Friday, September 9, 2011

Is there sarcasm in the Bible? And other questions. Plus a giveaway!

I just finished writing a devotion for a special project P31 is doing in conjunction with Zondervan. The devo is on some verses in the book of Ecclesiastes - my most recent favorite book of the Bible.  (First it was Proverbs, then it was Colossians, then Matthew, then Galatians ... my husband is probably hoping Song of Solomon becomes my next favorite. But I digress.)

I'm guessing not many people would name Ecclesiastes as their favorite book.  Probably because the writer of the book sounds like he's in serious need of some Prozac. Lines like these make his serotonin seem in short supply:

~ "And I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living, who are still alive." Ecc 4:2

~ "I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind." Ecc 1:14

~ "What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless." Ecc 2:22-23

~ "Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals." Ecc 3:19

~ "And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another." Ecc 4:4

~ "For who knows what is good for a person in life, during the few and meaningless days they pass through like a shadow?" Ecc 6:12

Seriously? First time I read it I thought, can somebody please prescribe this guy some Zoloft? Or maybe sit him in front of one of those light therapy boxes? Throughout the whole book he keeps saying everything is vanity; it's meaningless. He says it 38 times in 12 chapters. I hear Zoloft is suppose to help get rid of bothersome thoughts.

Is he just another manic-depressive writer in his depressive phase? Did he suffer insomnia, then run out of coffee before he met the morning's word count and nothing else was in his fridge but he had a strong craving for chocolate cake even though it would go straight to his thighs? Wait, I think I digressed again. Or is there more in this guy's book than meets the eye?

It's like the rest of the Bible is cruising along saying God is good. He can be trusted. He will help those who follow Him. His plans will not fail. Listen to Him. Become wise. Put your trust in Him. He is redeeming His people and eventually the earth.  And then the writer of Ecclesiastes comes along and says, "Everything is meaningless and we're better off dead."

Makes you wonder how this book ever made it into the Bible. I mean besides the fact that Ecc. 3:1-8 made for great lyrics for that hit song by The Byrds. The rest of the verses could pretty much be any angst-filled teen anthem of today.

I spent a year focusing on the book of Ecclesiastes, asking God to help me understand it. Was the author a pessimist with a wicked sense of sarcasm? Is there sarcasm in the Bible? Is God sarcastic? Or does this book have some sort of deep meaning that's relevant to you and me today?

Tell me in a comment what you make of Ecclesiastes - or if that's too daunting, what's your favorite book of the Bible - and you'll be entered to win Monday's giveaway of Renee Swope's terrific new book A Confident Heart. This book will help you deal with your doubts and insecurities. I recently read it and it's better than Prozac. Not that I've ever had Prozac; I haven't. Not that I'm saying there's something wrong with prescribed anti-depressants. Wait, I digressed again. Sorry. You were about to say? ...


  1. Hmmmmm... it's been a while since I read Ecclesiastes. I remember telling someone I was reading it, and she quipped back, "What are you trying to depress yourself?" I guess what I took from it was that the work, pleasures, wisdom, etc of this world are irrelevant compared to doing good for the Lord and following His commands. And I'll answer the other question for good measure by telling you that my favorite book in the OT is Lamentations (which is completely insane and random, but it just sings to me!), and in the NT it's Ephesians (used to be Romans). I would love to see you write more on your thoughts on Ecclesiastes!

  2. Hilda QuintanillaSeptember 09, 2011

    Ecc is tough for me. Makes me wanna jump off a cliff. My fave has got to be the book of John. I fall in love with my God over and over and over again everytime I read it.

  3. Hey Rachel, for me I believe Ecc is so important is because Solomon had very real life issues,just like us...if we are to BELIEVE the Bible then we need to be able to see the writer as a REAL person...Solomon,like his dad King David experience very REAL life problems,and most are brought on by our (his)own selfishness and pride. So yes we need Ecc,just like we need Ge.and all the other books. The bottom line is that apart from Christ there is no real LIVING or JOY!

  4. You know, Ecclesiastes does not bother me :) (does that make me any of the things you called the author? :)

    Maybe it's because my husband incorporated Chapter 3 in his wedding vows and it really touched my heart given that we had a very rocky start in our relationship and God brought us a mighty long way through it to get to our wedding day.

    Sarcasm has always been a difficult subject for me because my husband struggled with it early on in our relationship and God has really worked on his heart and spirit concerning that these last two years of us being married. So from those somewhat "tainted" lens I want to believe that sarcasm is not pleasing or acceptable to God and that quite possibly the author is showing us in a make-your-jaw-drop way that our focus, desires, wants, etc. are on things that pass away vs. God who is eternal?

    It's an interesting and very grey area to say the least. I think I'll have to read/study is several more times to even get close to understanding the truth behind it.

    Thank you for the thought-provoking post :) Have a blessed weekend sweet sister in Christ.

  5. I just read Ecclesiastes not too long ago. My thoughts are that Solomon wrote this when he wasn't walking with God, something about his many wives and concubines distracting him and worshiping their gods. When we try to live this live without God, life can seem meaningless. His words might be insight in how the unbeliever feels.

  6. I'm pretty sure it is in the Bible for good reason! But I know what you are saying ... it is kind of hard one to figure out. I prefer the New Testament letters.

    Enjoyed your humor in this post Rachel.

    Tammy B.

