The Preacher came to despise life itself because he felt it unfair. Since death levels the field, what about the products of one’s labor? He looks at his “stuff” and wonders what it will amount to after he’s gone. Who will get it, and what kind of person will he be? There should at least be respect for the things the dead leave behind!
That someone else would benefit from what he meant for his own enjoyment was a galling idea (2:18). His “hate” for life (2:17) led to hate for everything he had accomplished in life. He had no say whether it would be used wisely or abused foolishly (2:19). Leaving his work to an unknown someone left his life without meaning. He resigned himself to a situation that could not be helped. He learned hard work in itself was not the answer to the life he looked for (2:20).
He determined it was of no value to leave his life’s work to the ill-equipped and the uninformed. He felt that he would be forfeiting his legacy, and that was counterproductive to say the least (2:21). He had slaved to amass property and the symbols of success (2:22). How much sleep had he lost in these efforts! Yet, what else did life and work amount to but wasted effort (2:23)?
He gradually came to a better conclusion: to be content with the common and simple things God had provided. Accept what God had put into place at creation (2:24). Anything more would be hoping too much from human effort. Things of life are without joy apart from a relationship with God, “for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment” (2:25, ESV)?
He began to see God’s hand in the life he lived and the work he did (2:26a). God truly provides for and blesses those who seek godly good in life. On the other hand, God designed things so that the good a sinner does He intended to bless the righteous. For the person without a faith relationship with God, this prospect holds an empty prospect and comes to nothing (2:26b).
The Shakers are known for a song about simplicity. One line draws a conclusion about the simple and free life: “Tis a gift to come out where we ought to be.” The Preacher was awakening to how life, work, and faith should work together.
Dr. David Moore is a university online Bible and theology instructor. Email: email@example.com