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Our church is in the midst of a series on Ecclesiastes and a certain passage has stuck in my mind: “When I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.  — Ecclesiastes 2:1-11


Kohelet (the writer of Ecclesiastes) is writing to answer the questions “What lasting benefit do we get from all our hard work.” He is comparing various pursuits as an end in themselves (pleasure, wealth, wisdom) with the enjoyment of these same things as a gift from God on our journey through life. In the book he will say that the pursuit of something such as wisdom is futile for it just brings more sorrow, but in the journey of life he will say it is like an inheritance for it preserves our lives. This is the contrast he demonstrates throughout the book.

Your quote ends abruptly for it is only the first half where he says that when he pursued pleasure and projects there was no lasting gain, but then he finishes on a positive note –  “The reward for all my labour was the joy my heart found while I was working.” As an end it itself pleasure and work cannot advance our lives. God has said that by the sweat of our brow we “eat our bread” not “get ahead”. But the simple joys of life are there in the day, “That a person may eat and drink and find satisfaction in their work, this is a gift of God.” To understand Kohelet’s message you need to keep his comparison of Pursuit and Journey in mind.

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