Day 1

Everything Is Futile

from the reading plan

Ecclesiastes 1:1-11, Psalm 39:1-13, Matthew 11:28-30

I stood up tall, my feet planted at an awkward angle to accommodate the hill that made up the side of my yard. Wiping the sweat from my eyes, I looked down at the mound of uprooted weeds on my lawn with a sense of accomplishment. But that moment of yard work-induced pride was short-lived. Retreating from the hill of juniper to the grass below, I turned back to see that my four hours of labor had made almost no difference. The fuzzy rows of shrubs seemed just as inundated with crabgrass, dandelions, and pricker bushes as before. I had sacrificed my morning, not to mention my back and much of the skin on my fingers, for nothing.

This is the image that pops into my head when I think of the word meaningless. As I read Ecclesiastes, I imagine all of life is like that hillside of weed-infested juniper, undeterred by our best efforts, leaving us worn out and broken, stretched and bruised and without hope. “‘Absolute futility,’ says the Teacher. ‘Absolute futility. Everything is futile’” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). It’s no wonder Bible scholar N.T. Wright has dubbed the book of Ecclesiastes “the Eeyore of the Old Testament.” Its message is a difficult one to hear.

Ecclesiastes is no less inspired by the Spirit of God than is the Gospel of John or the book of Exodus, just as “profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness” (2Timothy 3:16). It is for our benefit, then, that we join the Teacher, most likely King Solomon, on his melancholy journey to explore life “under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:3). In fact, those three words—under the sun—may just be the key to unlocking the message of Ecclesiastes.

Solomon writes not of spiritual realities, but of earthly observations. He does not bring his father David’s hope of life in God’s presence to bear (Psalm 16:11), nor does he weigh his findings against the promise of the coming Messiah. Instead, like a good scientist whose time came too early, he records what he can discover with his natural senses “under the sun.” In that, Ecclesiastes is a friend. When we bump up against the harsh realities of life and the injustices that come with the brokenness of this world, we remember that Solomon has been there before us. We know we are not alone. In fact, in the darkness of a book like Ecclesiastes, if we adjust our gaze, the light of the gospel will appear to shine all the brighter.

Written by John Greco

Post Comments (5)

5 thoughts on "Everything Is Futile"

  1. Colleen DeVeau says:

    I am a She that benefits greatly by reading both the She AND He essays. Thank you, John Greco, for writing something so relatable about a book of the Bible that is so… painfully relatable. Life is rough, but there is always Hope in Jesus and the Eternal Kingdom of God.

  2. Mary Nichols says:

    John,I have been so blessed by the She Reads Truth ministry, & I’m so glad that the He is on the same book as She; I showed it to my husband & he was into it until the mention of MTWright. RED FLAG! A Bible scholar he is, but as a subtle re-interpreter. I ask you to research him, especially the way he perverts the precious doctrine of justification.

  3. Mary Nichols says:

    (Continued from above note)
    My mistake: I meant N.T.Wright. His Eeyore joke brought laughs; his theology, anything but [researched at length]. Are you, John Grecco, an advocate of his views?

  4. Ryan Johnson says:

    Fantastic post, thank you so much! I haven’t really considered before how little-to-no focus there is on spiritual realities in Ecclesiastes. I get the feeling from the book that he is wrestling with the state of things apart from God’s redemptive purposes. There’s almost like a palpable longing for it in the book.

    @Mary thanks for sharing your thoughts. I would humbly point out that John Greco made no mention of N.T. Wright’s theology on justification. There is also no need to dismiss N.T. Wright’s entire theological framework (which is much, much more expansive than just justification) because of one piece of it. Also, just to offer some encouragement and possibly some insight into John Greco’s views, there are probably very very few great theologians who limit their learning and referencing to people whose theology they completely agree with—even when it comes to some major issues. At a certain point, it just become practically impossible (and unnecessary). But that is actually a good thing. That’s how healthy growth and even reform happens over long periods of time. The apostle Paul himself goes way further than John Greco by quoting an invocation of Zeus (yikes!) in Acts 17 in order to help explain the truth about God’s story. Its all a testament to the fact that all truth is God’s, whether it’s Jesus speaking it, Paul, a donkey, or a theologically imperfect theologian (ie everybody). I hope this is helpful! I thought I’d share since it seemed to cause you and your husband some concern with SRT, or at least with John Greco.

  5. Mary Nichols says:

    Peace, Ryan Johnson.
    Well said.
    Please convey to John Grecco that I understand he meant no ill. All he said was edifying, & how could he know that dropping the name of a priest who likes Pooh would land with a thud on us, a couple who consider said priest akin to the Hellible Horralump or the Hoffable Hellerump.
    We pray for the peace & the purity of this ministry & all of you who labor in God’s name.

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