"Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher; "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." What profit has a man from all his labor In which he toils under the sun?
Ecclesiastes is one of the most pertinent books of the Bible for modern man. In a day and age in which people generally do not know why they exist, or where they are headed, either in life or after their deaths, Ecclesiastes speaks of, and to, life’s apparent meaninglessness.
There is one key word and one key phrase in (1:2-3) which are often repeated throughout the book.
The word is “vanity.” The word “vanity” means emptiness, futility, or meaninglessness. The book repeatedly points to things that are often thought to be vital, and calls them vain.
The phrase is “under the sun,” which provides the context of life’s emptiness. We understand the book when we bear in mind that “under the sun” refers to life without God. Compare the vanity of life “under the sun” with life lived under the Lordship of the SON of God—which is the only way life makes real sense.
Ecclesiastes constantly reminds us that while some things are vain in and of themselves, apart from living with a biblical awareness of God, even things that might otherwise have meaning, become meaningless.
The conclusion of the book (12:13-14) reveals two wonderful truths. First, life only has meaning when it is lived in obedience to God. Second, since none of us has ever lived perfectly obedient lives. If we would have anything to look forward to when we die, we’d best put our trust in the One who has lived in perfect obedience: Jesus Christ.