Friday, August 4, 2023

The Futility of Life (1 Corinthians 15:35–58)

"... your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Cor. 15:58).

Lord willing, in the coming months Charles Bridges will guide us through the twists and turns of the Preacher’s intricate poetry as we uncover some of the finest practical treasures in all of Scripture. But for now, we will begin our study of Ecclesiastes with an examination of its provoking philosophical themes. 

The Preacher deals with some difficult biblical issues: God’s sovereignty and man’s free will, the problem of evil, God’s mercy and His judgment. He also explores the most basic philosophical questions concerning the human condition, such as “What is the meaning of life?” and “Does our toil and labor in this world have a purpose?”

The Preacher answers these questions in an unique way. He does not simply give the answer. Instead, he describes the world as fallen human beings see it: utterly futile. Before the Fall, man understood his purpose in life. Adam knew that his purpose was to glorify God and to serve Him. After the Fall, man’s purpose became obscured by sin. Once the intimate relationship between God and man was severed, humanity lost sight of life’s meaning. As a result, man searches for purpose and meaning in the created order instead of the Creator. We search for meaning in work, in relationships, in false religion, in itself. Everything comes up empty.

This reality of the human condition has caused some people to turn to the nihilism of existential philosophy—the child of ancient skepticism—which maintains that life is meaningless. Our toil, our pain, our pleasure, everything we do, everything we are is utterly worthless. Is it any wonder that under the influence of such a philosophy much of our society is pessimistic and depressed?

The skeptics, however, are right in a way—life is meaningless. The Preacher’s observations about life concur with those of the skeptics, but he doesn’t leave us to wallow in nihilism. He tells us that life is futile only when God is removed from the picture. But those who acknowledge and worship God, who work for His glory, find meaning and purpose in who they are and what they do. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).

Do you find it difficult to persevere in a situation because you find no meaning in it? Your work? Your relationships? Whatever the situation God has put you there for a purpose. It might be frustrating or even painful. Until God changes those situations, how can you honor Him through your attitude and your actions?