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Learning from Ecclesiastes

The Teacher pairs his frustration that everything is hebel with a call to enjoy God’s good gifts.


You are going to die. And no one is going to remember you. The stuff you’re working hard on is going to be completely undone. As if it was never there. And no one is going to care.

That’s not hyperbole. That is fact. That is the message of Ecclesiastes. That is the message of an actual book of the Bible. When Paul told Timothy that all Scripture is breathed out by God and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work—this is what he was talking about.

In fact, those words from Paul come right in the middle of him telling Timothy I’m about to die, and then my work is going to be undone. There’s going to be all kinds of imposters and false teachers that go around and convince people that I was wrong.

And like Paul, you are going to die. Unlike Paul, people aren’t going to be talking about you in 2000 years. People aren’t going to be talking about you in, what, 100 years? 50 years? What’s the name of your great-great grandmother? No cheating by looking at Ancestry.com. What did her friends like about her? What was she proudest of?

How about something more recent: Let’s look at your workplace. You probably got hired to replace someone else in that position. Do you know his or her name? Yeah? Awesome. What was the name of the person that they replaced? What did they contribute to the company? Do you know? Does anyone remember?

For those of you who don’t know me well, I work at a magazine called Christianity Today and right now we’re digitizing our archives. On one hand there’s this effort to revitalize all this hard work people put into this magazine ...

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Ted Olsen is Editorial Director for Christianity Today and a member of Church of the Savior, an Anglican congregation in Wheaton, Illinois.

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