Wind is an amazing thing. We can’t see it but we can sure see it’s effects. We can’t catch it or hold it but we can harness it’s power. It is always present, always there, always around us. Sometimes it is very subtle and sometimes it is unmistakable. It helps to spread the rain and seed around to bring new life and yet is capable of causing amazing amounts of destruction.
King Solomon was known for his wisdom and one of the books he wrote was Ecclesiastes. His opening chapter has some profound thoughts on the wind. But it’s not directly about the wind, in fact he uses the concept of “striving after wind” to explain that the pursuits we seek in this world are all vanity. Chasing after things in this life will create as much success as striving after the wind.
Solomon was even wise enough to know that eventually there would be people who would say things like, ‘well back in your time that makes sense but now…” But his wisdom was timeless. In fact he even says “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecc 1:9)
Now Solomon is not saying to not even try. In fact there are plenty of other scriptures about our duties and responsibilities in this world. There are warnings that “In this world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33) We are expected to work, to care for our family and the poor and needy. We are told there will be seasons of plenty and we are to store it up for the seasons of want. Neither Solomon or Jesus are telling us not to put effort into this life. In fact they regularly tell us the exact opposite.
So what then does Solomon mean by telling us that everything in this world is vanity? What does Jesus mean when he tells the young rich man “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Matt 19:21)?
Neither case is about giving up on this world, but both cases are about where you get your value. Solomon’s statements on vanity are not telling us not to waste our time in this world, but he is warning us not to seek our value from this world. Jesus is telling the rich man the same thing. There is nothing wrong with hard work or striving to be better or improve ourselves. In fact we are expected to do these things. But they are both saying that we should never attach our worth to the things of this life.
Our value or self esteem should not come from what we have done or accomplished in this life. It should ONLY come from the knowledge of what Jesus already did on the cross. The best success and the worst failure in this life, both mean nothing for eternity.
So the next time you find yourself thinking highly of yourself for your worldly successes, remember that it’s all vanity. And the next time you are beating yourself up for failures in this world, remember that too is vanity.
As long as you praise Him in both situations… as long as “you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom 10:9)
Everything else is vanity.