Giver Behind the Gifts
Father of Love, You are what gives meaning to life. You are my all in all.
Read ECCLESIASTES 1:1-2:26
 The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:  “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”  What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?  Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.  The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.  The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course.  All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again.  All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing.  What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.  Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.  No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.  I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem.  I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind!  I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.  What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted.  I said to myself, “Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.”  Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.  For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.  I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless.  “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?”  I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly-my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.  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.  I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me.  I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well-the delights of a man’s heart.  I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.  I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil.  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.  Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom, and also madness and folly. What more can the king’s successor do than what has already been done?  I saw that wisdom is better than folly, just as light is better than darkness.  The wise have eyes in their heads, while the fool walks in the darkness; but I came to realize that the same fate overtakes them both.  Then I said to myself, “The fate of the fool will overtake me also. What then do I gain by being wise?” I said to myself, “This too is meaningless.”  For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered; the days have already come when both have been forgotten. Like the fool, the wise too must die!  So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.  I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me.  And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless.  So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun.  For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune.  What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun?  All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.  A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God,  for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?  To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectWhat is the perspective of the Teacher?
The Teacher is looking at life “under the sun” (1:3) and has come to see it all as meaningless. Life outside of God is full of emptiness. At the end of chapter two, the Teacher sees some light. The key to this is the small phrase at the end of verse 24: “This…is from the hand of God.” The Teacher is bringing us to recognize that all good gifts in life only find their true meaning when we see the loving Giver.We are just emerging from a season of gift-giving where we have been reminded that presents are tangible “thoughts” of love. The incarnation itself was the supreme demonstration that “God so loved the world” (John 3:16). Each day we receive many gifts–fresh air and nutritious food, warm sunshine and wholesome work, family and friends, health and homes, strength and skills. But it’s not enough to embrace these gifts with gratitude and joy. By reminding us that these everyday gifts are “from the hand of God” (24b), we are challenged to discern the Giver behind the gifts. Not only do we have a generous Giver (Jas. 1:17), but this Giver also outlives his gifts. Let us never be so engrossed in the good gifts of life that we fail to be enthralled by the Giver.
Journal some of God’s most precious gifts and how you see his hand in them.
Jesus, help me fix my eyes on You as the substance of life on this earth, and as the source of all that is eternal.
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