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The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  ~Ecclesiastes 12:13

In the story “The Prodigal Son,” Jesus tells of a younger brother who took his share of the family wealth and went to explore the world. He experienced temporary happiness through the things he could buy but made no enduring friendships. He bought fun for a while but failed to realize he needed to buy a place to live. He lived off the fat of the land not realizing the land would suffer a famine.

In Ecclesiastes, Qohelet tells a story about being a different kind of son — one much wiser than the younger brother. He took his share of wealth and used it much more effectively. He had parties for sure, but he saved some money for life after the party. He enjoyed the produce of food and wealth, but he also stored up food for harder times. He may not have had friends, but he did surround himself with assistants and companions. His outcome looks very different from that of the younger son. 

It’s like the two men went on a drive to experience freedom and pleasure and to find the meaning of life. One son quickly crashed his car into poverty and destitution. But the other son was a much better driver, and he drove until he grew tired of being a tourist. Both of them turn back to look at a father.

They arrive at the same place. Both sons realize the meaning of life wasn’t found in their experiences. Both realize they were made for something more:  to live in the companionship of a father. One son feared poverty and hunger and the other feared meaninglessness and emptiness.

Ecclesiastes calls it the fear of God: realizing His power, His greatness, His beauty, and the awesome difference between Him and us. Because God is a loving father, fearing Him is both awe-inspiring and comforting. Christian writer Oswald Chambers states, “The remarkable thing about fearing God is that, when you fear God, you fear nothing else; whereas, if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.”

What’s your story? Are you looking for your real purpose in life? Are you hoping to have life make sense through your vocation, your family, your children, or your Christian ministry?

Listen to Qohelet, the preacher of Ecclesiastes, who shared his experiences. Even if you have all his wealth, all his wisdom, all his freedom, and all his smarts, he’s saying, “You’d end up here — trusting God, loving Him, and following His instructions.” He’s offering you a shortcut, past the disillusionment, so you can live in fulfilled rest and trust. 

  • Work is enjoyable! But it’s not the purpose in life. 
  • Children are a blessing! But they aren’t your meaning for living. 
  • Christian Ministry can glorify God and save souls! But you still need to enjoy God personally before, during, and after your season of ministry. 

These capabilities and experiences of life aren’t the meaning of life. Seek to fear God, to know Him, to honor Him in His power, and to trust Him in His instructions. Listen to the Man, Jesus, that He sent as our final message and beg Him for wisdom to know His way and obey His words.

Like the younger brother in Jesus’s story, enjoy the warmth of a hug from your father. When you look out the window and see the Father talking to your older brother, take a lesson. Like Qohelet, learn to love God and tell others. Your Heavenly Father cares for all your sisters and brothers under the sun. “Obey his commandments” to go and make disciples. Once you know how good it feels to be hugged by a powerful Heavenly Father, will you take the hug to others?