Ecclesiastes’ tip for making your New Year resolutions matter

It’s the first week of 2014, which means we are all supposed to be reflecting meaningfully on 2013 and preparing our resolutions for the year ahead, right? Cue wisdom, profundity and insight.

So far, this is what my list looks like:

  • reduce sugar intake
  • exercise more
  • sleep more
  • pray more
  • spend less time on my iPad

 

This is hardly the stuff of Yoda-like wisdom. The list seems so paltry that it hardly seems worth making any resolutions about it. If I rack my brain, I can make the list a little more quantifiable:

  • complete the children’s annual photo books from the last two, three, four years
  • read more classic works of literature
  • switch off screens by 10 p.m.

 

What is unnerving to me is that my list of resolutions, half-hearted as they may be, looks strikingly similar to last year’s one. And the year before that too. There is nothing new under the sun, said the wise author of Ecclesiastes. Nothing new indeed.

A little time in Ecclesiastes is refreshing for a week such as this. At a time of year when we roll out all sorts of ambitions and plans, the teacher of Ecclesiastes reminds us (as a veteran in life-changing plans and projects himself) that these things are destined to be fleeting unless we find our motivation and comfort in knowing God and being known by Him.

“Meaningless” is the word most commonly associated with Ecclesiastes, but perhaps a better translation of the Hebrew word “hebel” is “fleeting” or “short-lived.” Whatever it is that the writer had planned - gardening, a dating strategy, managing his money - his conclusion in the end was that they were all hebel: fleeting, transitory, here today but gone tomorrow.

What made the difference between those endeavors being baloney or blessed, said the teacher, was whether you did them while being mindful of God: knowing Him, revering Him, thanking Him and enjoying good things as gifts from His hand. And so, as I look at the year ahead and consider my options, these (slightly abridged) words from Ecclesiastes 12 are echoing in my thoughts:

Remember your Creator in the days of your resolution-making, before the busy days come and the to-do lists are forgotten… The end of the matter is this, after all has been heard: Fear God and keep his commandments - for this is everything God requires of us.

Whatever 2014 brings, let it not be meaningless.

Bronwyn Lea was born and raised in South Africa, where she earned a Seminary and BA(Law) degree cum laude. Now a resident of California, she is working on her third BA(Bies) degree cum laundry. This piece originally appeared on her blog. / Photo via iStockphoto.

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Thanks for sharing this with us here at TC, Bronwyn. Your reflection on plans got me thinking about a further way to put New Year resolutions in perspective. Minor personal goals are one thing, but if we see larger resolutions as part of God’s ongoing plan rather than our own plan, that might change how we approach the new year. God’s resolution is the same it’s been for generations: to restore His creation and our relationship with Him. How might our resolutions work, in some small way, toward that?

It’s always an honor to share space at TC, Josh. Thinking of our own personal resolutions within the context of God’s great stated Resolutions definitely reframes my thinking. My resolution to read more classic works of literature stems from reading Karen Swallow Prior’s “Booked”: I want to let literature speak more wisdom into my spiritual formation this year.

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