The meaning of life found at an estate sale
Everything you have worked for will be sold — cheap — at an estate sale. It sounds sad but there is a deeper meaning.
It always struck me as sad when we went to estate sales, and it taught me about the meaning of life itself. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying things, or even collecting things, but they are not life. No matter how much or how little you attain, it will eventually be sold at an estate sale. Cheap.
says the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless.” .. Ecclesiastes 1:2
So what then is the purpose of life? Why are we here? I am not sure I have the answer, but what we have is our life and we can do what we want for the most part. Maybe that is the purpose — to enjoy the life we have been given. Maybe it would be better to just enjoy life instead of looking for some mystical meaning that we can’t really even define.
12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil — this is the gift of God. .. Ecclesiastes 3:12–13
At an estate sale the belongings of a person are auctioned off. Many items go amazingly cheap. The older stuff — what could be called antique — usually goes for more, but still cheap. Sometimes the house itself is auctioned too, usually at a very low price.
Antique dealers follow estate sales like lawyers follow ambulances. I was a dealer at one time. The sadness of estate sales finally got to me, and it stopped being fun.
Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless. .. Ecclesiastes 5:10
There was one in particular that got my attention. An elderly man was selling off all his possessions and getting ready to go into an assisted living facility. He was liquidating what he had spent his life obtaining. He probably should not have gone to the sale, because he saw his things being picked over, squeezed, banged and so forth. He also saw them sell dirt cheap.
A few times I saw him shaking his head and almost crying. “I paid $3,000 for that,” he said as he watched a very nice china cabinet sell for $300. I knew the dealer that bought it, and he probably sold it the next week at a bargain price of $1,000. That’s how it goes at estate sales.
God gives some people wealth, possessions and honor, so that they lack nothing their hearts desire, but God does not grant them the ability to enjoy them, and strangers enjoy them instead. This is meaningless, a grievous evil. Ecclesiastes 6:2
More often than not the estate sale comes after the death of the elderly person. The children don’t want the stuff, or they have picked through and got what they wanted, and they just want rid of the rest of it. They don’t even care what it sells for.
You can’t really fault the dealers, they are just in a business. It is better than the stuff being thrown away. The people who buy antiques from dealers usually get a pretty good deal too, so in a sense it is a win-win for everyone. The survivors get a little money too.
Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, 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 5:19–20
But here is the thing.
We are told in our culture that we must work hard so we can have the things we want. We are also told what we want through a constant bombardment of advertising. We are told these things will bring us happiness. We are told we “deserve to have” these things. Maybe they do bring happiness for a time, but very often these things end up in the garage or in the attic and forgotten.
No matter what you obtain. No matter how much money and how nice of a home you have, in the end it will be sold at an estate sale. It is a sobering thought to think that everything you have worked for will one day be sold at a fraction of its real value. Almost to add insult to injury, the buyer will make a quick buck off having bought your stuff on the cheap.
Do not be overrighteous,
neither be overwise —
why destroy yourself?
17 Do not be overwicked,
and do not be a fool —
why die before your time?
18 It is good to grasp the one
and not let go of the other.
Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes
I am no exception of course. I have my stuff too just like everyone else. Even what I value will go the way of everything else.
I have a very nice vinyl album collection. Thousands of records, and some are even valuable collector’s items. I do enjoy this collection and it makes me happy to listen to some of them. But at the same time, what has taken me years to collect, and cost several thousand dollars, could be sold at an estate sale someday. Someone will buy all that for maybe $100, and probably less than that.
I may try to find someone to give that collection to, but what’s to stop them from selling it after I am gone?
For who knows what is good for a person in life, during the few and meaningless days they pass through like a shadow? Who can tell them what will happen under the sun after they are gone? Ecclesiastes 6:12
My library is another example. I have a few thousand books. They probably won’t even be sold because most books are available online now, and even used books sell too cheap to even get a dealer interested.
All I can do is enjoy those things, and share them with other people. I also enjoy other people’s enjoyment of music and books.
This seems to be a sad tale. Maybe it is. Or, Maybe it is the realization that our culture and capitalism itself, has sold us a false narrative. Our culture says have more stuff to be happy. Maybe that is the problem.
Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind. … Ecclesiastes 12:13
I have come to take comfort in Ecclesiastes. “All is meaningless, a mere striving with the wind.” In a way it is sad. But in another way it is freeing.
What do you think? Is it a counter-cultural idea to not seek after meaning and significance? What do you think the meaning or purpose of life is?