Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.
In this book, the Preacher has examined the things of this world and this life and come to a kind of disheartening conclusion that all is vanity. The world spins through its cycles over and over again. Things pass away and prove to have little lasting meaning or value. Stuff and relationships and wisdom all just go away, and in the end, even we ultimately decline and pass away. Looking at it from that perspective, it can even seem that life is in vain, but that is not necessarily the case.
It is God who has given us life, and He does not waste things or do them frivolously or needlessly. He has given us this short time and space to be alive in His world. And if we live unto our own purposes, it is vanity. It’s ultimately wasteful and kind of meaningless in the grand scheme of things. But if we live unto God’s purposes, if we live for Him and not ourselves, if we live focused on what He created us to do, it is not a waste and it is not fruitless. Instead, it is meaningful and abundant and full of joy and the good gifts He gives to us.
This life is vanity in the sense that it passes away. But if we know the Lord, if we’re living for God, if we have His life in us, we will go to Him when this life is over and spend eternity in His presence. So in a way this life is very valuable, because it sets us on the pathway that leads to our ultimate eternal destination. This life and this world are not what we’re living for. This life may be full of things that don’t really matter that much, but we can still make our lives count for God.
So what are we living for, and how are we living our lives? How are we spending the life that God gave to us? What do we do with our time and our energy? Where is our focus? We can indulge, like Solomon did, in all that this world has to offer, but in the end, we’ll come up empty and unsatisfied. Or we can pour out our lives to God, an offering made out of love for Him. We can serve Him and fulfill His purpose for our lives, and that will ultimately leave us fulfilled ourselves.