesiastes takes a turn away from flat lamenting in its final dozen sentences. Our Teacher spends the greater part of the book taking meaning away from a variety of human experiences – wisdom, joy, toil, and life itself. Now, he talks of children and the behavior of youth. Remember God when your young, he commands us as he rattles off a list of analogies, remember God before the sky grows dark, before trees blossom and doors close, before the days of youth disappear…

Why, oh Teacher, must young people remember God?

Because the older you get, the harder it becomes.

The Fate of All: Ecclesiastes 1 – 6

Wisdom, Pleasures, Folly, Toil, Advancement, and Riches Are Meaningless.

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.”
Ecclesiastes 1:2 (NIV)

Briana and I wanted to revolutionize the seventh grade with encouragement, so we decided to start a Bible Study during lunch. Here was the deal: We would each take a week in rounds planning out scripture to study – prepare a little lesson and discussion – spread the Word. We had a core group of five, filled entirely with those that had little social obligations during the lunch half hour (meaning, we weren’t the most popular bunch). Briana and I took it the most seriously. She often picked passages on grace before God and His unfailing love for us – positive, uplifting verses meant to encourage us as we navigated the waves of junior high school. I admired her attraction to these parts of the Bible – what an outlook for life.

My first week of lessons centered on the signs of the coming of the end of the world from Matthew. Wars and rumors of wars – the sun blotted out – one world government and leadership – I took all these triggers and divided them into “Already happened” and “yet to come” categories. I concluded that the end was nigh. Then I moved on to Revelation to show everyone what the end of days would look like exactly – a devious antichrist – wandering horsemen – a glorious appearing. Finally, I moved on to Ecclesiastes, whose message is that all life on Earth is meaningless.

The group dissolved shortly after my final lesson. I don’t like to speculate, but maybe it had to do with that last bit, you know, about how all life is meaningless.

In defense of my 12-year-old self, Ecclesiastes really does say that. In the book, a seemingly fictional king states his sorrow over life. He has come to realize that his work, interests, and riches are meaningless in the face of death. If God created us, he posits, then there is truly nothing new under the sun. If all men die the same way, then what is the point of living a holy life? Better to eat, drink, and be merry and live through our days, taking pleasure in the small things.

Not the best thing to read if you’re feeling a little depressed.

Christians have a great remedy for the nihilistic blues – Eternal life through a belief in God. This eliminates the cornerstone of the king’s dilemma… that both the holy and unholy end up with the same fate.

But with 6 chapters left to go in Ecclesiastes, let’s see if our pessimistic narrator comes to the same conclusion.