Ecclesiastes Chapter Two, The Search For Purpose

In our study of Ecclesiastes chapter two, we look at man's attempts to find purpose in this world. We will learn from a man that had everything this world could offer but was still unsatisfied.

Ecclesiastes 2:1-3

I thought in my heart, 'Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.' But that also proved to be meaningless. 'Laughter,' I said, 'is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish?' I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly - my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was worthwhile for men to do under heaven during the few days of their lives.

Solomon tells us that he tried the party lifestyle to see if that would give him purpose but he found that it did not. Many people in our world today are doing the same thing as they "live to party" but the party only covers the pain and emptiness. Solomon tells us that he couldn't just turn off his mind and his mind knew that there had to be more to life than hedonism.

Ecclesiastes 2:4-9

I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well - the delights of the heart of man. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

Next, the king turned to materialism and acquiring more than anyone else had ever had from fancy houses to piles of gold. Even with all that he had, he could not escape the fact that he knew that possessions were not the answer. The simple fact of the matter is that, if you pursue riches on the earth, you will never have enough as you compare yourself to someone that has more. There can only be one person on the earth that has more than everyone else and so this pursuit of wealth through possessions will leave everyone else feeling like a failure.

Ecclesiastes 2:10 & 11

I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.

What's it worth? That is the question that Solomon answered with his exploration of materialism. He had everything that any man could ever want and found that it didn't matter. He felt entitled to it because of his work but, in the end, realized that he wasn't going to take it with him when he died. That is what Jesus was talking about when He called us to store up treasures in heaven (see Matthew 6:20).

Ecclesiastes 2:12-14

Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom, and also madness and folly. What more can the king's successor do than what has already been done? I saw that wisdom is better than folly, just as light is better than darkness. The wise man has eyes in his head, while the fool walks in the darkness; but I came to realize that the same fate overtakes them both

Now, the king turns to the mind and comes to the conclusion that it is better to be educated than to be ignorant. In our world today, we have got to the point that many see their worth based on how many years they have attended college or how many letters are in the title at the end of their name. Solomon found that the one with all of the wisdom and knowledge will pass away just as the one who is ignorant.

Ecclesiastes 2:15 & 16

Then I thought in my heart, 'The fate of the fool will overtake me also. What then do I gain by being wise?' I said in my heart, 'This too is meaningless.' For the wise man, like the fool, will not be long remembered; in days to come both will be forgotten. Like the fool, the wise man too must die!

There are those who spend their entire life accumulating college degrees but, when they die, it does not mean anything and they are soon forgotten. Even the most famous thinkers will eventually be forgotten and replaced by a new generation.

Ecclesiastes 2:17-23

So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless.

Many have made their work (job) their god as they spend all of their waking moments thinking about what they need to do to make more money. This money is spent on building up an estate that must be left to an heir when they die. When one does so, they do not know whether the heir will squander it like the prodigal son (see Luke 15) or invest it and grow it to give to those who are in need. The one who earned it has no control over it and it can be gone just as fast as the wind blows.

Ecclesiastes 2:24-26

A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the man 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. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Do you find satisfaction in your daily job? If you do, then, this is from God. All good things are from God and He gives them to His children. A Christian is given the ability to work and even to enjoy their work while the lost are chained to a job. Many have great jobs making lots of money and yet still cannot find any happiness in their riches. The fact of the matter is that we, as Christians, will inherit all things and so the wealthy are only building up things that they will leave to us.