Then I hated all my labor in which I had toiled under the sun, because I must leave it to the man who will come after me. And who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will rule over all my labor in which I toiled and in which I have shown myself wise under the sun. This also is vanity. Therefore I turned my heart and despaired of all the labor in which I had toiled under the sun. For there is a man whose labor is with wisdom, knowledge, and skill; yet he must leave his heritage to a man who has not labored for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. (Ecclesiastes 2:18-21)
Leaving Our Inheritance
Solomon had a clear view of life. Promised by the Lord a span of seventy years and if by strength eighty, life is a vapor fading quickly. The labors of life produce a bounty of stuff that defines the material success of man. He works many years gathering a home, retirement, enjoyment with trinkets of recreation and abundance of monies to make life pleasant. And then he dies. The challenge comes when a lifetime of scrimping, saving, putting aside and accumulating is left to someone who has not lifted a finger to produce what is now his. Solomon understood the irony of leaving an inheritance to those who did not work for it.
The cruel reality of materialism is man never takes to his grave what he has spent his whole life working to have as his own. When John D. Rockefeller died, someone asked, “How much did he leave.” “Everything,” was the reply. He is considered as one of wealthiest men in American history but he left everything life had to offer in the hands of others. Since the days of Adam men have plotted, schemed, murdered and stolen inheritances. Families have been destroyed from greed-filled hearts over inheritances; not realizing that what happened to the one who left their wealth will happen to them also. Solomon left everything he had when he died. His son, Rehoboam, was not wise and squandered all the labor his father had done on the counsel of youth.
What strikes Solomon is how careful he was in amassing all his wealth with wisdom, knowledge and skill. The inheritance is then given to a man who has done nothing through wisdom, knowledge or skill. Frankly, Solomon is dismayed at the hand of irony that allows those who did not work to receive everything he has. There is a vanity of working a whole lifetime – just so those who remain can swim in the bounty of something they had nothing to do with. And it happens to all men. The reading of a will is a proclamation that what is gained in life is left to those who did not labor for it. This puts everything we have in perspective.
Solomon’s treatise on life is unchanged. Ecclesiastes was written to remind men that life is vain or without the value that we spend every day trying to attain. We can possess all the riches of this world but when we die, it is given to someone who has not labored for it. The first lesson is to remember death removes all of our possessions. Those who have left all their possessions on the bank can cross the river of death. Second, anything left by our wisdom, knowledge and skill will be given to someone who has not labored for it. The vanity of life is a cruel master but it is real. The final lesson is that armed with this knowledge, we should be seeking something that we can leave with those we love that has an eternal weight of glory. Riches will fade. Eternal life will not. Leaving a horde of cash and possessions will not get our loved ones closer to heaven. Leaving our example of godliness, holiness and devotion to God is the greatest inheritance we can share with those we love. That is something our families can use in their experiences that will have lasting value. This will not fade away.
The vanity of life is the accumulation of things that rust, corrode and bring heartache. Solomon’s conclusion in Ecclesiastes is that life is about serving God. Everything in life will pass but a good name will not. Being found faithful to the Lord is all that will matter in the final day. Riches will be gone but eternal life will never end. Our inheritance should be measured by what we leave our loved ones that is lasting. The greatest treasure we can leave our children is our name written in heaven. That will never fade away and it will help them see the direction they should take their lives. What inheritance are you leaving your family?