WRITTEN BY DENNY PETRILLO
When Solomon penned these words, he was describing a condition of life in which there was no substance or essence; nothing of lasting or redeeming value. This is certainly a bleak view of life. Is there nothing that we have or do that is not vain? The point Solomon is making teaches two eternal truths:
First there is much in this world that is vain. Our priorities can get out of kilter. We major in minors. We “strain the gnat and swallow the camel” (Matt. 23:24). How hard it is for men to discover what is really important! They have spent lifetimes building empires, amassing great fortunes, receiving the praise of men. “Vanity!” replies Solomon. “It is all vanity!” But why? Isn’t all that hard work worth something? Isn’t the accumulated wealth a testimony to one’s greatness? No, says the wise man. They are merely an example of misplaced priorities.
Second, only God can define and determine what is valuable. We have to remember that God sees the eternal. He knows that earthly priorities can often distract us from the eternal. He knows that wealth (Luke 12:13-21), family (Matt. 10:37) lusts and pride (1 Jn. 2:15) can keep us from salvation. Men, therefore, are not able to distinguish between the valuable and vain without divine guidance. So what did God declare as valuable? The ending of Ecclesiastes gives it to us: “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (12:13-14). Out of all of the works a man can do, these two, fearing God and keeping His commandments, are the pentacle of one’s existence.
No one wants to feel like a failure. Therefore it is crucial that each one of us determine to prioritize our lives, loves and interests. We must “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). If we do not do this then Solomon will summarize our lives as “vanity.” But if we put God first, He will summarize our lives with these words: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”