I was discussing the title phrase above with a friend this week. We were debating whether the phrase “there is nothing new under the sun” still applies to us today. In one respect there are many, many new things under the sun that did not exist a few thousand years ago, or even a few hundred years ago.
Think of the advances in science in just the last 100 years. In 1911 my Grandma (no longer with us) would have been a little girl. She would not have had home comforts like a fridge, a freezer, a television, a computer, or a telephone. She wouldn’t have had personal items like deodorant, birth control, or antibiotics. So how can we say that there is never anything new to try, or anything new to improve our lives?
The original phrase comes from the book of Ecclesiastes, a book in the Old Testament written by King Solomon, a very wise and rich man. He writes in Chapter 1:
“All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:8-9)
I think rather than referring to new technologies here, Solomon was probably referring to attitudes, the constant circle of life, and the fact that no matter what one does in life, we still want more. We continually want to try new things to find out the answers. We want to know the meaning of life, we want to improve our quality of life, but eventually we all succumb to the same fate. It doesn’t matter what we do to try and change things, the end result is the same.
The book of Ecclesiastes is quite depressing, especially if one only reads a few chapters without getting to the end. I remember being drawn to the book as a teenager because of the negativity. The attitude above seems very typical of a teenager – been there, done that, can’t be “bovvered” to do anything else. Solomon describes everything as being meaningless, or as some versions put it, chasing after the wind – an impossible and pointless task.
So what does this mean for us in our lives? Is there any point doing anything at all? The end result of life is the same whether we live it to the full or sit around watching telly all day. Or is it…
We know that Solomon, certainly during the earlier days of his kingship was a godly man. He trusted in God and as a result was given his riches and wisdom. Despite his comments on all the activities he undertook, he knew that everything which happens to us is a result of God’s influence on our lives.
“This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.” (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20)
Solomon therefore concludes that we should accept our lot and the things that come upon us in life. Life might be the same constant circle but if God has given us good things we are free to enjoy them, and should do so. We should keep busy because this will keep us happy, and stop us falling into apathy and idleness. It can be easy to fall into a depression, or simply have some days when you are feeling blue, but let’s try and remind ourselves to count our blessings knowing that God is watching over us in our daily lives, whatever we choose to do.