  7. My favorite book is Galatians!!!

  8. I like to read a Psalm and Proverb everyday. It is a great balance.

  9. I like to read a Psalm and Proverb everyday. It is a great balance.

  10. Ooh I love the comment about perhaps this book being in the bible to show what it feels like for people who aren't walking with God. My favorite book is Mark :)

  11. In reading the Bible in a year, I just finished the book of Job today. I could not wait to get to the last few chapters where God spoke and then read the blessings and peaceful ending for Job!!!

    I do believe that four of Jobs friends indeed had some sarcasm going on. However, they did not represent God's truth when they were sarcastic. It was their own "wisdom".

    As I review my reading of Ecclesiastes, um yeah....not too many verses underlinedin purple in my Bible in that book! :)

    I have Renee's awesome book, so please exclude me from the give-away.

    I love your love for His Word!!

    Happy weekend!

  12. I actually really like Ecclesiastes. As someone who deals with Clinical Depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I appreciate the...well, dark tone of the book. I think it's wonderful that God inspired this book; it's like He said, without saying, that it's okay to bring our issues and cynicism out into the light for Him to deal with.

    My favorite OT book (right now) is Amos. What a timely messsage! My favorite NT book is Luke. I love how anal he was about chronology - and that he showed Jesus interacting with society's outcasts, like women.

  13. Wow your article really got my mind reeling! Thanks for putting some great questions in our heads for the day. Do I believe that the book is being sarcastic, no. I do believe he was at a low point in his life and a lot of us at some point can relate to that. Where we say thigns and think things that we really don't mean and we KNOW in our hearts isn't true but just like it says in Romans 7 - we do what we do NOT want to do and don't do what we WANT to do. I think it's showing us how our flesh acts and thinks when we allow our flesh to win.

  14. I never had a problem with Ecclesiastes (other than spelling it).

    Solomon had so much in his life and he seemed to have tried it all. He tried to fulfill himself with books, women, riches... and he learned that apart from God it really is all meaningless. In the last couple chapters, he comes around. I never took it as sarcasm, rather a chronicle of his personal journey.

    I would have a very difficult time picking a favorite book. I do think there is a reason that the one verse the whole world seems to know is John 3:16. I love that the Bible ends with "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."

    I enjoy little snippets of humor in the Bible. There is a section in Micah that I overlooked for years until I learned of the puns it would have had for the original audience. Chapter 1, starting in verse 10. Micah wraps his warnings to towns in puns based on the town's name. That must have been very powerful for the original audience.

  15. I like Ecclesiastes overall, but it's not my favorite. However, it's not as challenging for me as Job is. Every time I read Job, I wonder how God put up with his arrogance for so long, or how he couldn't see the "plank" of his own pride. But, I, too, digress...the thing I like about Ecclesiastes is that it confirms to me the cyclical nature of life. God has granted different ups and downs to be part of our call to growth. He remains consistent and we are called to consistently seek His order, His peace, His timing, and His face, no matter what.

  16. "My husband is probably hoping Song of Solomon becomes my next favorite." Rachel, you made me laugh out loud with that one!

    I've often contemplated this book of the Bible and it's negative thoughts. But as I've read the words many times, somehow I relate. Not in a "I need some Prozac" kind of way but in an "I understand" kind of way. Sounds like the author was dealing with real life. The point I take away, though, is that all these things we spend our time, energy, thoughts, and actions on unless it's for Kingdom building is meaningless. We should make all that we do count for the Kingdom. Every moment. Every task. Every spoken word. It ALL should bring glory to Jesus.

    I suppose one of the most popular passages in that book is in Chapter 3 verses 1-8, "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven..." I hear people quoting this passage quite often, and that must say something positive about the author : )

    Sweet Blessings,

  17. Ecclesiastes is an interesting book! I agree with others that I think this was Solomon's from later in life. The bible says that many horses, wives, and possessions for a king will lead him astray (deut 17:16-20). I think Ecclesiastes is the result of a king not following after God.

  18. I'm still in Genesis on my reading plan, but I'll give an opinion just based on your verses listed. Funny, me reading this correlates with the lesson from church this morning. Basically, just because you love and follow God, life will not always be safe. We will have trials and things will not always be rosy. Maybe Ecclesiastes is there to show us this? But like I said, I should probably read it. :)

  19. I love Ecclesiates! I had a professor in college who would quote scriptures from it every morning in my 8 am class. Once I learned that the phrase "under the sun" could be interpreted "apart from God" it gave me a whole new understanding. I actually love the poetry of it. The opening words in the movie "Secretariat" are straight from Ecclesiastes and it is done case you haven't seen the movie. :)

  20. right now I in philippians

  21. I really like the book of Psalms. It has so many wonderful verses of praise. This book also talks about sin, forgiveness, salvation and so many other things relevant to our lives today.

  22. Years ago as a new believer I remember a Bible teacher saying to read Psalms when we are discouraged and to read Ecclesiastes when we are feeling overly confident in our own abilities.I feel like the book was written by a pessimist (or certainly a very bitter and discouraged person); a "puddleglum" in other words.
    As someone with the gift of exhortation I don't like the book but I NEED it...I need to be reminded of reality!
    Personally, I love good old practical Titus!

    Jill Farris

  23. If I were to sum up what the book of Ecclesiastes says to me, I would say that everything here on earth that we strive for, worry about, and deal with is meaningless apart from God. He is the One who breathes meaning into every aspect of our lives. This book is a powerful reminder to me that God wants to be at the center of every aspect of my life, and when he isn't, I am making a shift into meaningless territory. I think that the tone of this book is fitting because God meets us right where we're at. We don't have to attain some spiritual level in our words and actions to get His attention. Whether we are crying out to Him in frustration or grasping for His touch in our pain, He is right there, waiting. What an amazing God we serve!


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