Solomon knew something about vanity. The third king of Israel repeatedly declared almost everything in life to be a “vanity of vanities” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). He knew that most things in life bring only brief pleasure. Even good things like hard work only produces goods for someone else to enjoy (Ecclesiastes 2:18). His thoughts, in Ecclesiastes, seem dismal and depressing to the modern mind. There is nothing good to be done except to serve God and keep his commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Anything else is vanity.
More than just the end results, it is the pursuit of all these things that is futile. Solomon describes those pursuits as a chasing after the wind. Nine times in the book he speaks of “chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:4, 17, 2:11, 17, 26, 4:4, 6, 16, 6:9, NIV). It is the idea of chasing something that cannot be caught. A man can never catch the wind and if he could he could never hold on to it. It is ever moving and always shifting. To chase wind is a fool’s errand.
So many of our pursuits are empty. Even if we achieve our goals we are often left with a sense of futility. We discover that our efforts have yielded nothing worthwhile. Consider our modern pursuit of wealth. We work harder and longer to earn more money and but never reach contentment. “He who loves money will not be satisfied” (Ecclesiastes 5:10).
While some work hard, others play hard. They seek fulfillment through wine and good times. Solomon tried that too and found it lacking. He says he allowed himself whatever his eyes desired and yet, it too was vanity (Ecclesiastes 2:11). So many today like to work hard and play even harder but they too find only short term enjoyment. Even sin brings brief enjoyment (Hebrews 11:25) but there is always the consequence of our actions.
Solomon was spot on when he finally figured it out. There is only one thing that matters: “Fear God and keep his commandments.” That comes from Ecclesiastes 12:13. Notice the reason for his conclusion in verse 14. “For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” We pursue the one thing that has value, the one thing that has everlasting purpose. We pursue God.
Keep these thoughts in mind the next time you take a pass on Bible study or on serving God. It could change your pursuits drastically.