“Is there anything of which one can say, ‘Look! This is something new?’”
- Ecclesiastes 1:10
For many years during the first half of the twentieth century, approximately 1915-1950, my family, that is my grandfather and later my dad, were engaged in the business of operating ice plants in several small towns. In those days ice was an essential commodity for keeping food cool in the iceboxes people kept in their homes. Ice was delivered door-to-door out of the back of a wagon drawn by a team of mules from which the iceman would carry large blocks of ice into people’s homes every few days to replace what had slowly melted away. By mid-century, however, iceboxes had been replaced by modern refrigerators which rendered the ice delivery business, and the iceman, obsolete. What else became obsolete? When did you last see a mule-drawn delivery wagon going down your street? Can you imagine such a thing in this age of Amazon?
Times change, don’t they? We all know that, perhaps better than any previous generation; for with the rapid advancement of technology times change in matters of weeks and months rather than years. Consider for instance the iceman. While his job did eventually become obsolete, his profession nevertheless had a lifespan of some thirty-five or forty years – or more – if my dates are anywhere near correct. Nowadays? According to one source I read recently, the average “shelf life” of a job skill in today’s marketplace is approximately eleven months, after which it becomes obsolete.
Times change, don’t they? The writer of Ecclesiastes seems to disagree; except, I don’t think he is referring to methodologies or processes or technological advancements, rather of human nature. Do we not face the same temptations of those who preceded us thousands of years ago – pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony, and sloth, often referred to as the seven deadly sins? Yet, don’t we still measure good character by the same virtuous behaviors the Apostle Paul called the “fruits of the spirit” – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? Sometimes I get so distracted by these rapidly changing times that I lose sight of what – and more importantly Who – is at our very core. Perhaps you do too. “Is there anything of which one can say, ‘Look! This is something new?’” questions the writer of Ecclesiastes. “It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.”