Ecclesiastes: No profit under the sun (2:11)

Day 3: No profit under the sun (2:11)

Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun” (2:11).

If we think back to our younger days, for many the driving force behind what they set out to do was pursuing pleasure, and while some come to the same view, later in life, as had the Preacher, that it was all vanity, some will continue down this pointless path, right up to death. As far as the Preacher was concerned, he had tried it all, for being the king and having the power, there was nothing to stop him doing whatever caught his fancy and, looking back, there was much that he saw that unlike many who could only dream, he actually did all what he wished.

After setting out his store: “I said in mine heart, go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure” albeit realising “this also is vanity” (2:1), he then goes and lists his many “achievements”. He commissioned great works; he cultivated beautiful gardens; he was able to amass much wealth; he possessed large flocks and herds; he could be entertained any way he wanted, including having his own musicians and singers; he could have any woman he wanted; he acquired many possessions – the wherewithal to pay was no barrier. There was no end to what he wanted and got and he still managed to hang onto his great wisdom. Having listed all he could, he could declare: “Yes, I was great, greater than anyone else who had ever lived in Jerusalem, and my wisdom never failed me. Anything I wanted, I got. I did not deny myself any pleasure. I was proud of everything I had worked for, and all this was my reward. Then I thought about all that I had done and how hard I had worked doing it, and I realized that it didn’t mean a thing. It was like chasing the wind – of no use at all” (2:9-11 GNT).  

It is sometimes reckoned the pursuit of pleasure; sensual self-indulgence, is what defines the overriding philosophy of the lives of many. We have here the list of achievements of someone that most of us can only dream about. But he saw the end of it as pointless. The challenge for us concerns priorities. It is not that a lot of what he did was wrong per se but rather making these his goals in life. We await to see what the Preacher thought should be our priorities but for the time being we should ponder the words of Jesus: “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal … But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” Matthew 6:20,33.  

Prayer: we thank you Lord for the good things in life we can enjoy. Forgive us for making this our main goal. May we seek your kingdom and righteousness.

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