The teacher recounts his life as king. He has had every pleasure anyone could want. And great accomplishments: buildings; vineyards; gardens and parks; plantings of all kinds; possessions including slaves, herds, flocks, silver, a harem. He became greater than anyone in Jerusalem.
But when he surveyed all of his accomplishments, “everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:11, NIV) Why such a hopeless view of his life? “I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me…So my heart began to despair over my toilsome labor under the sun. For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it.” (Ecclesiastes 2:18, 20-21)
Then the teacher speaks wisdom that hits home today. “What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest.” (Ecclesiastes 2:22-23) These are the words of one who has accomplished much in the eyes of others (and maybe his own) but is coming to the end of life. And he finally realizes what he couldn’t realize in his younger days: he’s been chasing the wind. His accomplishments are meaningless.
Is there an antidote for this life of folly? Yes, for those who find true spiritual wisdom. Take it easy, says the teacher, and seek God. “A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God.” (Ecclesiastes 2:24-26)
This flies in the face of what many of us think and do. Don’t take life so seriously. If we do, we sin, and what we have will be a burden. Enjoy your work. It comes from God. And that matters.