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“What does [mankind] gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” (Eccl. 1:3)
Philosophers and those who seek wisdom are in a constant pursuit of answers to the biggest questions of existence and reality. “What is the origin and purpose of mankind?” “Are we just animals? If not, what makes us something more than them?” “What is the highest and best state of existence for a person, a community, or a society?”
The Bible offers us a comprehensive set of answers to those questions, and one core element of that is the above quote from Solomon. In one simple and probing question, he reminds us that while humanity is special, there is still so much that eludes us. Namely, he asks us to consider: What ultimate good does mankind, as a collective, accomplish? What qualitative, documentable advancements have we made in the overall state of humanity down through the centuries? Have we stopped wasting time, hurting others, falling prey to sickness and death, or repeating our mistakes? Have we achieved international peace thru technological advancements, multi-national pacts, or worldwide educational systems? Have we learned to speed up or slow down time, stop the aging process, and remove the threat of death? No. We go around and around the sun, year after decade after century after millennium… and so much of humanity stays the same. It’s rather depressing to realize that we have not permanently fixed so many of the common challenges that humanity has faced for centuries.
So should we resign ourselves to hopelessness, a belief that nothing good will ever happen to humans? No. Because we have been told that thru the power of God—not our own power, but his—Christians can make positive, enduring impact on humanity. As Christ said, “You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world.” (Mt. 5:13, 14) Our job is to be faithful to God and believe that he will bring about the good that all humanity needs.
- Dan Lankford, minister