“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Everything is meaningless!” Not only was the Teacher wise, but also he imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true. Ecclesiastes 12, verses 8 – 10.
When I read verse 8, the one that says “meaningless,” I’m reminded of “The Bridge on the River Kwai.” Spoiler alert: after William Holden and Jack Hawkins rig the bridge for detonation, Holden is killed struggling to set off the charges. Alec Guiness, proper Brit that he is, realizes how he has aided the enemy and is mortally wounded while walking to the detonator. His dying act is to fall on the plunger and blow up the bridge. The British POW senior, having watched all this from a distance, utters “madness, madness” as the movie fades off into brilliant history.
Meaningless madness. After Christmas, after wedding week, after a contentious and busy year, all my fretting, scheming, petty, pointless sins are meaningless madness. So, my friend are yours. You and I probably don’t care to have cold water splashed on us, especially since it’s so cold outside already. Sorry about that: cold water is where we are. What good have your sins brought to you this year? Or any year for all that it matters? Sleeping with your neighbor, lying about taking that money, speeding through the intersection, taking credit for things you didn’t do, arguing with your spouse just so you can win, sneaking around when you know you could get caught: what good did it do? Same here: what good did it do?
I feel like I’m watching the destruction of the bridge, watching my friends die in the river. Meaningless madness. The Teacher, both wise Solomon and wiser God, sees it too. He’s standing there in the jungle with me, with you, with tears in His eyes because it hurts to see us suffer. His tears acknowledge the meaningless madness that is our choice to revel in sin instead of bathing in His grace.
They’re tears of understanding, too. Before it was too late, He saw we remembered Him, remembered the things He taught. Knowledge of good and evil and which one we should choose; knowledge of right and wrong and which side we should stand with. He imparted that knowledge to us and imprinted His good knowledge onto our hearts so that we could come to moments like this one and see the madness and folly in some of our bad choices. It’s not to guilt us into choosing things He wants us to choose: it’s for us to reach conclusions in our minds that confirm how He has spoken to our hearts. His tears are tears of understanding that, as we are free to choose paths that lead us through sin, we’re also ableto choose better paths in which He leads that lead us into His real freedom.
That’s good to remember as we’re winding down both this busy year and observations of this book of the Bible. All our actions are meaningless if we don’t choose God instead. He’s ready to meet us where we are, in the meaningless madness of our sins, to redeem them into meaningful wisdom instead.