Our text for this study is Ecc 1:3, “What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun”? We are embarking on a study of some key passages in the Book of Ecclesiastes, of which this is the first.
Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon, “the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem”, Ecc 1:1. It contains words of wisdom concerning things “under the sun”, Ecc 1:3. “Under the sun” is an expression used exclusively in this book and mentioned 27 times throughout.
This wisdom about which Solomon writes is, therefore, practical, earthly wisdom. These wise words concern the natural man and his earthly matters.
After Solomon had considered all the wisdom he accumulated in his earthly pursuits, he concluded, “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity”, Ecc 1:2. That is, he determined that it was all empty and valueless.
Three times Solomon asks the question, “What profit…”? In Ecc 1:3. In Ecc 3:9, “What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth”? And in Ecc 5:16, “and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind”?
Solomon answers his question in Ecc 5:18-19. There’s profit if he can eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labour. Prov 14:23 says, “In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury”. See 2 Thes 3:10-12.
The vanity is that a man will seek to profit by the accumulation of wealth in his labour. In the end, he won’t be satisfied with all he owns, Ecc 4:10, and he’ll leave his wealth to others, Ecc 4:11-16.
Furthermore, if he measures his wealth by the “profit” of his labour and neglects his soul, he is eternally bankrupt. Mk 8:36, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul”? People today are too busy to talk with you about their soul.
He will have labored for that which does not satisfy and he’ll return to his dust as naked as he came into the world. All that he will have accomplished is vanity.
1 Sam 12:20-21, Samuel cautioned Israel to “serve the Lord with all your heart: And turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain”.
So, we must search beyond the wisdom “under the sun” in the Book of Ecclesiastes to find the real profit which we should have in life. The Lord provides wisdom elsewhere in the Bible that teaches us what profit we should pursue in our labour.
Is 48:17 says, “Thus saith the Lord, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the Lord thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go”.
“What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun”? There is profit when you:
Labour for the salvation of others, 1 Cor 10:33. Paul wrote, “even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved”.
Labour in the body with your spiritual gift, 1 Cor 12:7. Paul said, “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal”.
Labour for the Lord with charity, 1 Cor 13:3. Paul wrote, “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing”.
Labour in the scripture given by God, 2 Tim 3:16-17. Paul said, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works”.
Labour in good works for necessary uses, Titus 3:8, 14. Paul wrote, “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
Conclusion: Don’t waste your time in the vain pursuit of profit by the world’s standard. You will kill yourself getting rich and end up with nothing when you’re done, according to the wisest man who ever lived, aside from Jesus Christ. Rather labour for the profit that has eternal value.
To study the next lesson in this series, see Life Lessons.