Ecclesiastes 1:1-3 (New International Reader's Version)1 These are the words of the Teacher. He was the son of David. He was also king in Jerusalem. 2 "Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Everything is completely meaningless! Nothing has any meaning." 3 What does a man get for all of his work? Why does he work so hard on this earth?
Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 (New Living Translation)10 Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. 11 But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.
Why do we do what we do? What purpose does our work and everything we strive for have in this world? What value does it truly add to our lives and to the lives of others? Many of us ponder these questions often in our lives, especially when we are searching for meaning to our lives and life's work. The value of what we do in life is just as important as the question, "Why am I here?".
The Book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament of the Bible was written by King Solomon of Israel as his reflection on the life he led. In it he examined the many aspects of what he did as the wisest and richest king in biblical history. Here was a man that God granted great wisdom and wealth, but he squandered away the blessings he was given for a life of immorality and pleasure. As he writes this book at the end of his life, we have the opportunity to look into the window of his life, to ask and answer some big questions for ourselves.
As Solomon sought to understand what benefit there was in his efforts of working, gaining wisdom, and at seeking pleasure, we need to examine for ourselves the purpose in what we are doing. Are we here to work hard at our jobs and accumulate homes, cars, and investments for retirement denying ourselves nothing in material gain? Are we here to get a great education and learning all that we can, to secure the best position and power possible, that our advanced degrees will allow? Or are we just here to live like there is no tomorrow and experience every pleasure and desire the world has to offer?
Not that any of these things are wrong in themselves, but Solomon tries to show us through the self-examination of his experiences that chasing after these things alone is meaningless.