If the writer of Ecclesiastes were writing today, he might be tempted not to say that everything is meaningless, but that everything is senseless. We're living in a world dictated by our sensual experience of it, and yet, it's all farce.
Case in point: everything smells.
We have invested billions of dollars over the years in the industry of odor. Everything has to smell like something, so we just make things smell like whatever we want them to. We odorize our bodies so that people never smell us; they smell our soap or our shampoo, our perfume or our cologne. Hopefully, our deodorant. We odorize our homes. They don't smell like people actually live there anymore. No, now they smell like hawaiian sunsets or various fruits or "after the rain." (Which, by the way, smells nothing near as awesome as rain.) We even odorize our homes to get rid of other, good, natural odors. Last weekend, I cooked some fabulous food and then ran out for an errand. When my family came home, we all made the same comment: this house smells fantastic! And it was an all-natural smell, the actual smell of real food cooking. But it wasn't long before someone popped open a new air freshener and placed it on the mantle, overpowering the smell of lunch with some artificial coconut thing that was, we'll admit, a bit too powerful for everyone. We odorize our cars so they always smell new, fresh off the lot. It's better than the smell of rotting fast food in bags forgotten under the seats (this is totally not my car, but I know people), but really? We're impressed when our cars smell like...industry?
We spend so much of our time and money trying to make sure things smell good, or that they don't smell bad, and all we're ending up with is a world in which nothing smells real. What's wrong with smelling like we're living here?
The natural creation is pretty good at taking care of its own scent. In a few weeks, the lilac bushes will start to bloom. The flowers will start to come up, and they smell. The blossoms on the trees emit a sweet fragrance. And the real smell of rain? Heavenly. Absolutely heavenly.
But I get it - we're not so natural any more. We're fallen. We live in a broken place, and we create in our broken bodies and our broken lives some smells that are not so pleasing. Trust me, I know. But I think in all our attempts to cover up what smells bad, we've forgotten what truly smells good: it's sacrifice.
God has always called sacrifice "an aroma pleasing to the Lord." At first, it was the sacrifice of animals and harvests, the smell of flesh and fat and firstfruits on the fire. We don't sacrifice animals any more, of course, but there's still sacrifice here - it is the sacrifice of our lives.
The sacrifice of our lives is not much different. It's still an aroma pleasing to the Lord. Now, we're laying our flesh and our fat on the fire in an offering to God. We're laying down our lives for His sake. It is this that is pleasing to Him, even more than all of our odorizers and deodorizers and air fresheners and refresher sprays and new car smells. God's not impressed by new car smell; He longs for the smell of a sacrifice.
In a senseless world, we're spending our energies trying to make things smell good, but we've forgotten what life is supposed to smell like. It's supposed to smell like holy sacrifice, an aroma pleasing to the Lord, and you can't just bottle that and put it on the mantle.
You have to live it. Sweat and all.