Read Ecclesiastes 2
Pleasures Are Meaningless
2 I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. 2 “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” 3 I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.
4 I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well—the delights of a man’s heart. 9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.
10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
and this was the reward for all my toil.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.
Wisdom and Folly Are Meaningless
12 Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom,
and also madness and folly.
What more can the king’s successor do
than what has already been done?
13 I saw that wisdom is better than folly,
just as light is better than darkness.
14 The wise have eyes in their heads,
while the fool walks in the darkness;
but I came to realize
that the same fate overtakes them both.
15 Then I said to myself,
“The fate of the fool will overtake me also.
What then do I gain by being wise?”
I said to myself,
“This too is meaningless.”
16 For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered;
the days have already come when both have been forgotten.
Like the fool, the wise too must die!
Toil Is Meaningless
17 So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 18 I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. 20 So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. 21 For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. 22 What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? 23 All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.
24 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
Solomon isn’t looking to pull any punches. Throughout the first section of this chapter, Solomon is presenting us with his résumé. He gives us a run down of who he is, what he has built, and what all he has accomplished during his time on earth. Despite his many efforts, he comes up unsatisfied.
We often think or pray to God for that one more thing to be satisfied. We think, “God if only you gave me _______, I would be happy” or,“God please let _________happen and then everything would be okay.” Solomon got every wish he could possibly imagine and ended up emptier than ever before. In verse 10 he goes so far as to say he denied himself nothing his eyes desired and refused his heart no pleasure. Imagine all the desires you have over the course of a day being fulfilled. Every want. Every dream. Nothing is out of your reach. This is Solomon’s life every day! Yet he finds that this didn’t actually solve anything. It just left him feeling more empty than before. You can really feel Solomon’s despair when he considers that no matter how you live your life, all will die and be forgotten.
It is no wonder then that Solomon hated his life and everything he worked for. Work provided him no hope either. All it brought him was stress and no actual rest or quality of life. Even what he did accomplish while working he must give to those who follow him (who will eventually ruin it). But in verse 24 we see a brief glimpse of hope from the hand of God. Solomon encourages his readers to enjoy what God provides in our lives, enjoy the work laid out for us, and to please God.
Good news! This chapter does a great job of tearing up false hopes and idols we have in our lives, but we know the answer that Solomon lacks. We know that because Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins, we are right before God, therefore we can spend eternity in heaven with Him. Our lives on earth have eternal ramifications for ourselves and others. We shouldn’t live our lives as if nothing matters but instead attempt to glorify God in everything we do (1 Cor. 10:31).
- Take time to list some of the things that you spend time/money/effort doing that have no eternal value (meaningless).
- Because of Jesus’ payment for our sins, we have the hope of heaven after death. How does that change what you spend your time on every day or how you feel about what you spend your time on every day?
- What mundane things can you do to the glory of God?
Tom Brady is sort of a modern-day Solomon. He has won seven Super Bowls, is married to a successful model, and has an estimated net worth of $250 million. Watch this clip from a 60 Minutes interview in 2005 (after his third Super Bowl win) as he wrestles with the fact all his success has left him coming up empty.
Harris Creek Sermon
Here is the second sermon of Harris Creek’s Ecclesiastes series “The Search for Meaning: The Search Continues”.
Leave a Comment Below
Join the Team
Interested in writing for the Bible Reading Plan? Email email@example.com.