My daughter Amelia loves Winnie the Pooh. She sings along to every song and mimics every character. At 2 and a half years old, her Eeyore impression is priceless. She lowers her voice and gets a serious look on her face, furrowed brow and all. In all her cuteness, she really has to work to be that depressing.
For most people who read the Bible, the prevailing thought is that Eeyore would be an appropriate narrator for the book of Ecclesiastes. It is often assumed that Ecclesiastes is at least a pessimistic book, if not downright depressing. You can certainly understand this perspective if you accept a surface-level reading of the book. I admit, this was my assumption for a number of years about Ecclesiastes.
When you look closer though, and really begin to dig into the context, you find that this enigmatic wisdom book, often attributed to Solomon, leads us down a different path. Solomon comes to us on the level we most often experience life: blunt, sarcastic at times, brutally honest, straight-forward, street-level. This isn’t high-minded philosophy from an ivory tower, this is a guy who plumbed the depths of wealth, pleasure, and worldly renown. This is a guy who ascended to the heights of life in every possible way, with luxury and intrigue that we can only dream of—but who has come back down with both feet firmly planted on the ground to tell us that without God “all is vanity.”
Sydney Greidanus, in Preaching Christ from Ecclesiastes posits the following as the overall theme of the book: “Fear God in order to turn a vain, empty life into a meaningful life which will enjoy God’s gifts.” Douglas Wilson, in Joy at the End of the Tether, says “The theme of Ecclesiastes is that enjoyment and pleasure are by grace through faith, and not of works, lest any man should boast.”
While Solomon mentions “vanity” 38 times (depending on context this word means “meaningless, vapor, brevity,” etc.), he talks about things that are “good” or “goodness” 51 times. Ecclesiastes isn’t a downer, it’s a blunt assessment of life “under the sun” (without God), and a strong call to get joy out of life by recognizing the sovereignty of God and living a life devoted to Him.
Ecclesiastes calls us to Jesus. It points out that there is “nothing new under the sun,” revealing the glory of the one who God sent to “make all things new” (Revelation 21:5). It shows us that under the sun all our toil and labor is vanity, driving home the powerful truth that those who labor in the Lord don’t labor in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).
We’ll be driving through Ecclesiastes for the next few months at LifePoint. I think as we do, our perspective on life will get clearer, our community stronger, and our vision of the work of Jesus more glorious.
 Greidanus, p. 22.
 Wilson, p. 59.