Real life -v- Fake life: Ecclesiastes

In Ecclesiastes 6:3-7, we read:
3If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, however many they be, but his soul is not satisfied with good things and he does not even have a proper burial, then I say, "Better the miscarriage than he, 4 for it comes in futility and goes into obscurity ; and its name is covered in obscurity. 5 "It never sees the sun and it never knows anything; it is better off than he. 6 "Even if the other man lives a thousand years twice and does not enjoy good things -do not all go to one place ?" 7All a man's labor is for his mouth and yet the appetite is not satisfied.  
My pastor told me a story last night:
I once had a trusted colleague, a Christian, who held me accountable when I was young in Christ.  Like me, he was a lawyer, but he seemed to have that work/life balance thing figured out.  I asked him how he did it.

"You know," the man said, "it's funny. I'd go to work and have all these accomplishments--had my own law practice, argued and won important cases, made plenty of money.  I knew I was at the top of my game.  Then I'd go home to my wife and kids, and you know what?  I was just Dad.  I'd have to take out the garbage, do grunt work, and generally be nobody that special.  It felt like my work me was the real life and my home life was just...fake.  I wasn't satisfied at all."

"Then, as I got older, I realized: That's completely backwards.  The WORK life is the fake life, and the home life is the real life.  What I say or do at work won't matter in a day, a week, a month.  It's the crisis of the day.  When I retire, I'm forgotten.  What I say and do at home and with my friends, my kids, and my wife matters decades from now." 

So, there it is, if you pour all your hope and energy into what's essentially a FAKE existence, you become angry, frustrated, hopeless, and entitled.  Eventually, once you realize this, you see people acting-out at work and you just want to shake them and say, "Snap out of it!   Don't you realize this is FAKE!"
For some reason, the second Scott told me this, Ecclesiastes--the depressing book of wisdom from the Old Testament--clicked for me.  The tagline for Ecclesiastes is "All is vanity."  That's right:  Wisdom, possessions, work, etc. it's all meaningless.

The thing that changed in me was Ecclesiastes doesn't mean 'All'.  It might be rewritten like this: "All that 'fake life' stuff is meaningless.'

And then it makes perfect sense.  In context, the author or 'Teacher' mentioned in Ecclesiastes is Solomon, reputed to be the wisest man ever, because his wisdom was a gift from God.  This is the book in which he reflects on his life and understands that, in many ways, he was a fool.  He didn't enjoy life while he had it, he kept trying to get more.  As it says in vv 7 there: "All his labors are for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not satisfied."  Truly, once Solomon died, the kingdom if Israel would divide into Israel and Judah under Jeroboham and Rehoboam, and the long slide into eventual captivity would begin, with each side of Solomon's bloodline sliding into debauchery and idolatry.

This book, once a huge downer for me, is now an essential keystone of how one ought live. 


 

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