What gives life purpose? What makes life meaningful? What puts sense into the journey called life? Have you asked those questions? To find out the answer, I turned to the one who made life – God and His Written Word, the Bible.
I bumped into a book of the Bible where the word, “meaningless” or “vanity” is used 29 times – the book of Ecclesiastes. I discovered many things that simply will not give purpose and meaning to life. Let me share them with you.
1. WIT will not bring meaning and purpose in life!
The writer of this book “tries” different things in his search for meaning in life (Eccl 2:1 NLT). First he tries “laughter”. Shall we make that “wit”?
If only I can laugh my guts out! If only I can crack a joke and my world laughs with me! Then my life will have meaning, purpose and sense! That is what he thought. But he was disappointed (Eccl 2:2).

Just like Jim Carey, the man who made a fortune with his funny face. He was not a happy man, his biographer writes. Tony Hancock, a great comedian out of the United Kingdom ended his life on his own. Yes, the Bible observes that even in laughter the heart may ache (Prov 14:13). Yes, we can be bubbly on the outside, yet empty on the inside! So the way of wit is not the way to meaning, this man discovered!

Jim Carey, the man who made a fortune with his funny face, was not a happy man.

2. WINE will not give meaning and purpose in life!
The search for meaning in Ecclesiastes continues. He tried to “cheer” himself with wine (Eccl 2:3). Again, he was disappointed. Wine can make you forget life for a while. But it can never bring it meaning and purpose!

Wine can make you forget life for a while. But it can never bring its meaning or purpose

Fourteen- year old Aarushi Talwar was found murdered on May 16, 2008 in the room of her home in Noida, near New Delhi, India. Her throat was slit. Her face had stab wounds. How could someone get so cruel to commit a murder so cold and clinical as this? The answer is given by the investigation team – the murderer was influenced by alcohol.

Famous England footballer, Paul Gascoigne’s addiction to alcohol led him to mental depression. At one point he attempted to end his life by wrist-slashing. He was reportedly too drunk to even speak to the press after this event.

Paul Gascoigne’s addiction to alcohol led him to mental depression

Alcohol consumption will rob your life away from you by causing immense damage to your liver, slowly but surely. At times, it can make you so senseless that you may even take another’s life or your own life under its influence. When this is the case, how can alcohol give life meaning and purpose?! It surely can’t. The search for meaning doesn’t end with wine – it has to continue….

3. WORK will not give meaning and purpose in life!
The writer of Ecclesiastes next talks about how he got busy with work in his search for life’s purpose (Eccl 2:4-6). He made houses, vineyards, gardens, parks, forests and pools yet that did not make his life, sensible or purposeful. Ahithophel made a career out of counseling kings. He was the counselor of King David, the great King of Israel (II Sam 15:12). When David’s handsome son, Absalom rebelled against him and occupied the throne, Ahithophel joined his team. He gave key counsels to Absalom too. In fact, his counsel was seen as the very counsel of God, the Bible records (II Sam 16:23). But when Absalom listened to the counsel of Hushai instead of his counsel, Ahithopel could not take it and he instead took his own life (II Sam 17:23). In II Samuel 16:23, he was at the peak of his profession. In II Samuel 17:23, he was in the pit of depression because of a professional failure, so much so, he ended his life!

I found a tragic news piece on washingtonpost.com very similar to the story of Ahitophel. Let me narrate the real story about Natrajan Ramachandran, an investment advisor of Indian origin who worked in the United States:
On a heart-stopping August Day in 1998, in his 5,000-square-foot, 20-room tract mansion in Herndon, the United States, he gathered his family in the master bedroom — his wife, Kalpara; their daughter, Reha, 11; and their son, Raj, 7 — and ended their lives and his with a 9mm Ruger rifle. Because of an obvious failure in his profession he behaved in this bizarre manner: he had had run up to $10 million in debts, some to casinos, and was under investigation for passing $2 million in worthless checks, the same website reported. Natrajan Ramachandran also killed himself.
Both Ahithophel and Natrajan Ramachandran perhaps believed that their success in their work would give them meaning and purpose in life. But that did not happen. And they were so shattered that they killed themselves. It is true – work will not give purpose and meaning in life!

