How to Live (A Study in Ecclesiastes) Lesson #1 All is Vanity

How to Live (A Study in Ecclesiastes)

 Lesson #1 : “All is Vanity”

 In this series we are going to be looking at the book of Ecclesiastes to learn some lessons for everyday living. When studying this book you must remember that it was written from the view point of a man. Therefore we must careful in applying every passage the way it is written to our lives. By this we mean that much of what Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes was what he learned from giving himself  to whatever he desired and not with holding anything that he desired from himself (Ecclesiastes 1:12-18 & 2:1-11).

The conclusions from his experiment are something that we should seriously consider. One of the main conclusions as we will study in this first lesson is that “All is vanity”. The main conclusion for the book of Ecclesiastes is found in the last two verses of the book, Ecclesiastes 12:13-14. Simply put it is to fear God and keep is commandments because one day he will bring everything into judgment. We will look at this conclusion many times throughout this study because Solomon says “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

All is Vanity :

 In Ecclesiastes 1:2 and 12:8 we see Solomon say that all is vanity. Therefore he begins his book with this thought and he ends this book with this same thought, also it is present throughout the entire book. Therefore we should take note and try to understand why the wisest man that ever lived would say that all is vanity. First let us look at the definition of the word.

Vanity – 1. Emptiness; want of substance to satisfy desire’ uncertainty; inanity.

  1. Fruitless desire or endeavor.
  2. Trifling labor that produces no good.

{An American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster 1828}

It is really amazing when we consider that not only one of the richest men in history but also the wisest man would say that all is vanity in light of these definitions. In Ecclesiastes 1:3 Solomon asked the question, “What profit hath a man of all his labor which he taketh under the sun?” Now we will look through the book and see what is the answer is to this question and then we may understand why he would say that all is vanity.

Ecclesiastes 2:11 (There is no profit under the sun)

Ecclesiastes 2:15-19 (Death happens to both the fool and the wise man and all the things that he labored for will be left to someone else. And you don’t know or can change what they will  do with the things that you leave behind.)

Ecclesiastes 5:10 (We are never satisfied therefore all is vanity)

Ecclesiastes 11:8 (No matter how fruitful or successful your life is if you live long enough you will see the dark days of old age and then the things in life will not be as important as they once were.)

These are just a few of the reasons that Solomon gave for all being vanity. Now some would argue and say that there is profit in our labor for instance we eat by the money we make, we live, by the money we make, we enjoy the benefits that success or money can bring us. While these are all true it is also true that every time we eat will we still get hungry again. The houses and cars we buy or whatever it is we spend our money on, those things will fall apart, break down or need replacing some day. One may say what about the money we save or the business that we build up? When you die someone else will get them and who knows what they will do with them. One might ask what about the joy and memories of a life well lived? Many people get diseases that leave them with no memory at all. You see we are not promised anything in this life at all outside of the things of God, therefore Solomon said all is vanity.

Life is really just a cycle, you are born then you live for a short time (James 4:14) and you die. Note in Ecclesiastes 1:4-9 Solomon give examples of this using the things of this world. One generation dies and another one takes its place this has been going on for 6000 years. The sun comes up and it goes down every day. The rains come from the ocean and that is exactly where they wind up, just like the winds return according to their circuits. (If scientist would believe the bible they would not be so far behind in these matters.)

Life lesson for this study :

 In view of these things and the truth of all being vanity one wonders why anyone would want to go on living. Note what Solomon said in regards to life and labor in Ecclesiastes 2:17-18. This is where the conclusion at the end of the book becomes the key. If there was no God or no judgment at the end of this life then all would be totally in vain but because there is a God and there is judgment for every one of us one day then there is a reason to live. And the reason is Jesus Christ. Man is lost and on his way to hell without the Lord Jesus Christ, but Jesus came and died on the cross and took our punishment so that we would not have to. And if you will receive him as your savior by faith trusting in his shed blood alone for the atonement of your sins (Romans 10:10-13 and Ephesians 2:8-9) then you will have a reason to live and a reason to go on. And your work for him and labor will not be in vain.

Our life lesson simply put is this, “From an earthly standpoint all is vanity, but because of God and his Son Jesus Christ there is a reason to live and there is profit in the labor that is done for him.” With this in mind let us lay aside earthly things and strive to please the one who live and died for us that we might live for him. (Colossians 3:23-24)


How to Live (A Study in Ecclesiastes)

 Lesson #1 : “All is Vanity”


 1)  Give a brief introduction to the book of Ecclesiastes.


2)  What is one of the main themes that we see in Ecclesiastes?


3)  What is a good definition for the word vanity?


4)  What is the answer to the question in verse 3 of chapter one? Give verses for your answer.


5)  In Eccl. 1:4-11 Solomon gives examples for why all is vanity, what are some of them?


6)  What is Solomon’s conclusion at the end of this book?


7)  What is the life lesson for us from this lesson on all is vanity?