College students are usually excited to start work on their chosen major. They’ve gone through years of mandatory classes which they would not have chosen to take in order to be able to study the topics which they prefer. For some the chosen major and degree seems to promise an exciting education, honor from others, and a sense of accomplishment. But to entrench oneself in academia is not always as fulfilling as one might hope.
When Solomon was old and had lived a life more interesting than ours will ever be he set out to write his final words to posterity. As he turned over each seemingly enjoyable and worthwhile stone in life he showed the bleak landscape of the world scoured of meaning. Each thing we might pursue in the full confidence that we can take its value as a matter of course will show itself to be sadly meaningless on its own. As Solomon comes to the conclusion of writing his work which we call “Ecclesiastes” he shows that even in the act of writing on meaninglessness he finds meaninglessness, saying, “Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh” (12:12b). When men grow old they seek an outlet for the knowledge they have stored up over a lifetime and yet even if they find one, as Solomon did, this does not give a real significance to a person. It is on this note that he concludes his book with a short and sweet admonition to obey the Lord.
There are professors who spend their entire careers learning and teaching things that serve no purpose beyond satisfying a curiosity. It is unfortunate that many students also feel that education will be worthwhile in and of itself. There is nothing outside of an obedient relationship with the Lord which can give us the significance and purpose we crave. Those pursuing an education in college will at some point be faced with the ultimate meaninglessness of the studies to which they are devoting themselves without any larger purpose.
Our college students who ask why they should be studying something are asking the right question and the question of why should lead to the answer of who when one is devoted centrally to the Lord, thus giving a proper reason and ranking to education.