4. WEALTH will not give meaning and purpose in LIFE!
The search for life’s meaning continues in Ecclesiastes 2. We read how this writer “bought” slaves, herds and flocks like no one else in all of Israel (Ecc 2:7, 8). Who is this writer? In the first verse verse of this book, he introduces himself as the son of David, king in Jerusalem. Bible Scholars tell us he was King Solomon. He was richest ever king to rule Israel. The weight of the gold that he possessed in a single year was 666 talent (I Ki 10:14). One talent weighed 34 kgs, mind you! He had 200 large gold shields. His drinking vessels were made out of gold. He sat in an ivory throne (I Ki 10:14-22). Here was a king who had seen wealth like no other king. Yet, this is his startling confession: wealth could not give him meaning and purpose in life.

If we were to resurrect Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver coins and ask him, “Judas, will money give meaning to life?” he would vigorously shake his head to say ‘no’. “If money made my life, why would I have ended my life after I made money? Purpose in life is found in the One I betrayed to make money – the One who told us, One’s life does not consist in the abundance of His possessions! (Luke 12:15)”

Pat Rafter, mouthed these words, after he won a huge prize money, following a US Open win, “When you don’t have it, you want it. When you have it, you don’t want it!” By saying this he was admitting money does not give fulfillment to life.

Pat Rafter admitted that money does not give fullfillment to life

5. WOMEN do not give meaning and purpose to life!
Scroll down to Ecclesiastes 2 and you will bump into yet another thing King Solomon tried out to get meaning and purpose in life: women. He had female slaves, female singers and female sex-partners (called concubines) in plenty (Eccl 2:7,8). Yet these women could not bring fulfillment to his life.

Women do not give meaning and purpose to life.

After an infamous tryst with a young woman who was not his wife, Oliver Kahn, Germany’s legendary goalie told a very popular magazine in Germany, “I myself know how stupid and dumb this is!” Kahn, by saying that admitted, women and all the pleasures they could offer, could not help him find life’s purpose and meaning! So our search for life’s meaning can’t stop with women. It must continue.

6.’WOWs!’ will not give meaning and purpose in Life!
Solomon keeps travelling in his search for meaning and fulfillment in life. At each stop he met nothing but disappointment. His next stop in this seemingly insatiable journey is what I want to call as the stop of “Wows!” Solomon, in other words, wanted to find life’s meaning through the route of appreciation from people for his commendable achievements. He says, “So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem” (Eccl 2:9). In the “Wows!’ people would shower him with, he tried to find life’s purpose.
Wows – Solomon received them galore. He got them by the truckloads. Solomon’s wisdom and wealth made the visiting Queen of Sheba go “Wow!” (I Kings 10:1-10). The Bible records, “Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt” (I Kings 4:30). His knowledge of biology was baffling; his insight into zoology was zapping (That’s how I understand I Ki 4:33).
People did not mind long walks to hear Solomon talks (I Kings 4:34). In his book Shane Warne’s Century, Shane Warne says that he would pay to see Indian Opener Virender Sehwag bat. Sehwag’s batting made him go “Wow!” The Sportstar titled it special issue about Steve Waugh this way: Wow Waugh! People in Solomon’s time had to just say that when they saw Solomon: Wow!
Eugene Peterson translates I Kings 4:29 this way: There was nothing beyond him (Solomon), nothing he couldn’t handle.
But sadly the “Wows!” he won with effortless ease did not give Solomon his life’s purpose. Michael Schumacher after winning the World Championships in Formula One racing for the record seventh time said, “I’m empty and I’m exhausted!” A ‘wow’ performance could not give him life’s purpose or give him fulfillment.

A ‘wow’ performance could not give Michael Schumacher his life’s purpose

What about you? You thought “Once I have a Beyonce Knowles figure and once I hear a ‘Wow’from my male admirers, my life is made!” You do have Beyonce Knowles’s figure now. You have heard that ‘Wow!’ you were waiting for. But, guess what? Your life is still far from being made. You still are searching for meaning in life.

7. THE WHOLE WORLD cannot give meaning and purpose in your life!
After his great disappointment of trying out the first six Ws – wit, wisdom, wine, work, wealth, women and ‘wows’ – Solomon makes a summary statement. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure (Eccl 2:10). Notice the word “whatever” here. And that word is an all-sweeping, all-encompassing word he used to imply that he tried everything “under the sun” (a frequently appearing word in this Bible book) to find meaning and purpose in life. Whatever his eyes set sights on, whatever his heart felt could give meaning and purpose to life, and he tried that out. What was the end result: the same.

Jesus said, “What good is it if someone gains the whole world but loses his soul?”

The whole world and all of its pleasures cannot give one’s life meaning. That is the message of this Bible book. The gambling which Las Vegas can offer, the girls which Paris can parade, the gold which Johannesburg can brag about cannot give your life meaning and purpose! The porn site about which your pals say, “You have not lived, until you have seen it, bloke!” cannot give your life meaning. Solomon kept nothing from his eyes (To put that in modern terms, “There was no porn site which Solomon did not surf…”). Yet, fulfillment of life was kept from him!

