WE HAVE learned a lot from the Covid-19 pandemic. For instance, we, or at least I have learned the price of things, but deeper than that is their value.
An expensive handbag is of no value to an empty stomach. King Solomon wrote the following on this subject: “All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
What a bleak first step to start the new year. Or is it? Is there no hope? The world offers successful people freedom from moments of doubt or depression. But time and again we hear of successful people coming to ruin at the height of their glory. What was Solomon, king over Israel in Jerusalem, driving at?
He had the authority to write this way. He had everything: fame, wealth, power, wisdom, women (700 wives and 300 concubines). Solomon wrote these verses near the end of his life. There was urgency as he reviewed all the splendor of his life, only to conclude that everything he had was meaningless. He could speak with confidence about this realization of emptiness because he had reached the zenith of success. This unexpected hallow run contrary to the world system that wealth equals fullness. But Solomon realized this wasn’t true. He was filled with skepticism and pessimism as he learned that achievement apart from God is meaningless.
Is there no hope then? Solomon intended these words to hit the heart, and to remind generations after him to avoid the wrongs he made (idolatry, turning away from God for a while). His is a sound warning at the start of the new year. He eventually returned to God.
There is hope for anyone feeling empty in spite of the world’s promises of joy and peace through wealth and success. The sage prescribes sound perspective as a guideline for living. He couches his words with doing everything with God in mind. If we return to God as he did, then we can recover from the emptiness we feel. Through all generations, Solomon seems to ask, “What is of value to you? Do you only know the price of things?” There is nothing new under the sun, but Solomon gives us a new perspective that gives us hope: Put the priorities of life in the light of what God wants to do. And that is to love Him, and love our neighbor as we love ourself.