Ancient Conclusions for New Year’s Resolutions

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It’s the week after Christmas, which means this is the week in which we are all supposed to be reflecting meaningfully on the past year and preparing our new year’s resolutions for the year ahead, right? Cue wisdom, profundity and insight.

New Years ResolutionsSo 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 10pm

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, the wise King said in Ecclesiastes. Nothing new indeed.

A little time in Ecclesiastes is refreshing, though, for a week such as this. At a time of year when we roll out all sorts of ambitions and plans of things we wish to do, to be and to accomplish; 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 Teacher had planned: gardening, a dating strategy, managing his money, or accomplishing (other, great, fill-in-the-blank awesome) projects – 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, says the teacher, was whether you did them 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 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.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1, 13)

Whatever 2014 brings, let it not be meaningless.

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17 thoughts on “Ancient Conclusions for New Year’s Resolutions”

  1. Several times I have kicked off winter Bible Studies by teaching a lecture of why NY resolutions rarely work. It is because the focus in on “me” and how “I” am going to change. True change happens because of the power, grace and promise of GOD…..not because of my effort and intention!

    YES…may 2014 be meaningful!!!!!

  2. I’ve only had one resolution now for several years and that’s don’t make any more. An excellent post and interesting comment on “meaningless”. Thanks and a blessed New Years to you and yours.

  3. This is so great. I’ve never seen this take on Ecclisiastes and New Years. They really do fit together as a reflection/though-provoking devotional. I love what you said: “At a time of year when we roll out all sorts of ambitions and plans of things we wish to do, to be and to accomplish; 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.”

    Beautiful. I just found your blog today and really like your writing!

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  6. Ecclesiastes is a positive start to a new year. So glad you did not go with the depressing “meaningless” translation.
    Kohelet (the author of Eccl.) also says this “Life is sweet, and it is pleasure to see the light of day, no matter how many days a person may live, each one should be fully enjoyed.” He goes on to say that we never know what time will bring our way so we might as well quit worrying and enjoy what we have. “Be happy while you are young and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the desires of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but do not forget that God will call you to account for how you live. Banish anxiety from your mind and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor quickly pass away.”
    Kohelet is the lost book of the Bible. So glad you have found it in a fresh way.

    1. Yes and amen! Thank you so much for commenting. I love Ecclesiastes and have enjoyed studying and teaching it over the years: so much realism and yet hope 🙂 as an aside, I found myself typing Qohelet (the spelling I am err accustomed to) a few times in the post, but realized that was probably too academic and had to edit it back. Happy New Years, Ecclesiastes style, to you!

      1. Happy New Years to you as well.
        I got into Qohelet while doing a Masters in Old Testament. Didn’t take long to realize that the scholars were missing his point and that his work was not directed at them but at the average person working to make a living under the sun. For the past five years I have been working on a new translation aimed at giving the book back to the people. Completed it in 2013, memorized it and now I travel about performing as Qohelet. I recite the book while cooking Mirza Ghasemi, an eastern dish. Its been an amazing journey and the feedback has been more favourable than I expected. I think people are ready to hear what the book has to say. I posted some of this adventure on my website,

  7. I thought you may appreciate this. In September I took advantage of a 70 % off deal on photobooks and spent a small fortune on 5 photobooks that needed to be created within three months. That three month period ends tomorrow and is now about 12.30am and I have just submitted them! Children’s photos covering a 4 and a half year period. Yay!

  8. I love the “fearing God” is something I can start doing at any moment, right at that hour that I have forgotten and then remember again, no matter how I have screwed up before. Knowing God is something to be done not just all the time, but any time – any time my never-can-keep-a-New-Year’s-resolution mind remembers.

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