Ecclesiastes: Man’s True Purpose

Whether we read the Book of Ecclesiastes as a description of the search for happiness as it is in progress, or as a memoir of one who is reflecting on detours in life that turned up empty, the message is the same: Nothing on earth can bring real fulfillment; genuine satisfaction is found only in serving One Who is above the sun: God.

If we begin with the end in mind, the main lesson is found in the final verses of the book: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

The Whole Story

A pivotal phrase in Ecclesiastes is its reference to “the whole duty of man” in the passage quoted above. The material in the first dozen chapters addresses what is not part of our real purpose in life. “The viewpoint of the book’s author is that of an older, wise man reflecting back on what he has learned about life. Ecclesiastes is classified as wisdom literature. The content compares the meaning of life without God to life with God at its center” (Blackaby Study Bible). “Solomon provides a vivid tour of the life of a man who took the ‘not quite enough’ philosophy to its logical conclusion. As you read Ecclesiastes, think about how life might be different if you were to simply acknowledge that everything you really need in order to find contentment already lies within your reach” (Mens Devo. Bible).

Overview of the Book

“In this book, Solomon seeks to answer the question, ‘Is life worth living?’ First, he states the problem and argues for the negative (chapters 1–2). Then he examines the problem from many different angles (ch. 3–10) and argues for the positive. He concludes that life is worth living if you put God first and obey His Word (ch. 11–12)” (With The Word).

Here and Now

“There always have been two kinds of teaching about the way to holiness. One is by withdrawal as far as possible from the natural in order to promote the spiritual. The other is to use and transform the natural into the expression of the spiritual. While each kind of teaching has its place, some people need one emphasis rather than the other. Ecclesiastes definitely teaches the second.” (Constables Notes). “Six times Solomon advises you to enjoy life now and be grateful for God’s gifts (2:24; 3:12–15, 22; 5:18–20; 8:15; 9:7–10; 11:9–10). This is not the pleasure- seeking philosophy of the epicurean (‘eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die’) but the joyful outlook of the believer who accepts life as God’s gift to enjoy and employ for His glory (1 Tim. 6:17–19)” (With The Word)(Compare I John 2:15-17).