If Ecclesiastes is good for anything it is certainly good for pondering the meaning of life! In chapter 2 we find the “preacher” or Solomon seemingly mulling over the question, “How should I spend my life? And here we find some interesting things. We find his first try at squeezing the meaning out of life out of living is the fullness of entertainment.
Ecclesiastes 2:1-2 I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity. 2 I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?”
But ultimately he finds that it is lacking. A life of enjoyment under the sun yields nothing. It has no use or purpose without God. How many times have we suddenly awoken to the fact that we have spent many days, maybe even weeks, just indulging in pleasures, entertainment, and fun only to ask ourselves the question, “what have I been doing with my life?” He says its all for nothing.
The “preacher” turns to discover if wisdom will give it or if work. Only to find more of the same result. All the pleasure, knowledge, or accomplishments we can acquire won’t give us meaning or purpose without God and eternity.
Ecclesiastes 2: 13-15 Then I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness. 14 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. 15 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.
Can’t you hear him say, “What’s the point?”
It is true that wisdom is better than folly and we can see that light is better than darkness. It makes sense because a fool will walk around like he is in the dark not realizing he is even in the dark, tripping over himself and making a mess of his life. While the wise person has eyes in his head to see what the heck he is doing and gains ground on what he would like to do!
But the same thing happens to them both in the end: Death.
Ecclesiastes 2:18-19 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, 19 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.
Death comes for us all and nothing can stop it. Everything we have becomes someone else’s. They don’t even have to work for it. If all we have is what we can acquire in the here and now. We can understand how that would be frustrating to lose it all in death but here’s the thing we weren’t made for here, we were made for eternity. But when we don’t know that, when we think YOLO: you only live once we end up simply settling for what we can get, which end up being just scraps off the table compared to what God really has in store.
Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 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, 25 for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?
Without a heavenly view point and to know the God who makes all things good we try to make the best of a bad situation and settle for the purpose of eat, drink, and find enjoyment. Even Solomon, who was the wisest man on earth, who should have been able to find enjoyment on earth, knew that this is the best that could be done, is a meaningless world.