Woe is me
Fascination with a book in the Bible
The book, “Ecclesiastes” in the Bible fascinates me. It has a woe is me vibe which doesn’t seem to fit into the rest of the Bible. The message is depressing and rather unsettling. The words and imagery used are unlike any other book in the Bible, in my opinion. It is raw and blunt. Let’s take for example Ecclesiastes Chapter 7, Verse 15; from The Message version of the Bible:
“I’ve seen it all in my brief and pointless life – here a good person cut down in the middle of doing good, there a bad person living a long life of sheer evil.”
This verse is one of many in the book which comes across as hopeless, sad and the opposite of the message in the rest of the Bible. Before we dig in further, I realize this post might seem out of place. Knowing this, I’ve provided some extra background in the form of Storytime.
About 13 years ago, I started studying the Bible seriously. Yes, I realize for those who do know me, this seems odd since I was raised in such a strict and religious household. Oddly the Bible wasn’t as front as center as posturing and being legalistic, but that is neither here nor there; but rather a discussion for a different day.
Thankfully, moving to the South, specifically North Carolina, which is often affectionately named, “The Bible Belt”, I met and learned from many others who were different denominations or completely different faiths than Christian. Specifically, I remember having the opportunity in Winston-Salem to go to the interfaith group and learn about all sorts of religions. After going to a number of seminars with this group, I came to realize how little I knew about other religions of the world, but also the general history of religions, including Christianity.
With this inspiration, along with a dear friends encouragement to read the Bible and pray (differently than I had ever understood); that I started my own learning journey. Having memorized the books of the Bible as a child using a song, I knew the titles; however it wasn’t until I dug into the words, and truly studied the Bible that I came to new and personal understandings.
All that to say
All that being said, regardless if you are a Christian, or prefer not to label yourself. Even if you are agnostic or atheist, I personally would encourage you to read and study the Bible. Not because I hope you will uncover something in yourself or convert. But, because of its historical significance. Because of its influence on today’s world. And especially because regardless of your belief or lack there of, there is age old wisdom in any book. Insight into the thoughts of leaders and historical figures. And lastly, because studying any text allows you to further develop your own thoughts, feelings and theories of the world.
Also, I love all books, so there is that. Okay! So now we can get back into this post, hopefully you made it this far.
Ecclesiastes: Woe is me
When I started studying the Bible seriously all those years ago, I didn’t really know what I was going to truly find. Or even have any indication that any of it would apply to my life. Being raised in a religious community, most of the people my age turned away from anything spiritual or God-related in utter disgust. Therefore, it wasn’t until later in life that I gave it a chance again.
When I did start studying, it was with a critical and doubtful lens. Therefore, it was a surprise when I came across the book of Ecclesiastes, I thought I was no longer reading the Bible. Let’s jump in with a summary of what I got from reading this book.
Life is meaningless
The author makes is clear he is hurting, with the general sentiment that life is meaningless and certainly don’t count on building a legacy. In the second chapter, the author speaks on all of the things and accomplishments he accumulated. He continues to state that everything is meaningless. That regardless of what you have and how you get it, everyone’s fate is the same. Chapter 3 starts out seemingly more hopeful with the famous, ‘there is a time for everything under the sun’. But quickly turns to saying, but we all die so who cares.
It’s better to be dead
Chapter four literally says it is better to be dead versus having to be a victim of life. However, this does say it is better to go through life with someone than be alone. Chapter 5 goes on with the theme of: more money more problems. It does have a slight hint of, enjoy now because you don’t know what the future will be. As we continue reading, the Message translation of Chapter 6 literally says, “Things are bad”. And goes on to say that a still born is luckier than anyone who has had to live.
Chapter 7 reads more like the Proverbs and does provide a bit of wisdom, but still feels so heavy and sad. Toward the end it is a ramble of Woe is Me type warnings that you might hear from an older, angry man. Instead of the wisdom found in proverbs however, here the author states plainly that bad things happen to good people so may as well just have a ‘good time’.
Then, all of a sudden in Chapter 9, the author takes a refreshed tone and asks the reader to: “Seize Life… eat with gusto… drink with a robust heart. Dress well and relish life with your spouse.” The author again writes in the style of Proverbs and rambles off lessons he’s learned. Including, “Laughter and bread go together, wine gives sparkle to life, but it’s money that makes the world go around.”
The author acts as though life is grand, and urges us as readers to enjoy every single day. Speaking on how wonderful it is to live in sunshine. To end the book in Chapter 12, the author speaks on enjoying youth because old age comes to all.
We’ve all had those moments. Those moments when we get to the end of our strength and want to give up. Perhaps it is when there is a storm of multiple things happening. And there doesn’t seem to be a way through our out of the circumstances we are in. There are a number of fun and unique ways to get to this point in life. (Sense the rare sarcasm there).
Maybe we got ourselves into the situation. We knew that the fight we were about to start, or the angry outburst would be the final break point in a relationship – with a spouse, or even maybe with an employer. Or perhaps you are more of a slow and steady one bad decision at a time type of person. And maybe still you are in the camp of things are burning around you without you picking up the match or throwing fuel on the fire. It just so happens the people you surround yourself with like to stay warmer than most.
However you may have arrived at the sentiment found in Ecclesiastes, I’d offer the same wisdom that can be found in this book of the Bible. We all die, so make the most of everyday.
A depressing or uplifting message – you get to decide! Whether you mope through life, or laugh at the days to come, it literally will not matter in the end to anyone but YOU, who is experiencing life day to day.
So today, CHOOSE to be full of life, however that expresses itself through you at this point in your life.