Everything Is Meaningless (Ecclesiastes 1:1 – 11)

Welcome to the book of Ecclesiastes!

In this writing, Solomon’s wisdom challenges the wisdom literature of other cultures, in which truth is sought by empirical observation of life without reference to a creative God. The premise of Solomon’s wisdom is that only the Creator of the universe can know the true needs of His creatures and provide for their ultimate fulfillment.

All things find their fulfillment in acknowledging the Creator’s purpose for humankind and obeying His will. The message is aimed directly at the young people for whom much of the wisdom literature (such as the book of Proverbs) is intended.

Thus the theme of the book is humanity’s reasoning about the purpose and the meaning of life. As you study the text, remember to read (and keep) individual statements in their context and to consider the book as a whole.

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Scripture Text:

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Ecclesiastes 1:1 – 11

1. What clothing was in style when you were 13? Would you be “caught dead” in it today?

2. What was the first large thing you saved your pennies for?

3. The word for “meaningless” (verse 1) can also mean “breath” or “vapor”. What, then, is meant by the motto, ‘everything is meaningless’?

4. What does the phrase “under the sun” (verses 3 and 9) tell you about the perspective of this thesis?

5. How does humankind’s labor compare with the earth’s cycle (verses 3 – 7)?

6. What problem does verse 8 point out?

7. What’s the theme of verses 9 and 10? What qualifies as “something new” by this Teacher’s definition?

8. In verse 11, what tone of voice do you hear? What logic do you see? Is verse 11 the logical extension or inevitable conclusion of careful reasoning? Or is this an emotional lament of an embittered old man?

9. What areas of life do you take too seriously?

10. What parallel do you see between this passage and Christ’s saying, “What does it profit a man . . .” (Mark 8:36)?

11. For what have you spent you life laboring? What do you have to show for it?

12. For what would you like to be remembered after you are long gone?

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