I saw an episode of the Simpsons yesterday which caught my attention. A brief plot synopsis is below:
Bart sells all his stuff, and the family chip in too by selling other precious items, enabling them all to go on the cruise.
They have the time of their lives-but halfway through he realises that he is unlikely to have so much fun again. He takes matters into his own hands later on to extend the holiday but later comes to the conclusion that the fun in life is capturing all the good moments and enjoying them.
This reminded me that in the Old Testament, we have the despair of Qoheleth (traditionally believed to be Solomon), the author of Ecclesiastes, who (in chapters 1-2) is unable to find lasting pleasure in all kinds of activities, or in his work, but after thinking about it, decides there’s no meaning to any of it. His reasoning is that there is no permanent reward (though he does find fleeting satisfaction). On this matter, he concludes (2:24-26):
A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
Why? Because they both meet the same end, and will both be soon enough forgotten about (2:16). *
I am pretty sure that Bart Simpson is not Qoheleth. However, both are looking for a lasting satisfaction in their lives, Bart in having fun, and Qoheleth (at least in this passage) in a legacy, and both are finding this a futile quest.
And this led me to ponder the question:
For the Christian under grace, is there still futility in life? Is everything meaningful now, or do we have to wait for eternity for that?
I’m sure even the most confident Christian empathises with Bart and Qoheleth at times: on weekends we have fun, and then on Monday we go back to work; and what work we do probably won’t be remembered in the long run.
But I’d love to know what you think! I’m going to spend a bit of time thinking about this and get back to, but I’d value your input.
*I have probably done Ecclesiastes a bit of a disservice here, as I’ve taken the first two chapters a slightly of context- it is a difficult book to pin down, but worth reading in its entirety if you get the time. Qoheleth’s ultimate conclusion is to “Fear God and keep his commandments (12:13)”