Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
The preacher had conducted his experiment. He explored everything a man can do as part of this life on earth. He had found much vanity. He had found that so much is temporal. He found that no matter what, we eventually die in the end. It almost seemed like he’d found that nothing really mattered. But after all this, his conclusion was not “vanity, vanity.” His conclusion was God. And ultimately what we do matters—every little thing we do matters—and it matters very much, because we will answer to Him for it.
God is what gives our lives meaning, and He gives meaning and purpose to every aspect of life. Knowing God changes all the things that seemed like so much vanity. He gives purpose to our work and raising families and serving others and choosing to do good instead of evil. Adding God to these equations makes us see differently all the bad things and trials and those things that are so out of our control, because we know He is in control. We know He is doing something, and we are just part of His master plan.
Ultimately, the only thing that stands forever is God and His Word. Everything else will pass away. Nothing else lasts and can stand the test of time. So much that we focus too much on is just some transient thing that is there for a moment and gone the next. But when our focus becomes those eternal things, what we do becomes more important, how we spend our time and our lives, the kinds of things we pursue. And when we’re doing it all for Him and because of Him, we are simply fulfilling what He intended our lives to be all along.
What determines the course of our lives more than anything is how we relate to God and His commandments. When we disregard them, we face the life of vanity that the preacher found to be so lacking. We may find pleasure and fulfillment for a time, but what ultimately comes from that? Nothing that can last. But when we have the proper perspective on God and this life, we experience much more than vanity because we know there is a point to everything that we do. We know that there is something more to come after life here that makes our efforts to live righteously worthwhile. We find true value in knowing God and doing what He made us to do.