The Preacher in Ecclesiastes pointed out that everything he did was vanity: everything. He tried pleasure, learning, and religion and all was worthless, windy nothing. We cannot hide from that conclusion by referring to chapter twelve where we are urged to remember the Creator when we are young. The bad news is we have to remember when we are young because we will not be able to do so when we are old!
The news is bad: we cannot do anything that will give meaning and purpose to our lives. If someone tells you: “Try this product!” They are selling you something whether they are the new atheists online or the prosperity gospel hucksters on cable.
You matter, but only because omnipotent God loves you. That is the greatest “only” that ever was.
Jewish and Christian people, the folks of Ecclesiastes, will not measure you for what you do because what you do is not good enough. Still, you are eternal, and God loves you. Everyone has value, even people who lose. Why? Losing is vanity. Winning is vanity. All is vanity.
God loves you, so you are not in vain.
The unexpected truth is that people matter, but not for what they do. God can do anything we do, but better. We are not needed, but God lets us do things. Like the parent who hangs his child’s art on the fridge, God honors our work, because God loves us. He allows us to do what He could do better, because we enjoy the doing.
We do not have to get meaning from work, money, school, talent, or ability, but God is happy to love us, honor us, and bring us to new joys. This isn’t because our works, vanities in themselves, earned anything, but because God is delighted that we are. He loves us and wishes to redeem, encourage, transform, and make us whole.
God does not need us for His ego: God is already God.
God does not need us to do things for Him: He is omnipotent. Instead, God asks us to do things that are good for us. We are children and He is our Heavenly Father. All our work, our most serious efforts, are play to God. He smiles, is happy, and rewards us, though we play.
Play is our serious work. Play, doing what is not needed except for our happiness, is our work. Children play with toys and a parent delights to provide the chance, but how sad if a child takes himself or his play too seriously! It is even sadder when we as children of God get stuck at one stage of play and never grow into deeper pleasures, more serious joy.
The Lord Jesus compared the final coming of His Kingdom to a party, a feast. We are here learning to be ready for that feast and I sometimes think that Hell is the place for those who do not learn to party like full grown children of God! Our pleasures must be the joys, the play of Heaven, and not of Earth.
Either everything we do is vanity or everything we do is play.
Last year I saw five-year-olds unable to play because adults had programmed their lives. Imagine kids who would not play, because they could not. They stood and looked at a ball and wanted to know what to do. These children had been supervised, organized, and homogenized to the point that when we sent them out to talk, run, kick the ball, and climb a tree, they did not know how. They could think of nothing to do. God, help them!
Eventually, they were freed up and began to play . . . not as we said, but as their child minds taught them. As they grow older, they will move from child play to adult joys . . . to the duty of the children of God.
Lord, teach us to play.
Rachel Motte edited this essay.