Ecclesiastes 3:16-4:8 (NRSV)
Moreover I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, wickedness was there, and in the place of righteousness, wickedness was there as well. I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for he has appointed a time for every matter, and for every work. I said in my heart with regard to human beings that God is testing them to show that they are but animals. For the fate of humans and the fate of animals is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and humans have no advantage over the animals; for all is vanity. All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knows whether the human spirit goes upward and the spirit of animals goes downward to the earth? So I saw that there is nothing better than that all should enjoy their work, for that is their lot; who can bring them to see what will be after them?
Again I saw all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun. Look, the tears of the oppressed - with no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power - with no one to comfort them. And I thought the dead, who have already died, more fortunate than the living, who are still alive; but better than both is the one who has not yet been, and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.
Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from one person's envy of another. This also is vanity and a chasing after wind.
Fools fold their hands
and consume their own flesh.
Better is a handful with quiet
than two handfuls with toil,
and a chasing after wind.
Again, I saw vanity under the sun: the case of solitary individuals, without sons or brothers; yet there is no end to all their toil, and their eyes are never satisfied with riches. "For whom am I toiling," they ask, "and depriving myself of pleasure?" This also is vanity and an unhappy business.
It really seems to me that the writer of Ecclesiastes 3 was extremely depressed at the writing of today's scripture.
Whilst it is true that all people and animals live and die, returning to the dust, it does not mean that all of life is meaningless!
This side of the cross we have the blessed assurance that we are loved by God and that we can share God's love with others. This knowledge is almost too wonderful to comprehend, but it is true.
Because Jesus lived, died, and rose again we know that life is not just "vanity;" rather it is an opportunity to love God, love neighbor, do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.
Surely, if we spend all of our days chasing more stuff and the "almighty dollar" we will be very dissatisfied with our lives. But, if we remember that only what we do for Christ will last, then we will be filled with an eternal sense of purpose.
Until the day that we are called home to heaven, we can live into love, joy, and peace, and share those same blessings with others!
Will you answer the call to be the smile of Jesus in someone's life today?
Let us pray: Oh God, let not my life be only vanity! Please give me a clear vision of your chosen purpose for my existence. Please help me to share your love, joy, peace, and smile with everyone whom I meet. I pray this in Jesus' Name, Amen.
If you have questions about how to become a friend and follower of Jesus, please see the devotion entitled, “Come to Jesus” @ http://bit.ly/JVhaLta