The purpose of MarketFaith Ministries is to teach believers, in a general sense, about worldview, and to share how various worldviews compare to one another. But more specifically, our goal is to make the Christian worldview clear and understandable while sharing why it is the truth about reality (as opposed to other worldview beliefs).
One of the most critical elements for understanding a Christian worldview (or any worldview, for that matter) is to grasp where it comes from – its authority source. Plainly speaking, a Christian worldview comes from the teachings of the Bible. In fact, it can probably more accurately be called a biblical worldview (in many ways I prefer this term because in our day a lot of people use the word “Christian” to mean many different things – sometimes even to express non-biblical beliefs).
In order to focus on the idea of our Christian authority source for today’s article, we are going to take a look at one part of the Bible and see what it says. Hopefully this exercise will help you more clearly grasp one little part of a biblical worldview, and see how we look to the Bible to find what it teaches about the structure of reality. Specifically, what we are going to look at in this article is the main theme found in the book of Ecclesiastes – the theme of life’s meaning. According to the Bible, where does meaning in life come from?
The entire book of Ecclesiastes is too long to include here, but we can get the overall picture presented in the book from chapter 2:1-11. Let’s have a look, then explore what it has to say.
1 I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure. So enjoy yourself.” And behold, it too was futility. 2 I said of laughter, “It is madness,” and of pleasure, “What does it accomplish?” 3 I explored with my mind how to stimulate my body with wine while my mind was guiding me wisely, and how to take hold of folly, until I could see what good there is for the sons of men to do under heaven the few years of their lives. 4 I enlarged my works: I built houses for myself, I planted vineyards for myself; 5 I made gardens and parks for myself and I planted in them all kinds of fruit trees; 6 I made ponds of water for myself from which to irrigate a forest of growing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves and I had homeborn slaves. Also I possessed flocks and herds larger than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. 8 Also, I collected for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I provided for myself male and female singers and the pleasures of men—many concubines. 9 Then I became great and increased more than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. My wisdom also stood by me. 10 All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor. 11 Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.
What is Vanity?
When Solomon wrote the passage above, what was he talking about? Well, he was sharing his personal life experience. As the king of Israel, Solomon had virtually everything he wanted. He had money, slaves, gardens, houses, the best food and drink, and anything else he desired. While that seems like a pretty good position to be in, he made a startling evaluation of all of the material gain he had amassed – he said it was “vanity and striving after wind.” What he meant was that none of the things he had acquired, based on his personal desires, had any meaning at all – it was meaninglessness.
When Life is Vain
So, how in the world could that happen? How is it possible for people to acquire any and everything they want and, in the end, it be meaningless? Is it possible that some of the things we think we want are things we really don’t want?
Here is the problem: Reality exists in a particular way and does not exist in any other way. When we try to live life based on beliefs that are not actually real, we end up leaving things out that are necessary to give life meaning. In Solomon’s case, he was able to acquire every material thing he could imagine that he wanted, yet in making his acquisitions, he left out a part of reality that caused him to not be fulfilled by those things. What he left out was the spiritual aspect of reality. God actually does exist, and when people try to find ultimate fulfillment in life without including a relationship with him, they miss something that is necessary for human fulfillment. When that happens, all is, indeed, vanity.
When Life Takes on Meaning
With that in mind, it becomes easy to figure out how to acquire meaning in life. If meaninglessness happens when a person’s life is out of sync with reality, then meaning is acquired when an individual’s life is aligned with reality.
Now on some levels, this may seem like a rather flippant or shallow assessment. But in truth, it is about as profound a statement as it is possible to make. Let’s look at the examples that Solomon shared above in his search for personal meaning. He had everything he could ever desire, yet he found it all meaningless. He had money, slaves, gardens, houses, the best food and drink, and anything else he desired. Now understand, it is not a matter of having or not having all of these things that is at issue. One can have them all and have either a meaningful or meaningless life. It is not the presence or absence of these things that makes the difference, it is how they fit into the context of one’s life that is critical. When an individual has personal wants and they are used in life based on selfish desires, in the end they become meaningless. Meaning is not found in material things – ever! But when these things are used in our lives to accomplish God’s purpose, they become tools to accomplish something larger – something capable of actually giving meaning to life.
Here is what too few people understand: We were not made in a way that allows us to find ultimate fulfillment in temporal things. We may find temporary satisfaction in things, but in our essence we are eternal spiritual beings, and purpose in life can only be found in eternal spiritual objectives – objectives that exist outside of ourselves. To be more specific, God made us so that our ultimate satisfaction is found in a personal relationship with him. When we try to get that kind of satisfaction purely from material things, we find that it is impossible – material things simply do not contain the elements that provide for that level of satisfaction in human life. In addition to that, we are not the owners of the things in our care, we are only stewards (managers).
When we finally drill down to the bottom line, we can’t accept just anything we can imagine and expect that it will provide meaning for life. The only thing with that kind of power is that which aligns with actual reality – the God of the Bible. When we look to and accept only the material part of reality, we, too, will find that all is vanity. However, when we accept all of reality and incorporate the spiritual elements of it into our lives, we will find that nothing is vanity.
© 2018 Freddy Davis