The End of the Matter

 I read a book once, and it changed my life forever. It revolutionized my outlook on life. Not that I was actively seeking any kind of life-altering experience or anything. The book simply came to me at a time when I was just beginning to ask some of the questions that it answers. In many ways, it is one of the first “philosophic” books that I was ever able to connect with personally. I’m actually sitting at my laptop with a narrative copy of it right now – it’s cover is black with red lettering, and on the back it says: “What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun?”

It’s the book of Ecclesiastes, for those who don’t recognize the quote. My mom, knowing it to be my favorite book of the Bible, recently bought a single, narrative copy of it for me. *smiles*

I first read the book years ago, apathetically flipping through the chapters, not exactly understanding what I was reading and not necessarily caring either. As I was reading, my older brother came into the room and asked me what I was doing. “Reading Ecclesiastes,” I remember mumbling. “Oh really?” he said, “And what’s that about?” “Oooh…” I said tentatively, “it’s about how everything in life is meaningless.” I looked at him blandly, but then, as if by a sudden spark of inspiration, I quickly added, “except with the Lord.”

Suddenly, a whirlwind of meaning seemed to sweep over me, and I was dumbfounded by the fact that such a profound statement could come out of my mouth.“Everything in life is meaningless except with the Lord.”The thought was revolutionary.

I remember staring at my brother for a short while just taking the thought in. Everything in life is meaningless, I thought.Is there anything in this world that is not utterly futile in the end?People try to find meaning through any number of desperate, empty solutions.Wealth, success, fame, reputation, relationships, status – but what’s the point?It’s like building a castle made of sand.It’s never going to last, so what’s the point of building it in the first place?Nothing in life lasts.Nothing brings the satisfaction you think it should bring – so what’s the point?Why does the sun bother to rise if it’s only going to set again?What’s the point of living if you’re only going to die?

“What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun?” The question suddenly took on a whole new meaning. “What will I get for all my toil and anxious striving?”I had never thought of rewording the question like that, but now it just seemed natural.That was the whole point of the book!

I looked back down at my Bible and saw for the first time what the “preacher” was trying to communicate. With my new eyes, I started from the beginning and read the entire book through again, my interest finally culminating in the last two verses:

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”

I reread these last two verses several times before finally looking up. This was the answer! This was the point! People scramble endlessly trying to find some kind of meaning to their life, yet more often than not they fail. Why? Because they never look beyond themselves; they never search beyond the futility of this world. People are so busy playing with their sandcastles that they never notice the towering palace before them. But if they were just once willing to look beyond themselves and into the eternal mysteries of an immutable God, they would find a reality that is far more real and solid than anything this life could offer.

Everything in this world is passing. There is nothing that will not fade with time. There is no pleasure that will not grow stale, and no relationship that will not bring disappointment. If we want to find lasting joy, we must find purpose in something that will not pass away. In Ecclesiastes 3:14, we read that “whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it.” God is the only thing – the only one – who is lasting. His reality is eternal, and His purposes unchanging.

As for me, my life is nothing more than dust on a chalkboard – the things I do today are just as easily erased tomorrow. What is my life in comparison to eternity? A hundred years from now, all of my “toil and anxious striving” will amount to nothing more than a name on a gravestone. It all seems so futile.

All of these thoughts flashed through my mind in an instant as I stared at my brother in the living room. And I understood it all. Since that day, there have been many times in my life where I have asked myself, “What’s the point? Why should I bother?” Yet it is at those times that I am driven to the words of the preacher in Ecclesiastes. Nothing “under the sun” lasts – “all is vanity and a striving after wind” [Ecc.1:14]. Without God, everything is meaningless; and yes, my life would be completely and utterly futile if I never looked beyond what this empty world “under the sun” offers. If I ever want my life to amount to something of significance, I need to be rooted in something eternal and unchanging. In other words, I need to be rooted in the everlasting God, for He is the only one who can make all that I do “under the sun” last in eternity.

This is, in essence, the reason why I chose to name my blog “The End of the Matter.” As Solomon put it, the “end of the matter” is to “fear God and keep his commandments.” In the end, this one simple truth really is all that matters, for God is the only being in existence who is capable of making what we do truly last.

I have found lasting purpose in God; and therefore, I know that my life will matter even when I am dead and gone and nobody even remembers my name. Even during my lifetime, when I am endlessly striving after some unseen goal and everything I do seems to be amounting to nothing. God makes it matter. It is this simple truth that has revolutionized my life and now drives the purpose behind everything I say and do – including this blog.

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”

Because I fear God, my life matters. What makes your life matter?

 
 

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