When Jesus said, “What good is it if someone gains the whole world but loses his soul?” (Math 16:26, NIV) this was what He was getting at: You can search the whole planet for meaning and purpose in life, but you will not find it!
The destination of these wrong roads….
Solomon openly confessed “everything is meaningless” at least six times in his book (Eccl 1:2,14; 2:17; 3:19; 11:8; 12:8). The seven routes he took to get meaning and purpose in life led to only disillusionment and disappointment.
Not only that. Writing elsewhere in the Bible, Solomon says these routes he took led to danger as well. I am referring to his words in the Bible book of Proverbs. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death,” so writes Solomon (Prov 14:12). It is so important that he repeated it in Proverbs 16:25. When he was in the way of wit, the way of wine, the way of work, the way of wealth, the way of Wows, the way of Women, the way of the whole world, he felt he was on the right track. As he journeyed further, after the initial elation, he felt miserable because deep down he knew he doing wrong. And not just wrong, he knew he was heading straight into danger – death. Another version of the Bible translates the very same words of Solomon this way: There’s a way that looks harmless enough; look again—it leads straight to hell. The ultimate destination of life-purpose routes such as wine, women, work, “Wows!”, wit, etc is hell! Eugene Peterson, swapped the word, “hell” for the word, “death”, because we do have places in the Bible where hell punishment is figuratively called “second death” (in Rev 21:8 for example) though no one actually gets to die in hell!

Why and How Jesus can give us purpose in life
Hell?! In the Bible, God’s Words in Human words, no one spoke about this place more than the person who actually came to save us all from going there. His name is Jesus! Jesus compared hell to “a lake of fire” in which worms will forever feast on the eternally alive human body. He preached that He, God in Human Flesh, came to this world to give each one of us, life, and “life to the full” (John 10:10). Without a living relationship with Jesus, our life will never be fulfilled. Without a daily relationship with Jesus, our life will be a living hell, even as we head to the literal hell. This is the message of John 3:36 – a verse in the Bible. When we come to Jesus who claimed to be “The Bread of Life”, we will no longer be hungry – our hunger to find life’s meaning can be only quenched by Jesus (John 6:35)!
The reason for this is very simple. Since Jesus had purpose and meaning to His life, He could offer the same to others. He explicitly says He came for the purpose of dying for the human race (John 12:27). Through His death, every human, could discover life’s purpose. Jesus not only had purpose for His own life – He gave purpose to the life of those who made Him Lord and Savior of their lives. A man called Paul, repented from his sins and trusted in Jesus as His only Lord, God and Savior. And this is what he testifies after having walked the road of life with Jesus: “I run with purpose in every step!” (I Cor 9:26, NLT). The same Jesus who filled Paul’s life with purpose all over can give your life purpose, meaning fulfillment as well, for He is impartial and unchanging. All you have to do is repent from sin like Paul and trust in Jesus alone for your salvation.

The person who made life, can make it meaningful!
This message is what even the guy we were talking about, King Solomon, all along was getting at. After having observed the whole world and what it had to offer, Solomon makes a very important statement. It is this: “God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? (Eccl 2:24-25). While he openly confessed “everything is meaningless” at least six times in his book, Solomon, offers some hope in some sections of his book (Eccl 1:2,14; 2:17; 3:19; 11:8; 12:8). His message is simple: the person who made life can make it meaningful! His message is direct: life ‘under the sun’ (a phrase he uses in his book 20 times) will be meaningless, until we have a living relationship with the one above the Sun – with God!

To underline that he wrote, Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them” (Eccl 12:1). Here is what he is saying, “Remember and relate with God, who came to this Earth in the person of Jesus, if you want to make all the days of your life full of eternal pleasure and meaning!” (to put that verse in the context of the message of the whole Bible).

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth- (Eccl 12:1)

So why are you waiting? Would you bow your head, right now, and ask the resurrected and returning Jesus to come into your repentant heart, to begin your eternity-long relationship with Him – a relationship that will fill every second of your life with purpose and meaning and fulfillment? Don’t delay this decision!

As Solomon pointed out, let us do this in “the days of our youth”! As Solomon penned, let us do this before the door to life’s opportunities is closed (Eccl 12:4, NLT). As Solomon scripted, let us do it, before you near the grave, before the silver cord of life snaps – which technically is ‘any time’ in this world full of heart-stopping terror (Eccl 12:5,6 NLT)!

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