First Reading: Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:21-23

Vanity and Faith

1:2 "Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher; "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity."

2:21 For there is a man whose labor is with wisdom, with knowledge, and with skillfulness; yet he shall leave it for his portion to a man who has not labored for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. 22 For what has a man of all his labor, and of the striving of his heart, in which he labors under the sun? 23 For all his days are sorrows, and his travail is grief; yes, even in the night his heart takes no rest. This also is vanity.

World English Bible

If life is nothing but vanity, why have faith? Not every act of goodness is rewarded; evil sometimes goes unpunished. There is the temptation to become indifferent to God, to give up on the world, and to live selfishly. After all, it is easier to live for the day and leave the consequences until tomorrow.

The author of Ecclesiastes saw a certain futility in life and the temptation to give up. When he wrote this book of wisdom, he lived a changeless world. The environment, culture, and everyday lifestyles remained the same from generation to generation. Nothing people could do, he reasoned, would change the world for the better.

Why would the author of Ecclesiastes write such a depressing essay on life? To challenge the reader to a deeper spiritual quest. People will never be able to completely master the world, to explain the mysteries of life, to justify their own existence. So, people have a choice: to become selfish and cynical, or to reach out to God. When someone turns to God, they do not turn their back on the world; they just look at the world with new eyes and trust in a greater power who is master of the world, who can explain the mysteries of life, who can justify their existence. Through God's eyes, believers hold, life does have meaning a purpose.

Unlike the author, we live in a world of constant change and choice. But we are faced with the same questions. Aren't all this choices and changes shallow ones? Isn't life ultimately meaningless? In the temptation to give up, we are faced with another choice, a radical choice for real meaning, for ultimate purpose, for God. That choice is truly the important one.

How does the futility of life challenge you? How does it challenge your faith?