Some time ago Rick Warren wrote a book entitled “The Purpose-Driven Life.” It became a best seller almost immediately and surprisingly the sales surpassed that of nearly all religious books published in the previous decade. It 31 cartoonwas so popular, I believe, because if focused on everyone’s need to find meaning and purpose in life. Early in the book, Warren notes a survey conducted by Dr. Hugh Moorhead in which he wrote to 250 leading intellectuals and scientists asking them, “What is the meaning of life?” None of those who responded provided a satisfying answer to the question. But all admitted to struggling with the issue. If you’ve never wrestled with understanding the meaning of life you are in the minority. Most people have to come to grips with ultimate truths that shape their view of the most important issues in life.

Solomon, in his older years, struggled with this question also. No one had the wealth, the popularity, the power, or the possessions that he had but none of that brought lasting satisfaction to his life. Solomon also wrote a book about it. Unlike Warren’s book, Ecclesiastes has been a best seller for over 3000 years. Having been inspired by God it’s one of the biblical books in the genre of wisdom literature. It begins by asking the question “What’s the use.” Literally, Ecclesiastes 1:1-3 says, “The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” In my vernacular he’s looking at life and asking “what’s the use?” David Jeremiah tells of a college student who wrote this note before taking his own life: “To anyone in the world who cares, Who am I? Why am I living? Life has become stupid and purposeless. Nothing makes sense to me anymore. The questions I had when I came to college are still unanswered and now I am convinced there are no answers. There can only be pain and guilt and despair here in this world. My fear of death and the unknown is far less terrifying than the prospect of the unbearable frustration, futility, and hopelessness of continued existence.”

The book of Ecclesiastes is the story of Solomon’s search for meaning and purpose in life. Throughout his story he describes the conclusions he reaches. His conclusions are far different than those of the hostess at the end of the Monty Python movie, “The meaning of life.” She dramatically opens the envelope containing the answer and reads, “Try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.” Although good instructions for living in community, does that really answer the question? Of course not! You can’t answer the question of “why” by giving directions on “how.” Solomon’s conclusions prove to be much more meaningful.