Ecclesiastes 2

Ecclesiastes 2

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The Vanity of Self-Indulgence

I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity. I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?” I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine—my heart still guiding me with wisdom—and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life. I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man.

So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.

The Vanity of Living Wisely

So I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly. For what can the man do who comes after the king? Only what has already been done. Then I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness. The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I perceived that the same event happens to all of them. Then I said in my heart, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?” And I said in my heart that this also is vanity. For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool! So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind.

The Vanity of Toil

I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity.

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.

(ESV)


Ecclesiastes 2 Commentary

by Hank Workman

His resume was astounding. He would have been a Fortune 500 contender for sure. He’d built houses, a temple, a kingdom, a large family. He had taken the capital city and made it a traveler’s destination. The city bursting with workers there was always a new project being tackled.

He had tried it all. He had accomplished much. He pursued the wiles of every kind of pleasure. As a raging workaholic, it was meaningless. Purchasing whatever he desired found hollowness. The pursuit of education and wisdom took him down the path of emptiness.

None of it mattered. He was empty. Pursuing the next big thing when the latest had left a void, Solomon had tried it all, pursued it all, and had zero fulfillment. His perspective was off.

We can be a lot like this too. Albeit not to the possible extreme of Solomon but we definitely pursue things that aren’t necessarily always bad but not fulfilling. Many work hard to build a name for themselves. They want that fat bank account sacrificing other things more important. Some pursue their own goals leaving others in the dust. The reality is we all can have an off perspective on these things.

But the cold hard fact is one day we will each take our last breath and what we’ve worked so hard for in this life won’t matter.

It would be Solomon who wrote

“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain.”

Psalm 127:1

Comparing these thoughts from Psalms and the book of Ecclesiastes Solomon is making it clear – when kingdoms and families forget God, everything is meaningless. Purpose is lacking.

Consider your own goals. Think about the motivation behind why you do what you do. Are there sacrifices being made that in the scheme of eternity doesn’t matter? For if God is not part of the equation, if He’s not your foundation, everything you are living for is meaningless.


Ecclesiastes 2 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

Wow. As I studied this chapter, I began to picture how relevant these statements are for our world today. Many people today try and navigate through life by focusing on themselves. We are told to follow our hearts and dreams. We are told that true happiness comes from within. It’s not hard to follow this advice. It comes naturally to us. We want what we want. Take a look at the following snippets from this chapter. Pay attention to the word “I” and “myself.”

  • I said to myself, “Go ahead, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy what is good.”
  • I increased my achievements. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. 
  • I constructed reservoirs of water for myself from which to irrigate a grove of flourishing trees.
  • I made gardens and parks for myself and planted every kind of fruit tree in them.
  • I also amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces.
  • I gathered male and female singers for myself, and many concubines, the delights of men.
  • All that my eyes desired, I did not deny them. I did not refuse myself any pleasure, for I took pleasure in all my struggles.

Do you notice a theme? I did ________ for myself. This is the sales pitch that we are sold from the very beginning of our lives. If you do what you want, you can be who you want, and do it all for yourself while you find true happiness. Solomon is calling bullcrap on this theory, and for good reason!

He experienced all of this and more. He chased every one of his wildest dreams to try and find significance and satisfaction in this life. But the truth still remained; he shared the same fate as everyone who didn’t accomplish these things. All his experiences could not interrupt the reality that this life was just a vapor and will soon cease to exist just like every other human being.

“When I considered all that I had accomplished and what I had labored to achieve, I found everything to be futile and a pursuit of the wind. There was nothing to be gained under the sun.”

Ecclesiastes 2:11 HCSB

Listen up Christians! This is why focusing on self never brings true meaning or satisfaction in this life. It’s time that the church separated itself from such shallow teaching. There is a disturbing trend among some who claim to be believers that these self-centered philosophies are Jesus-approved. The end results speak for themselves, both in the case of Solomon and by our own experiences.

When will we finally learn that this life has nothing for us outside of knowing and being known by Jesus?

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