Reading Ecclesiastes: Is It All Vanity?

Last night I attended the first of a summer home study group at my church, First Baptist Church of Portland. It’s a pleasure to attend a group I don’t have to lead! We are studying the book of Ecclesiastes. I haven’t read that book straight through since a Wisdom literature class in seminary a terrifyingly long time ago.

We started with chapter one, and rereading it today, it strikes me that it could have been written by a burned-out pastor. “The sun rises and the sun goes down, and hurries to the place where it rises.” (Sunday morning keeps coming, and all too quickly.) “All things are wearisome, more than one can express…” (I’m tired of trying so hard and getting nowhere) “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Despite the rapid change in the church environment and our society, the same old relationship challenges of ministry remain.) “All is vanity and the chasing after wind.”

The teachers pointed out last night that Ecclesiastes almost didn’t make it into the canon.
It’s a wonderful gift that the Scripture itself offers these honest words. It’s not the whole story, of course, but most of us who’ve been in ministry for more than a year have had these moments, just like the Teacher of Ecclesiastes.

2 replies on “Reading Ecclesiastes: Is It All Vanity?

  • Israel Galindo

    I’ve always viewed the book of Ecclesiastes as the first “how to succeed in business” book. It was a product of the golden age of a nation, during a time of wealth, high culture, and international commerce. Such a culture needs governors, princes, and leaders to help the society thrive. The book even includes a chapter on how to find the kind of wife that will help you get ahead in the world. A quick review of the business leader “literature” at the local bookstore hints that not much has changed. Today’s business leaders still look for the shortcut to wisdom and the secret to success through the master of self and of others. Indeed, there is nothing new under the sun.

  • Rebecca Maccini

    I hope that you give some more insights from Ecclesiastes. Recently, a friend from Scotland called who is the head of the Scottish Baptist College and he said that if he were a pastor, he would do a Bible study this year on Ecclesiastes and Colossians, such an interesting juxtaposition between those two books and that is my plan. My friend has a great website entitled, Living Wittily.


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