Everything Is Futile
Open Your Bible
Ecclesiastes 1:1-11, Psalm 39:1-13, Matthew 11:28-30
“Am I the only one in this house who knows how to load the dishwasher?!” I bark my question loudly to everyone within earshot and no one in particular. Instead of listening for an answer, I groan and scrub another bowl with cereal flakes glued to the inside. I’m annoyed, and I need them to know it. But underneath my irritated sighs, there is another feeling—a fleeting but familiar twinge of disappointment in my heart’s bent toward temporary things.
This was the scene at my home last night. And banal as it is, it’s the one that comes to mind when I think of the word that echoes throughout the book of Ecclesiastes: futility. Looking for lasting meaning apart from God is futile—as futile as trying to keep the kitchen sink empty in a house filled with snack-obsessed kids and coffee-dependent adults. “‘Absolute futility,’ says the Teacher. ‘Absolute futility. Everything is futile’” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).
It feels silly to compare King Solmon’s words to my kitchen drama, and even to admit the drama to begin with. I’m a grown woman, for crying out loud! Do I really expect an empty sink to fill me up? The honest answer is, yes, I sometimes do. In the same way that I tie some bit of my self-worth to the cleanliness of my countertop, I try to craft meaning in a thousand other things: the work I do, the clothes I wear, the photos I take and captions I create, the behavior of my children, the affection of my husband, the size of my bank account and my waistline. It’s exhausting, really. Solomon knew it too: “All things are wearisome, more than anyone can say” (v.8).
Ecclesiastes is the wise king’s record of his own search for meaning in life “under the sun” (v.3)—that is, life here on earth. In it, Solomon found what we, too, find if we tug on our meaning threads hard enough: every earthly thing unravels. Nothing lasts. No man-crafted meaning can fill the human heart in a full and lasting way.
As hopeless as it sounds, this is good news because it points us to the only source of true meaning and fulfillment: Jesus Christ. In the kingdom of God, life’s meaning is not determined by a mortal king’s earthly research, but by the Eternal King’s perfect goodness, justice, and love. The world we see with our eyes is temporary and fraught with futility, but our life in Christ is everlasting and marked by mercy.
Ecclesiastes isn’t a light read, but it’s a worthwhile one. Like every other book of the Bible, it is the true and inspired Word of God, given to us that we might know and walk with Him. So, settle in and get out your spiritual bifocals, friends. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as you learn to view life through a kingdom lens. As we read, may we learn to find our heart’s home in Christ alone.