Well, the graduation season is upon us once again. Another school year has gone by and millions of graduating seniors are now busily preparing for life after school. Some will going on to new jobs and new careers. Some will marry and start a family. Some will begin vocational training. Some will enter the armed services. Others will go on to further schooling. The choices are seemingly endless.
Graduation is always an exciting time. It’s a great feeling to put on that cap and gown and go forward to receive your diploma. No matter what school you graduate from, your diploma is the payoff for all the hard work that you’ve done during your time at school. That little piece of paper says, “Congratulations- you did it!!”
Although graduating from school can bring a sense of freedom and relief, it’s also common to feel a little anxious about life after graduation. After all, there are a lot of critical decisions to be made after graduating. Unfortunately, people often make mistakes early in their adult life because they lack the experience or guidance necessary to make good decisions. These people often end up “learning the hard way” -sometimes with tragic results. It’s not unusual to hear such people later say, “If I had only known better, I would have done things differently.”
But this doesn’t have to be true for you. You see, tucked away within the Bible is an obscure little book called Ecclesiastes. Many people have never even heard of this book, much less read it. That’s unfortunate because this little book with the barely pronounceable name serves as a kind of “graduation attitude check” on what’s really important in life- and what pitfalls to avoid. A little time invested in learning the lessons in this book can save you a lot of trouble later.
The book of Ecclesiastes was written by King Solomon, or “the son of David” as he refers to himself. Solomon was the richest, wisest and most powerful man on Earth during his day. He was an expert builder, a powerful leader, a savvy executive and a superior administrator. Not only that, Solomon was so successful with the opposite sex that he had 700 wives.
Yet despite all these advantages, Solomon’s opinion of life was very different than what you might think…
“‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless'” (Ecclesiastes 1:2 NIV).
How did a man who had as much as Solomon come to such a conclusion? What happened in his life to give him such a cynical viewpoint? Well, Solomon tells us that he came to this conclusion through simple observation…
“I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14 NIV).
There’s something important in this verse that’s a lot more significant than it may appear at first glance. You see, the terms “under the sun” (as seen above) and “under heaven” occur over 30 times throughout the book of Ecclesiastes. This repetition serves to remind us that Solomon’s viewpoint is limited strictly to our lives here on Earth and all that occurs “under the sun.”
This opens up an important truth for people to remember after graduation- a life lived without regard to God and the afterlife (or “under the sun” to use Solomon’s words) is ultimately pointless, useless and fruitless. This was not just Solomon’s offhand opinion, however. He arrived at this conclusion through careful analysis and evaluation in his attempt to discover life’s meaning…
“I said to myself, ‘Come now, be merry; enjoy yourself to the full.’ But I found that this, too, was futile. For it is silly to be laughing all the time; what good does it do?” (Ecclesiastes 2:1).
Solomon first evaluated a life that consisted only of pleasure, enjoyment and laughter. In other words, Solomon just partied all the time, just as many people do today. While this might sound like a great lifestyle, Solomon concluded that it didn’t accomplish anything in the long run.
“So after a lot of thinking, I decided to try the road of drink, while still holding steadily to my course of seeking wisdom…” (Ecclesiastes 2:3).
Next Solomon considered the value of a life centered around drinking alcohol. Another version of the Bible quotes Solomon as saying, “I tried cheering myself with wine…” (NIV). When you think about it, things haven’t changed much today, have they? There are plenty of bars and clubs that are filled with people unsuccessfully trying to cheer themselves with wine today just as Solomon did so many years ago.
So having tried the drinking and partying lifestyle, Solomon next turned to building projects…
“I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees” (Ecclesiastes 2:4-6).
It’s interesting to note that three entire chapters of the Bible (1Kings 4-6) describe King Solomon’s building projects. He spent seven years building the temple of God and 13 years building his own personal home. Still, he found no lasting value in these works, for we find that he is forced to continue his search…
“I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well– the delights of the heart of man” (Ecclesiastes 2:8).
Solomon now looks towards building up a lot of wealth as the key to lasting happiness. Of course, making money -along with the status that goes with it- is a top priority among many people today. In fact, many would say that our friend Solomon was a perfect example of someone who “had it all.” But would Solomon himself agree? Is the accumulation of personal wealth really the ticket to happiness? Well, here’s the verdict…
“Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:11)