Ecclesiastes and Vanity of Life, Part 10
We’re moving along in Ecclesiastes and have covered a number of areas that Solomon puts his thinking to, all in an effort to prove his original thesis that “all is vanity” where life is concerned. Is he right? Each person will decide for themselves if they at least agree with him, but I think he’s made a strong case so far. So much of what we human beings do stems from the outlook of vanity. All our awards shows, our consumerism or materialism, our secular wisdom, our pursuit of pleasure – all of it is something we pursue in order to feel good about ourselves. In essence, we are feeding our egos or self and that is never a good thing.
In our last article, we went through Ecclesiastes 2:15. Let’s pick things up with verses 16 and 17 this time out.
16 For the wise man, like the fool, will not be remembered for very long,
because in the days to come, both will already have been forgotten.
Alas, the wise man dies—just like the fool!
17 So I loathed life because what
happens on earth seems awful to me;
for all the benefits of wisdom are futile—like chasing the wind.
Recall that the previous verses up to 15 spoke of secular wisdom. While Solomon noted that having (and using) secular wisdom is certainly better than not – and he countered this with “folly” or foolish behavior – even that will lead to vanity or futility (as noted in the above two verses).
In the end, Solomon notes the truth that wise or foolish, both men will die. Death, as we’ve noted, is the great equalizer. Bill Gates, who is worth approximately $80 billion, will one day die. So will the poorest man alive. Death is no respecter of persons and takes us all. While we might try to live a healthy lifestyle that will allow us to live a longer, more productive life, death still comes for us all.
Because of this truth, Solomon seems to despair of living because, as he says, “the benefits of wisdom are futile – like chasing the wind.” Again, I want to emphasize that he is talking about secular wisdom primarily. However, even spiritual wisdom if not obeyed and used, will result in the same type of futility. Moreover, even true spiritual wisdom, which comes to us from on high, from the Father of Lights (James 3:17), cannot keep us from death itself. Sure, there is the Rapture of the saints at some future point but there is no guarantee that we will not die first. Plenty of Christians have died and will continue to die before the Rapture occurs. Death takes us all.
Solomon seems to be saying that since the Fall of humanity, until we are taken into God’s Presence via death, we are in a bit of a holding pattern. We live life, but we are really waiting to die. Every day, every hour, we move closer to that event that will ultimately take each and every person into the afterlife.
Getting depressed yet? Hopefully not and I don’t believe that was Solomon’s intention at all. I think he was far more interested in promoting truth and like any good lawyer was taking plenty of time to lay out his case in order to prove his original thesis – all is vanity. He wants us to ask, “Okay, if everything is vanity, is there anything good in life for us?”
Moving on from folly, foolish behavior, and secular wisdom, Solomon highlights another area, found in Ecclesiastes 2:18-21.
18 So I loathed all the fruit of my effort,
for which I worked so hard on earth,
because I must leave it behind in the hands of my successor.
19 Who knows if he will be a wise man or a fool?
Yet he will be master over all the fruit of my labor
for which I worked so wisely on earth!
This also is futile!
20 So I began to despair about all the fruit of my labor
for which I worked so hard on earth.
21 For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge, and skill;
however, he must hand over the fruit of his labor as an inheritance
to someone else who did not work for it.
This also is futile, and an awful injustice!
Here, Solomon kinds of takes a break to sum things up so far. Based on the lack of benefit to all the previous things he’s mentioned, he concludes that he “loathed” the results of his effort. Why? Because he can clearly see that in all of the things he has “accomplished,” nothing is really worth anything. It’s all futile and everything is vanity.
He states that he worked so hard to do so many things, but in the end, everything he worked so hard to gain and achieve will be left in the hands of someone who comes after him and did not even work for it. That person will receive all that Solomon did as an inheritance. To top it off, the person who inherits what Solomon had, might end up being a complete fool – literally, a moron. Solomon seems to despair of it and rightly so. In fact, he says this in verse 20 that he did despair because he was seeing things so clearly.
He spent years working hard to amass wealth and everything else and in the end, it will go to someone whose intelligence quotient can’t even be thoroughly known! He was beginning to question why he had worked so hard. Why had it bothered at all?
Verse 21 sums things up. He – Solomon – had worked so hard for 40 years or so as king over Israel and as the wisest man at that time. He had a great deal to show for it, but in essence, he was ultimately going to leave it all behind and in the process, make someone else’s life easier who had not done any work as Solomon had done. Ironies of irony. Solomon calls this an “awful injustice” and it certainly is when you stop to consider it, isn’t it? But Solomon isn’t done? He asks pertinent questions in the next couple of verses, 22 and 23.
22 What does a man acquire from all his labor
and from the anxiety that accompanies his toil on earth?
23 For all day long his work produces pain and frustration,
and even at night his mind cannot relax!
This also is futile!
Solomon’s theme of vanity and futility continues with the above two verses. All that hard work and effort, slaving away to make your own life a bit more comfortable, in the end, cannot be fully enjoyed. Someone will enjoy it but it won’t be the person who worked hard to achieve it all. That is galling.
Because of this, Solomon comes to a conclusion that he shares with us in verses 24-26 and we’ll talk about them in our next article!
Entry filed under: christianity, israel, Judaism, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation. Tags: all is vanity, ecclesiastes, king solomon, life under the sun, solomon wise man, utter futility.