I. Introduction

A. Our previous lesson noted how the Preacher began his search for meaning in life.

1. Observing the futility seen in the cycles of nature and life (Eccl. 1:4-11).
2. Beginning with human wisdom (1:12-18). Solomon had already been blessed with great wisdom from God, and he used it to search out the value of human wisdom.

B. What did he conclude concerning such wisdom?

1. Trying to find the answer in human wisdom was “grasping for the wind” (1:17).
2. Such wisdom was the source of much grief and sorrow (1:18).

C. So he began to look elsewhere, and in the second chapter we read:

1. Of his efforts to explore the value of mirth, pleasure, wine, and folly.
2. Of his search to find meaning in the acquisition of wealth and in great accomplishments.

Did he find the answer there? If not, what conclusions did he reach? In this lesson, we shall allow the Preacher to tell us for himself. 

II. The Preacher tested life

A. He summarizes what he found.

1. Mirth and pleasure are vanity (2:1).
2. Laughter is madness; mirth accomplishes little, if anything (2:2).

B. He describes what he did.

1. He experimented with wine and folly (2:3). He used the wisdom he had, for he was seeking what was good for people to do “under heaven all the days of their lives.”
2. He made many things (2:4-6) such as houses, vineyards, gardens, orchards, and water pools (1 Kings 7:1-12; 9:15-19).
3. He acquired whatever he desired (2:5- 8) such as servants, livestock, silver, gold, treasures, singers, and “the delights of the sons of men” (concubines? musical instruments?) (1 Kings 9:28; 10:10, 14, 21, 27; 11:1-3).
4. He became great and seemed happy (2:9, 10). He was greater than any before him, maintaining his wisdom and having all his eyes and heart desired, finding enjoyment in his labor.

C. His conclusion from what he did.

1. He reflected, looking back at what he did (2:11a).
2. He concluded that “all was vanity, and grasping for the wind” (2:11b). “There was no profit under the sun” (2:11c).

The conclusion drawn by the Preacher may seem strange, when he admitted that he found joy in his labor (2:10). But when we consider what he says next, we begin to understand his feelings after his great experiment.

III. The Preacher hated life

A. His conclusion after reflecting upon wisdom, madness, and folly:

1. Realizing his unique opportunity (who can do more than what he has done?), he considered the relative merits of wisdom, madness, and folly (2:12).

2. He saw that wisdom was better than folly (2:13-14a), just as light is better than darkness. At least the wise man can see where he is going.

3. But ultimately the advantage of human wisdom is vanity (2:14b-16), for both the wise man and the fool die, and after death, there is no more remembrance of the wise than of the fool.

4. Thus the Preacher hated life, because of his conclusion about all the work done “under the sun.” It was vanity and grasping for the wind (2:17).

B. Reflecting upon his wealth:

1. He came to hate his labor (2:18, 19).

2. He came to despair of all his labor “under the sun” (2:20-23). For a man with wisdom, knowledge, and skill must leave his heritage to one who has not labored for it. He did not feel this was right. (“This also is a vanity and a great evil.”)

a. In the end, what does he have for all his efforts? He had only sorrowful days, restless nights, grievous work, and vanity. Looking at life “under the sun,” trying to find meaning in this life for all of one’s labors, the Preacher came to hate and despair of all his great efforts. But, as he said, “my wisdom remained with me” (2:9). With that wisdom he shares for the first time what one should do in life. We can see his ideas develop further.

IV. The Preacher accepted life

A. Man should seek to enjoy the good in his labor.

1. He says there is nothing better; this is a conclusion he will draw six times (2:24a; cf. 3:12-13; 3:22; 5:18-19; 8:15; 9:7-9).

2. Note carefully: The Preacher is not promoting the fatalist view of “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” He is saying to enjoy what you do and what God has given you (1 Tim. 6:17).

B. The ability to enjoy one’s labor is a gift from God.

1. He saw that the ability to enjoy one’s labor is a gift from God (2:24b).

2. No one can truly enjoy life without God (2:25). Only God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy (2:26a). For the sinner, God gives the work of gathering and collecting (2:26b). The sinner gathers to give to the one who is good before God (cf. Prov. 28:8). For the sinner, his work therefore becomes (to him) vanity and grasping for the wind! (6:1-2). Yes, some are very successful in accumulating wealth, but for what end?

V. Conclusion

A. For the first time, the Preacher has introduced God into the picture.

B. Until now, he has looked at life “under the sun” without God.

1. He has sought for meaning through wisdom, folly, madness, pleasure, and wealth.
2. Even when one is successful, the realities of life and death can cause one to hate life. He could only conclude that “under the sun,” all is vanity and grasping for wind.

C. But now, with God giving wisdom and knowledge and joy to man, one can enjoy the good in his labor. A purpose and meaning for life is now possible.

General Conference Ministerial Association