as I was reading Ecclesiastes, it struck me that I was reading about myself. In those words, I was reading about my very own life.
Break out the violins. I’m going to self-indulge a bit.
Such is the greatness of that small book. It contains truths so fundamental, it applies to everyone.
It’s also an example of brilliant writing. It begins with power, and sets the hook firmly into the reader’s jaw.
Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
Whoa, right? That’s a big, bold statement. You just have to continue reading to find out what it means. Then, in the very next line, he hits you with a solid uppercut.
What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?
For me, that line was the closer – from that point, I knew I would finish that book in one sitting, because that line was speaking directly to my heart.
Before I say more, let me stress that I am brimming with gratitude (when I am mindful) to God for simply being alive. For having breath.
But as far as my life itself goes, that line above is quite true. I have labored my whole life, and what is there to show for it? What profit has there been in all that labor?
Well, materially at least, not so much.
Like many, when I was young I was full of plans for my future. My “To Do” list was full. But, as Woody Allen once said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”
Oh yes, at one time I was full of plans. But then I realized that God has plans of his own. And his will wins out, every time.
Like the Preacher, son of David, I too strove for wealth and knowledge. Unlike him, only knowledge came to me, and not much at that. As for wealth, that has evaded me like a ninja on a moonless night. In time, after this plan, then that plan, everywhere a plan plan, was stomped down into the dust, it finally dawned on me, as it did on the Preacher, that “all is vanity.” Also, as far as the value of gaining knowledge, … as they say, the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know anything at all. Vanity.
The Preacher says it like this:
Then I said in my heart, as it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity.
Plans come to nothingness. Vanity. I’ve watched my plans wither away slowly before sighing their last breath, and I’ve watched them explode magnificently. Then you look up from the wreckage of your life, look around, and see others prospering. You wonder, why? Why do their plans succeed, and yours did not? Did they try harder? No. Are they smarter? No. Are they better people? Not so.
All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness.
If you think you understand the purpose of that, then please let me know. But I suspect that this particular facet of life cannot be understood by the mind of man. Why God does what he does cannot be searched out, unless he reveals it himself, and to try to untangle that secret knot is, you guessed it, vanity.
So where does that leave us, Preacher? Is there any light amidst all the gloom and vanity? If all is vanity, then what’s the use of it all?
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
For God shall bring every work into judgement, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”
Everything that is done has been done before it, and the wise and foolish alike both go into the grave. The good cannot expect to be rewarded in life, but they can expect to see the wicked prosper.
…the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
So, go thy way, and eat thy bread, drink thy wine, enjoy thy wife, “for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.”
But don’t think that this world cares about your expectations. It does not. And if you can see that and accept it, you just might find peace in living. And don’t think that all your labors will amount to anything. They amount to jack squat. They are, in the end, like chaff carried away on the wind.
And above all, through all of it, hold fast to your moral compass. That is the purpose of life, the reason we are here at all.
But why listen to a fool like me?