I recently saw this church sign: “Heaven-don’t miss it for the world”, and it made me ask myself if I had been missing heaven with all the time I had spent in the world of genealogy. I don’t think I’d realized how all-consuming it was: searching the internet for possible relatives, traveling to cemeteries and libraries, digging up family records, reading genealogy magazines for guidance, preparing material for talks, even being on the Willow Valley Genealogy Board.
what is vanity?
That church sign made me think of the Book of Ecclesiastes – a book I wish I had taken to heart years ago. When reading the Bible, we may often skip these wise words of King Solomon, King David’s son, because all is vanity and striving after wind (1:14) sounds depressing. We enjoy “vanity,” though that’s not what we call it; we use euphemisms like “practical or enjoyable”. We work to sustain ourselves, true, but can place great importance in having money for vacations, special events (parties, shows, concerts, movies), retirement, or even a hobby, like looking up dead relatives. Aren’t those forms of vanity? What if planning for ourselves and our wants develops striving after the wind? Can driving for feelings of importance and accomplishment also be vanities?
what have i got to take with me?
King Solomon looked over his accomplishments: “I enlarged my works: I built houses for myself, I planted vineyards for myself, I made gardens for myself,...I bought male and female slaves…I collected for myself silver and gold… “(2:4…8). And all he saw was vanity: What profit is there to the worker from that in which he toils? (3:9). Solomon had accomplished a lot but then he got to thinking about the value of it all. I identify with Solomon, using a similar question, “When I die, what have I got to take with me?”
the rabbit hole
Look at Ecclesiastes again – is it saying not to enjoy life? No. But Ecclesiastes is a warning to be careful while enjoying life, as we can easily be led down a rabbit hole, getting caught up collecting fancy clothes, antiques, records, Bibles, stamps (postage, not the S&H Green kind), guns, coins, or even being rapt in genealogy. While interesting and at times delightful, these can relegate God to second place. Focusing on the one thing that lasts forever, God, is vital.
It’s important to understand that attending church weekly, and maybe participating in some church groups doesn’t mean that God is actually first in our lives. Sitting in church doesn’t make us a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes us a car. Solomon’s message is crystal clear: For in many dreams and many words, there is emptiness.
set your focus
Rather, fear God and keep His commandments. (5:7). Our primary focus should be God and His Word, not the temptations and distractions of this world. As I said, I wish I had taken Ecclesiastes to heart years ago. My prayer is that you won’t wait to see how futile and worthless this world’s offerings are, when compared to what God offers. Set your focus on Him and His Word, now.
Heaven, don’t miss it for the world!