Ecclesiastes 1 – All is Vanity

Ecclesiastes 1: 18 – For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases in knowledge increases sorrow.

When you play The Sims, you select a life aspiration for your Sim. It can be a family, wealth, pursuit of knowledge, love or whatnot. In real life, we also have our own aspirations and there’s nothing  wrong pursuing these things. Let’s see what the wisest man (aside from Jesus) had to say about these.

The Book of Ecclesiastes

This was most probably written by King Solomon, the son of King David. Throughout chapter 1, he describes himself as the “Preacher”. In the original Hebrew, it is translated as “Qoheleth” meaning collector (of wisdom). 1 Kings 3:12 says that Solomon’s wisdom came from God. And that this wisdom exceeded everyone else’s.

Everything is a mist

Yet as he writes Ecclesiastes 1:2, he says, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity”. What does man gain by all the toil, at which he toils under the sun? (1:3)

Everyone works hard under an astronomical object yet gains nothing purposeful. The sun rises in the east and hastens to set in the south. The streams flow to the sea, but it doesn’t overflow. There is nothing new under the sun (1:9) Even new scientific discoveries are just discoveries, not new things (1:10). Recent news say we are made up of star stuff. But even that is just a new discovery, it wasn’t created by man. Generations come and go and no one of the past is remembered, nor will anyone in the future will be remembered forever. Such is the life of man, and how big and powerful we think we are, when in reality, everything else in nature moves and cycles by itself.

Try to spray a water mist then catch it.

spray-bottle-mist

Your career is a mist. Your investments are a mist. You waking up and commuting to work is a mist. All your labor, all your pursuit are a mist.

After acquiring so much wealth (which will be discussed in the later chapters), Solomon opens his collection of writing to conclude that everything is vanity. The word vanity is translated to “Hebel” in Hebrew, meaning mist, vapor or mere breath. Everything is just a mist.

Even wisdom is vanity

Sometimes when I have doubt about God, I doubt to the point that I even doubt my doubt. The mind is weird thing! In Solomon’s  great wisdom, he became busy with studying all the happenings under the sun. He applied his heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly but realized that even knowing wisdom was a futile. It was like striving after the wind!

Smallness of Man and the Immensity of God

All these realizations by Solomon (a person who had everything!) points out that even the greatest and most noble of pursuits are futile, and we can spend our whole lives trying to figure out the meaning of our lives – yet in the end realize that we chased things that seem meaningful, but in the grand scheme of things are actually but mist.

So it is my prayer that we see how small and irrelevant we truly are in God’s sight, and how immense He is. We have to heed the Preacher’s warning and strive to live a life pursuing truly valuable things.

I am a flower quickly fading,
Here today and gone tomorrow.
A wave tossed in the ocean.
A vapor in the wind.
Still You hear me when I’m calling.
Lord, You catch me when I’m falling.
And You’ve told me who I am.
I am Yours, I am Yours.

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