2 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
12 I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 14 I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.
18 I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, 19 and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. 20 So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21 because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. 22 What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? 23 For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity.
24 There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, 25 for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? 26 For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
15 What is crooked cannot be made straight,
and what is lacking cannot be counted.
16 I said in my heart, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.
18 For in much wisdom is much vexation,
and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.
Dale had been a classmate of my father at the seminary, over forty years before I started my ministry. He was an emeritus and very crotchety member of our circuit when I arrived in Utah. At first, I did not quite know what to make of him. He sometimes seemed to be so grumpy about the state of affairs he saw in the world and the Church. Like many older people he fell into the habit of decrying the deterioration from the good old days. Yet sometimes his face would light up and I was given a glimpse of something which looked like a touch of heaven in his wrinkled face.
Soon I learned what made the difference. It depended on where Dale himselfwas looking. A faithful old servant of our Lord, he had endured many disappointments in his ministry. He had largely served as a missionary developer in the intermountain west. The people were not plentiful, and the percentage of LDS in the communities he served was high. It was not an easy task. But he had also seen God do His beautiful work in the lives of people. When he talked about that, Dale’s face lit up.
Solomon, another rather grumpy old guy, wrote these words toward the end of his life. He seems to be depressed. But read his words carefully. Notice the recurrent phrase “under the sun.” If you read the rest of the book, and I encourage you to do so, it will appear over and over again. But also notice the hope that Solomon has. Solomon encourages us to take joy from the One who dwells above the sun, from God. We will find it in contentment in our work and family and life, but it comes as a gift from the One whose love and power are not limited to this world (vss. 24-26.) If we only see the things of our life in terms of this life, we will have no real joy in them. When they become what they simply are, blessings we have received from God to serve Him and love our fellow human being, then our whole being basks in joy which comes from far above the sun. Even grumpy old men smile at that.