“For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26)
No one was more prepared to speak on the subject of vanity than Solomon. He lived a life chasing all the traps that his money could set for him. After he finally learned that it would get him nowhere, he wrote a book about it and called it Ecclesiastes.
Ecclesiastes means preacher and boy did Solomon ever preach about how “wine, women and song” almost cost him eternity with the Lord. In fact, he refers to himself seven times as “the preacher,” a title not used anywhere else in the Old Testament.
Solomon was the son of David and wrote three books of Scripture: Song of Solomon, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. In David’s old age, he appointed Solomon to reign as his successor. Interestingly, the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream and asked him what he wanted. Solomon told the Lord that he was not prepared for the throne and asked for wisdom. “Give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil.” (1 Kings 3:9)
The Lord honored Solomon’s request. Interestingly, however, in Ecclesiastes, he applies that wisdom to explain what he learned from a lifetime of mistakes. He knew what he was preaching about.
Ecclesiastes records that Solomon planted the seeds that led to much sorrow in his life. He loved women, so much so that he took a total of 700 wives. 1 Kings 11:3 reports that these women “turned away his heart” and led him into idolatry. In return, the Lord sent adversaries to trouble Solomon in the later years of his reign.
Ecclesiastes reveals that Solomon did repent of his sins to some degree. Equally important, he used the gift of wisdom the Lord gave him to share what he had learned from a lifetime of folly. He wrote Ecclesiastes as a warning to those who think they can be satisfied with what the world has to offer. From the man who had tried just about everything that life had to offer, he said, “The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.” (Ecclesiastes 1:8) He finally understood the emptiness that comes from a life filled with lust.
The whole point of Ecclesiastes, however, is that life doesn’t have to be empty. Solomon’s wisdom is meant to help spare us from a life without God. The preacher is trying to tell us that the meaning of life will not be found in knowledge, money, pleasure, work, or popularity. True satisfaction comes from knowing that what we are doing is part of God’s purpose for our lives.
Solomon tells us that nothing “under the sun” has eternal value. The things that really matter are those things that we carry with us throughout eternity.
Ecclesiastes doesn’t say that life can’t be enjoyed. God wants us to enjoy the best that life has to offer. But the Bible also teaches that to whom much is given, much is required. (Luke 12:48) In other words, Christians should enjoy life but keep it in perspective. Our purpose for living is not found in earthly treasures. It’s found in a life filled with a desire to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s why he said, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst.” (John 4:13)