Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind! I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
Are you sitting uncomfortably?
The Teacher, a Solomonic philosopher-king, is about to show us his world: a world that we will find as disconcerting as we do familiar.
In this world, good and bad things happen to both bad and good people. In this world, any sense of control we cling to is an illusion. And in this world, life and death under the Sun are all we know for sure.
The Teacher looks out at this world and draws his painful conclusions. There are no guarantees in life, except death. Our proudest projects are sandcastles. In the end, we, and everything we do, will be forgotten.
Getting a grip on life in this world is like trying to grasp the steam that rises from the cup of coffee on your desk. As soon as you think you have it, it’s gone. ‘Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless!’ declares The Teacher.
And like the life it describes, Ecclesiastes is notoriously enigmatic. Indeed, of the writing of many books on Ecclesiastes there seems to be no end.
But The Teacher’s world, confusing and contradictory as it is, is the world that our colleagues, friends, and families live in. The Teacher is inviting us to see the world as he – and they – see it.
To respond to his invitation is to allow ourselves to be unsettled by the questions that emerge from life in The Teacher’s world.
Where can I find happiness that lasts, in a world without guarantees? Why not live to eat, drink, and enjoy my work, if life under the sun is all I can know? Who out there sees me? Who can comfort me? Who will remember me?
If you’re feeling uncomfortable, you’re getting it.
But if we can stay in the discomfort long enough, we might learn to not only see the world as The Teacher sees it, but to feel it as our neighbours feel it.
We might begin to understand why our workaholic colleague stays so late. We might find more patience for our anxious friend who pushes us away. We might find new ways to see and speak of God on our frontlines… offering the possibility that, as Acts 17:27 says, ‘he is not far from any one of us’.
Ecclesiastes is not the end of the story. But in calling forth our empathy, it gives us a place to begin.
Head of Innovation, LICC
What questions about life are people on your frontline asking? Join in the conversation in the comments below.