There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind: a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; it is a grievous evil. If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life’s good things, and he also has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. For it comes in vanity and goes in darkness, and in darkness its name is covered. Moreover, it has not seen the sun or known anything, yet it finds rest rather than he. Even though he should live a thousand years twice over, yet enjoy no good–do not all go to the one place? All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied. For what advantage has the wise man over the fool? And what does the poor man have who knows how to conduct himself before the living? Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the appetite: this also is vanity and a striving after wind. (Ecclesiastes 6:1-9)
The Aborted Life
It is unusual to compare life to an aborted child but the reality of life without purpose is the same conclusion. The son of David makes a startling conclusion about the nature of life lived to its fullest but life empty of meaning. The single goal of most men is to gain every benefit in life possible. Wealth, power and pleasure is the Bermuda triangle of vanity that drives men to do whatever is necessary to have the trinkets of material desire. Lives will be dedicated to building up affluence. Position and prestige drive men to gain power in the business world or political ambitions. The flesh enjoys every sensual pleasure in reckless abandonment. From the view of the world these are successful and happy people because they have so much. The wise man observes this life is no different than a child that dies before birth.
Time does not change the truth of the vanity of life. If a man has a hundred children to establish some kind of dynasty he still will die in vain. It is amazing to think of those in the Bible that lived nearly a thousand years but the truth of life is no different to a man who lives forty years than a man who lives two thousand years. So often the view of life is tainted by the false belief that life is about the here and now. Men work all their lives to fill their pockets and dreams with empty promises and then they die. What then? Sadly it is no different than a child that never sees the light of day. Death comes to them both and both die with no worldly advantage than the other. In death they have a common end.
The lesson for the living is to take to heart the truth of man’s existence. Solomon’s conclusion at the end of this great book is for man to fear God and keep His commandments because that is all man has to gain. What else is there? Seeking all the frills of life is vanity. Seeking the Lord in righteousness is eternal. The nature of man does not change. Our world is filled with more glorifications of man’s wisdom, power and wealth than in many generations past. The simple truth remains the same: life without God is vain. Gaining all the wealth of this world will do you no good in the life to come. Attaining great measures of power and fame today will be lost in the dust bins of tomorrow. Pleasure is fleeting. Age takes care of that and death ends it.
There is one thing to note about the lives of vain men and aborted children. Those who spend their lives seeking salvation in worldly pleasures will lose their soul in eternal darkness. The stillborn child who never sees the light of day will find the light of God in death. They are neither rich in this world nor powerful and never enjoy the pleasures of life. What they do have is eternal life! And that is all that matters! Something to think about. Lessons to learn for living.
The great use of life is to spend it for something that outlasts it. (William James; 1842-1910; quoted in Thought and Character of William James, by Ralph Barton Perry)