Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
Are you humming along yet…turn, turn, turn?
Often these famous verses are used to show how the choices that we make impact this life. We read them as if we are in control. If only we can do the right things at just the right “time” or if we can simply discern the “seasons” of life, then we can be happy and satisfied. Which is exactly how the classic 1965 song by the Byrds presents our passage.
But the problem is that the Teacher (Ecclesiastes’ narrator) is actually saying the exact opposite in Ecclesiastes 3. He is telling us that God, not us, has established the time and duration of all things. God has placed us into a circle of life and death. Planting and plucking. Killing and healing. War and peace. And we actually do NOT control any of it. Which is why, as we saw yesterday, all is vanity. Here’s the question the Teacher is asking in Ecclesiastes 3: Does anything we do have meaning if God has already decided what will happen and for how long?
But thankfully the Teacher doesn’t leave us with only despair. He offers a bit of hope if we keep reading:
Ecclesiastes 3:11. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
The Teacher knows that our hearts won’t settle for a meaningless life. We naturally refuse to accept nihilism. Why? Because God has put eternity in our hearts. Inside all of us we know there’s something everlasting out there. And we want it. This is why we’re so easily dissatisfied, and bored, and addicted. It’s why we’re all constantly searching for happiness and fulfillment. Yes, we are mortals facing death, but we won’t just accept our deaths without a fight, or at least a whole lot of questions. We need to find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. We need to know his plan.
But what if we can’t know God’s plan, as the Teacher contends? Then what do we do with our meaningless lives?
Ecclesiastes 3:12. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live
The Teacher tells us to find solace in our meaningless mortality by enjoying life and doing good. This would be great advice if there really was just death ahead of us and only meaninglessness between now and then. But our Meaning has come. The revealing of God’s plan from the beginning to the end has arrived – Christ in us. In Christ, God hasn’t just placed a desire for eternity into our hearts, he has placed the Eternal One in our hearts.
Listen, the problem with the Teacher’s advice isn’t that eating, drinking, being glad, and doing good are all wrong. In fact, they’re all right. Even Jesus loved a good party.
But our Savior, Jesus, doesn’t just tell us to find comfort in our mortality through eating and merry making. He tells us that because of the purpose we’ve found in him, and the eternal life he has granted to us, we will eat, drink, be merry, enjoy life and do good FOREVER. So why not start now? Because the joy we experience and the good we do today does not just add temporal meaning to our lives, but rather it reflects the eternal life of God in us.
“To live is Christ” has transformed our mortality into immortality, and our meaninglessness into ultimate meaning – eternal life, eternal joy, eternal love and goodness. Because of Christ’s completed work in us, life is no longer pointless busyness, nor is it finding comfort in temporal pleasures. It is eternity in our hearts allowing us to be joyful and do good, even in the face of any season (a time to live and a time to die) that tomorrow may throw at us.
What brings meaning to your life?
You in Christ
How can knowing that you are in Christ bring ultimate meaning to your life?
Christ in you
How does Christ in you transform the good you do into an eternal good?
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