"If that's all there is to life, then lets start dancing; let's break out the booze and
Anyone who reads the book of Ecclesiastes, an outwardly depressing book, should be put on suicide watch. It isn’t in the least depressing, however, but it certainly sounds as if life were not worth the living. The secret is that Solomon is writing as a man living life under the sun. And that makes all the difference.
Everyone knows at least one line from this Old Testament book. Either they read a book or heard or song. As a matter of fact, it is the most-quoted book of the Bible by atheists. Bob Dylan wrote a song about it (made famous by the Byrds) and Ernest Hemingway (an atheist who committed suicide) named one of his novels (The Sun Also Rises) after a phrase from the book. Ray Bradbury, in his book Fahrenheit 451, has the protagonist, Montag, assigned the memorization of Ecclesiastes when he joins with the Book People. Truly, it is a most-important piece of literature.
The famous Jewish author, Sholom Aleichem (remember Tevye, in Fiddler on the Roof?) wrote: life is as "a blister on top of a tumor, and a boil on top of that." Not a cheery outlook on life. He must have read Ecclesiastes before writing this.
If you do not understand Ecclesiastes the way Solomon meant it, you will live a life of abject misery. American poet, Carl Sandburg: compared life to "an onion—you peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep." Ecclesiastes states that there are times to weep, but there are also times to laugh and to dance (3:4). Sandburg must have read Ecclesiastes. Sandburg was only partly right. Only by accurately applying the great truths of Ecclesiastes do we get it right.
The fact that atheists quote it (and do so often) only means that they do not understand the overall purpose of the book. Solomon, at the end of his life and after having made innumerable mistakes during that life, is finally coming to grips with two approaches to reality: life under the sun and life under the Son. Ecclesiastes is a book of hope and joy, not one of despair and nihilism. If all you see is the material world around you, then you are going to spend your life depressed.
There are three principles for living we will learn from a study of this book. Each one calls us to reject the secularist materialism that is constantly drawing us away from God and His Kingdom.
I will be satisfied to the extent that I see everything I have as a gift from God.
I will be satisfied to the extent that I notice what is going on in the lives of others
I will be satisfied to the extent that I trust God during times of distress.
Remember that Solomon was talking about "life under the sun." Only as we see above this plane of our life can we experience the joy God has for us. It is time to look up!