How an ancient personality test can help us discover the meaning of life – Ecclesiastes 1:12-2:26, Part 1

Ed Ames a provocative song in 1968 and it just might resonate with you today. Take a look:

In case you didn’t catch it clearly, here is the chorus:

If the soul is darkened by a fear it cannot name
If the mind is baffled when the rules don’t fit the game
Who will answer?
Who will answer?
Who will answer?

The song is asking, “How do we find meaning in life?”  In a world that is filled with so much pain and trouble and dark, difficult questions, how do we find meaning?  But the song stops short of an answer.  The song just asks the question.  Who will answer?

That question is exactly what the Teacher in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes is asking.  Last week we studied chapter 1, verses 1-11, and the Teacher started off with the phrase “Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless.”  Not an encouraging beginning to a book of ancient wisdom.  But as I wrote here, the Teacher almost certainly did not intend to tell us that life is meaningless.  Instead, he is describing how life is fleeting.  So that leaves us with a question: what is the meaning of life? 

Through the rest of chapter 1 and all of chapter 2, the Teacher plays seven different roles, seven people who each seek the meaning of life in their own way.  As we meet these seven kinds of people, I want you to know that I am indebted to my Old Testament professor, David Dorsey, for his explanation of this section.  Also, as we meet the seven seekers of meaning, what we will find is that this section of Ecclesiastes is almost like an ancient personality test.  Some of you have taken the Disc profile or the Enneagram or the Taylor-Johnson temperament analysis.  Well, think of this as the Ecclesiastes Profile, and see if you are like any of these seven. 

First, the Teacher takes on the role of the Philosopher.  Read Ecclesiastes 1:12-15.

The Teacher says that the Philosopher is the person who attempts to find meaning in life by discovering the big picture.  In Verse 13, he “explored by wisdom all that is done under heaven.”  That’s a pretty big picture.  

This person doesn’t have to be a classically trained philosopher.  Instead it might be the person who has the personality of a philosopher.  This person is a questioner, a person who is quick to examine below the surface of an issue, wondering if there is more to the story.  It might be the person who gets interested in conspiracy theories.  It might be the person who just wants to know “Why?” or “How?”  Philosophers are the curious ones, the ones who don’t like it when a situation or rationale doesn’t make sense.  The philosophers among us want to a world that fits together. So they ask even more questions:

How can God always have existed with no beginning?  How did the universe come into being? Do we have free will or is everything determined, and we just have the illusion of free will?  Why is there so much evil and pain in the world?  Couldn’t God have created a world free of all that hard stuff, or at least a lot less?  Why did Jesus have to die?  Was there not a better way to save the world?  And on and on the questions go.  In recent months the philosophers among us are asking, “Where is Jesus in the craziness that is 2020?”

In the end, the Teacher tells us that he found the role of the philosopher to be an impossible task, a heavy burden.  The big picture, the philosopher realizes, cannot be discovered.  There are so many unanswered questions. But maybe you are not the philosopher. Check back tomorrow as we see what role the Teacher tries out next!

Published by joelkime

I love my wife, Michelle, and our four kids and two daughters-in-law. I serve at Faith Church and love our church family. I teach a course online from time to time, and in my free time I love to read and exercise, especially running,

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